updated 10:35 am EST, Thu January 31, 2008
MB Air CPU in Windows PCs
The MacBook Air's custom-made processor should soon be licensed for use by other PC builders, say claims by PC Advisor. A contact allegedly aware of Intel's plans expects at least two unnamed computer builders to use the special Core 2 Duo in systems to be released "soon." The technical details of the notebooks are not described, though the smaller packaging around the processor die is designed to allow smaller overall systems without sacrificing as much performance as the ultra-low voltage chips typically required for subnotebooks.
Lenovo is not expected to use the processor for its upcoming ThinkPad X300, which will use a standardized 2GHz low-voltage Core 2 Duo instead of the unique 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz models used in the MacBook.
Though described by Apple chief Steve Jobs during his introduction as specially designed for Apple's needs, the processor is ultimately based on a combination of reference designs that can theoretically be used by anyone, according to Intel. The packaging is based around the same S-series design used by some processors for Intel's upcoming Montevina mobile platform while the processor itself is based on the older Merom architecture. The combination allows Apple and other companies to take advantage of one of Montevina's key benefits ahead of its mid-2008 debut without waiting for the mainboards or processors that make up the new platform.
The practice of building first for Apple and later for other PC makers is increasingly common for Intel. The first eight-core Mac Pro in spring 2007 was discovered to be using an ahead-of-schedule 3GHz Xeon processor that was exclusive to the workstation roughly two months before other companies were able to use the processor. A similar option was made available for the aluminum iMac, which launched with a then-exclusive 2.8GHz Core 2 Extreme option.