Apple is reportedly looking into ways to replace its Intel processors in Macs with new chips based on the designs it uses for its iOS-based devices. The company has previously been rumored to be contemplating such a move, but Bloomberg reports today that Apple’s engineers are now more confident in their underlying chip designs and the ability of those designs to power Mac desktops and notebooks.
Bloomberg has reported similar planned changes in the past, in a retrospective reflecting on the year since Steve Jobs’ death. And around a year ago there were rumors that it was looking at alternatives to Intel as well. The hurdles involved include making sure that software works on Macs based on the new processors; when Apple went from PowerPC to Intel, the transition left a lot of legacy software incompatible and led to transition issues around porting software.
Apple would also have to be extremely confident in their new chipmaking powers in order to drop Intel, and this isn’t likely something we’ll see happen overnight, even now that they’ve achieved greater maturity with their mobile efforts. I’d expect Apple to deliver new architecture alongside a significant OS update, maybe an evolution that finally carries us out of the OS X generation.
Apple designs based on ARM designs would enable the company to create hardware that theoretically runs cooler with less significant power demands, and would make it easier to get OS X and iOS closer together (it seems to be wanting to do just that with its recent executive rearrangement) in terms of cross-compatibility of software and code. But unlike Microsoft, Apple is taking the long-view approach to that unification of platforms. So again, it seems like we’ll probably not see this make its way to actual shipping products for a while, but it’ll be a huge shift for all involved (Apple, users, developers and especially Intel) if it does come to pass.