updated 04:25 pm EDT, Mon July 28, 2008
MacBook Custom Platform
Apple is dropping Intel's reference platform in favor of custom circuitry, according to a new rumor floated by AppleInsider. Although every Intel-based Mac has to date used Intel's stock chipsets but with a custom layout, Apple is now purportedly using little to none of Intel's own components in favor of outside parts. Whether this involves licensing components from an outside firm or even custom-designed chips is unknown, though Apple would keep using Intel's processors.
The Mac creator is notably part of the Hypertransport Consortium along with computer firms such as AMD and would have access to the technology to create a much faster connection between the main processor and other components of the system, including memory and peripherals. Intel's hardware is currently bottlenecked by its dependence on two separate chipsets for controlling memory and devices but should be replaced by the QuickPath interface that will accompany its Nehalem architecture in late 2008 and early 2009.
Apple's move would allegedly be made to let it get an edge over competitors using stock Intel designs. What this would entail is unclear, though it could include performance reasons as well as size-related concerns. The MacBook Air is often cited as an example of Apple's early efforts in this area and uses Intel chipsets but a heavily modified layout that allows Apple to reduce the size to below that of rival systems from Lenovo and Voodoo PC.
Neither Apple nor Intel has discussed the specifics of any future platform, though the former has mentioned a "product transition" that would cut its gross profit margins due to higher costs relative to the technology.
This engineering is claimed to be pushing back the launch of the affected MacBooks by "6 to 8 weeks" from today and would leave Apple as one of the last to update its systems since the Centrino 2 announcement in mid-July. However, it would also place the launch at the same time as ultraportable processors due to launch in September and which would be ready for the MacBook Air.