Apple hasn’t made an announcement but the handwriting is on the wall. Intel Inside the Mac could very well be Intel Outside next year or the year after or sometime in the future. Why? Intel’s chip development is falling behind even Apple’s own in-house chip designs which are smaller, use less power, cost less to produce, and use less power.
Intel once had a vaunted tick-tock development routine. New chips, upgraded chips. Tick, tock. These days Intel seems to be stuck at tick-tock-tock-tock-tock; going nowhere forward that offers any appreciable performance improvements year to year. Meanwhile, Apple’s own in-house design group churns out ARM-based A-Series chips which make iPhone X’s benchmarks comparable to mid-range MacBook Pro models.
Ashraf Eassa, one of The Motley Fools, says there is a roadblock to Apple’s own in-house Mac chip development.
At a bare minimum, Apple will need to get software developers to recompile their code for the ARM architecture upon which these chips will be built, which will have its own challenges.
Uh huh. But Apple has experience at moving from one chip platform to another and seems to get better each time it happens. Motorola to PowerPC. PowerPC to Intel. Mac OS X to ARM. ARM to Apple’s own ARM-based A-Series CPUs.
Such a transition is not trivial, by any means, but it has been done and Apple has been working toward this for years. Recompiling code will not be a major issue for Mac app developers, and it is likely that the transition will be done in stages.
And there’s another aspect to this whole initiative that people don’t seem to be talking about: the sheer number of chips that Apple would have to develop.
That thinking is shortsighted.
No movement from the Mac’s Intel Inside to Apple ARM Inside will be done overnight but likely take place over a number of years, and perhaps not completely at all. In other words, the Mac line could be divided into three distinct categories. Entry-level– MacBook Air, MacBook, and Mac mini; all using Apple-designed ARM-based chips. Mid-range with the obvious– MacBook Pro. And Professional– iMac Pro, Mac Pro; both of which would continue with Intel’s more powerful chips.
Such an endeavor would be quite expensive, with the problem exacerbated by the fact that Apple would need to amortize that development cost across a relatively small number of chips (Apple only sells about 20 million Macs per year).
That’s lame thinking. How many iPhones was Apple selling each year when it bought its own chip-making company?
It’s rather astonishing to think that Apple would want to replace Intel across the entirety of its product line.
Suddenly, as if the thoughts occurred while the Fool was writing how difficult it would be for Apple to switch the Mac to it’s own chip designs, reality set in.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that’s the path that Apple ultimately takes. Such a scenario wouldn’t require undue effort on Apple’s part (since it’d be utilizing a chip that it’s already developing for the iPad), and it’d bring Apple’s technology to a product category where it has a clear competitive edge over Intel’s offerings.
Just remember that such a move is less about the price of chips for the Mac than it is about control over the platform’s future destiny. Apple’s own A-Series chips found in iPhone X and other models already do much of what Intel Inside cannot do– low power consumption is but one example. With Apple manufacturing its own chips that compete with Intel Inside across the board, the company can then focus on application development tools which allow developers to create apps for each platform.
Think iOS apps that run on the Mac. That gives the Mac more applications than Windows PCs, reduces development costs, and allows Apple to churn out Macs at lower prices to compete better against Windows PCs and especially cheap Chromebooks.