Is Apple moving away from Intel in Macs?

iMac Retina 5KIn 2005, Apple’s former CEO Steve Jobs announced transition to processors from Intel. Apple was unsatisfied with progress of PowerPC technology. When in 2003 Steve Jobs announced Macs with PowerPC G5 CPU, he claimed that in the next year will be available CPUs with 3 GHz clock speed. After two years, IBM still not delivered such processors. The other reasons were overheating and performance per watt and that’s important for laptops. While considering AMD as an another option, Apple has finally chosen Intel. But in 2011, Apple investigated using AMD’s low power Llano APU for the MacBook Air, but eventually opted for Intel due to AMD’s potential inability to supply enough Llano processors to meet demand.

Apple is using its own ARM-based chips in all products – except Macs. While ARM chips are built for low power consumption, it’s a challenge to develop ARM-based processors suitable for iMacs 5K, iMacs Pro or even Macs Pro. Reportedly, Apple already has prototypes of Macs with ARM CPU, including desktop-class Macs.

Another issue may be operating system itself, but look into history – when Apple was developing first Mac OS X to be used for PowerPC CPUs, Apple was also secretly developing Mac OS X for x86 architecture-based Intel’s and AMD’s CPUs.

Based on LinkedIn profile, ARM’s lead CPU and system architect Mike Filippo joined Apple. Mike Filippo led the development of several chips at ARM between 2009 and 2019. From his past, he served as Intel’s lead CPU and system architect between 2004 and 2009 and he was also a chip designer at AMD between 1996 and 2004. He may brings his experiences into Apple and to help Apple with designing its own ARM chips for Macs.

Rumors say, that Apple will release first ARM-based Macs in 2020. With this acquisition, ARM-based T2 chips, powerful A-series chips from iOS devices, ARM-based coprocessors in Touch Bar-equipped MacBooks Pro, etc., it really looks like Apple is really moving out of dependence on Intel’s chips.

Moving to ARM makes sense – not only because of dependence on Intel, but ARM architecture in Macs will allows developers to create one app with a single binary that runs across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Apple already developed Catalyst to easily port iOS apps to Macs.

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