Apple Considering Adopting AMD Processors for Upcoming Macs?

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by *LTD*, Apr 16, 2010.

  1. macrumors G4


    Feb 5, 2009
    Apple Considering Adopting AMD Processors for Upcoming Macs?

    Apple in advanced discussions to adopt AMD chips
    By Kasper Jade and Prince McLean
    Published: 11:00 AM EST

    Intel has served as Apple's sole source for the microprocessors used in its notebook and desktop personal computers since the company began its transition away from PowerPC in 2006, but that may soon change given the company's recent talks with Intel's chief CPU rival Advanced Micro Devices.

    Representatives for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD have recently been seen on Apple's Commuter Coach buses, and executives for the chipmaker have been spotted on their way out of meetings with members of Apple's top brass, according to people familiar with the matter.

    The meetings have reportedly included briefings by AMD that have since enabled Apple to begin working with AMD processors in its labs as part of an initiative to position the chips inside some of the company's forthcoming products. While AMD offers a variety of embedded processors, Apple is believed to be investigating the chipmaker's workstation and notebook class CPUs.

    It is believed that Apple is working with AMD to expand its potential sources for CPUs in order to increase its flexibility and broaden its competitive options, but also likely in response to problems it has encountered with Intel. These issues include limited availability of new processors (which is rumored to have slowed Apple's notebook refreshes) as well as new chipset designs imposed by Intel that have blocked the Mac maker's plans to continue a partnership with NVidia to deliver a standardized chipset for use with its Intel processors across all of its consumer computer offerings.

    Intel has fought against Nvidia to close the market for alternative chipsets for use with its CPUs, which resulted this week in Apple being forced to use Intel's own limited integrated graphics chips inside its new MacBook Pros instead of using more capable parts from Nvidia.

    Why Apple hasn't used AMD CPUs before

    When Apple first announced its plans to migrate to Intel CPUs back in 2005, many observers questioned why the company wasn't also using AMD's compatible processors as a secondary option. AMD's chips at the time were considered more powerful and often cheaper than Intel's flagship offerings, including the Pentium IV. However, Apple was privy to information about Intel's roadmap, and was primarily interested in the company's new Core line of fast, yet energy efficient designs suitable for use in its notebooks.

    AMD's edge in CPUs in the first half of the 2000 was blown away by Intel's new Core family, which came to market just as Apple was making its transition. AMD currently offers few advantages in terms of performance or efficiency, but does offer significantly lower component pricing than Intel. AMD also owns ATI, which produces graphics chips Apple continues to use in some of its models.. This suggests the possibility that Apple could deliver an integrated package of AMD and ATI components that delivered respectable performance and great graphics performance at a lower price than Intel's.

    Having multiple sources of CPUs would enable Apple to use the best parts available from each supplier, similar to how the company has worked with both ATI and NVidia to offer competing options in Mac graphics adapters. With the dramatic growth Apple has experienced in its Mac sales over the past half decade, it may now make sense for the company to offer a wider array of competitive CPU options to target a broader range of price points and performance needs.

    Reasons for new interest in AMD

    Given word of the ongoing discussions and briefings, Apple may also now have access to new information about competitive products AMD has in the pipeline. The company may also have original design specifications that AMD may be more willing to adopt than Intel just to obtain Apple's high profile business. Similar to how Apple optimized the A4 ARM SoC used by iPad, Apple may be planning to develop customized x64 CPUs for its Macs that AMD could be interested in building specifically for use by Apple.

    The talks with AMD could also be part of a competitive leveraging strategy to keep Intel interested in retaining Apple's core business, similar to how the company has been rumored to be discussing plans to use Microsoft's Bing search engine in preference to Google's on the iPhone.

    At the same time, while AMD has historically trailed Intel's performance and efficiency in CPUs, particularly in the mobile computing space, the company's acquisition of ATI gives it far more powerful GPU technology than Intel currently has.

    Both companies are rushing to fuse CPU and GPU cores into a SoC-style part for notebooks (similar to the design used by ARM SoCs in embedded applications such as the iPhone and iPad), as Intel has already done in the latest generation of MacBook Pros, pairing its integrated graphics with the Arrandale Core i5 or i7 processor.

    AMD could offer very competitive options for Apple's future notebooks, particularly given the Mac maker's focus on graphics performance and its related GPU technologies, including Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL.

    If AMD can deliver 80% of the CPU performance of Intel at 60% of the cost, and add significantly better GPU performance and sophistication, it would not be surprising to see Apple working to adopt the company's parts broadly across its Mac lineup within the next year or two.
  2. macrumors 601


    Aug 19, 2003
    Sigh. I hope they’re just working on graphics technology. AMD’s processors haven’t been competitive (other than in price) in years.
  3. macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001


    AppleInsider reports that Apple and AMD are in "advanced discussions" to bring the chipmaker's processors to upcoming Macs, potentially breaking the exclusive relationship Apple has held with Intel since moving away from PowerPC processors in 2006.
    According to the report, Apple is looking at using AMD's chips in its Mac lines, seeking to increase its flexibility for sourcing chips going forward. In particular, recent shortages of new notebook chips from Intel that reportedly led to a delay in the release of new MacBook Pros and licensing issues that have hindered graphics chipmaker NVIDIA's ability to work with Intel's processors have reportedly caused Apple to adopt a growing sense of dissatisfaction with Intel.

    AMD's chip offerings are currently considered subpar when compared to those from Intel, but the report suggests that lower pricing and the ability to bundle AMD processors with ATI graphics chips (ATI is owned by AMD) as possible reasons for bringing a switch under consideration. In addition, Apple may have inside knowledge of forthcoming offerings from AMD that could make the chipmaker more competitive with Intel, or AMD might be more willing to offer custom solutions for Apple than Intel currently is. Finally, the report concedes that the talks could simply be a leveraging tool to assist Apple in its dealings with Intel.

    Article Link: Apple Considering Adopting AMD Processors for Upcoming Macs?
  4. thread starter macrumors G4


    Feb 5, 2009
    Nothing surprises me with Apple anymore. I always expect the unexpected. But I certainly didn't see this coming.

    Apple is after the ultimate integrated solutions, and AMD/ATI might just be the ticket.

    This move could be toward a more integrated, iPad-like solution. Ultra thin, ultra portable. Might not be all bad news.

    Maybe AMD will churn out custom chips.

    Does this have anything to do with further A4 development, and perhaps bringing PA Semi into the picture?

    The thing is, AppleInsider is reporting this as if it were a foregone conclusion.
  5. macrumors 6502a

    Apr 26, 2005
    The real question is, will the consumer see a cost savings?
  6. macrumors 68020


    Mar 29, 2009
    A man of the people. The right sort of people.
  7. macrumors 603


    Jul 3, 2002
    Middle Earth
    Great idea! Intel has gotten too expensive and their GPU suck.

    if AMD Bulldozer is the real deal then they make more sense from a financial and GPU perspective for Apple.
  8. JAT
    macrumors 603

    Dec 31, 2001
    Mpls, MN

    Don't we have this rumor about once a quarter, since the Intel change?
  9. macrumors 6502a


    Aug 7, 2007
  10. macrumors regular

    Feb 11, 2009
    Correct me if i'm wrong, but didn't apple deny any kind of AMD switch last year?
  11. macrumors 68040


    Aug 6, 2007
    God, I hope not. AMD processors are no longer in the same league as Intels. Maybe for the lowest end macs if any. :eek:
  12. macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2007
    Sounds like a negotiation tactic. Apple has a history of using some of the best performing chips in their computers and I don't see them switching to AMD, which has very slow notebook performance and this generation has worse TDPs clock-for-clock than Intel.

    Or, they could be working with the AMD graphics guys to create an AMD automatic graphic chip switching technology like they did with Intel in the new MacBook Pros.
  13. macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Why can't there be the best of both worlds? Intel CPUs and ATI GPUs. AMD's current CPUs lag behind Intel's and their notebook ones seem to make a lot of heat. Maybe they have some new ones coming soon that can improve on those things.
  14. macrumors newbie

    Apr 14, 2010
    Apple should just buy AMD and get the whole gpu and processor package with no worries.
  15. macrumors 6502

    Jul 31, 2005
    As someone who has used AMD chips in PCs for many years i won't have it said that AMD is bad.

    They don't have the clout of Intel's latest offerings, but without AMD we'd be stuck with the pentium 4's horrific architecture.

    Intel's R&D and Marketing clout are what got them ahead, AMD don't typically have the resources to compete blow-for-blow, but sometimes they can bring out something revolutionary.
  16. macrumors 603


    Jul 3, 2002
    Middle Earth
    Probably but Apple also said they were happy with the PowerPC G5 while they were working on preparing OS X for Intel

    Not today but AMD's 2010-2011 roadmap looks pretty good if they can deliver. 10.7 could be the first OS X version with explicit support for AMD based Macs
  17. macrumors regular

    Jun 17, 2009
    Cheaper mac mini please.

    The i7 can stay in my imac though.
  18. macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2008
    Not having a good enough gross margin, it make sense for Apple to look into saving money on components.
  19. macrumors 6502a


    Jun 24, 2003
    AMD = Apple Micro Devices?
  20. macrumors member

    Aug 21, 2005
    AMD has always had great CPU's in the price/performance range. So, it'd be great to see them in lower-end Macs too!
  21. macrumors P6


    Apr 1, 2005
    Space--The ONLY Frontier
    I agree. AMD has some good multi-core chips coming up. Using AMD with their GPU's would make sense.
  22. macrumors 65816


    Jan 30, 2009
    This would be good for the hackintosh scene. Otherwise, I don't really know any difference.
  23. macrumors 603


    Jul 3, 2002
    Middle Earth
    Precisely. If you wouldn't perceive a difference wouldn't you rather pay $400 less for a AMD based Mac Pro?

    Intel has just announced record profits which means they're once again taking advantage of weaker competition and we're paying through the nose.
  24. macrumors 68020


    Sep 24, 2008
    Blazer town!
    Competition is good!

    6 core Phenom X6 AMD CPUs in low end iMac !!!

    Apple can get a better rate on combos like CPU, mobo and Graphics, well, we would not see the cost benefit, but hey at least it will keep AMD and Intel fighting and making better products.
  25. cmaier, Apr 16, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2011

    macrumors G3

    Jul 25, 2007

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