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Intel rejects idea of ARM-based MacBook anytime soon

updated 07:00 am EDT, Sat May 28, 2011

Intel closely aligned with Apple, no room for ARM

Intel has rejected the idea of an ARM-based MacBook anytime soon. The debate about whether an ARM-based MacBook could arrive sooner rather than later has again arisen, this time courtesy of a Japanese rumor site, which claims that Apple has been testing an A5-equipped MacBook Air. However, according to CNET, Intel believes that Apple will stick with Intel for at least the short to medium term.

Intel's marketing chief Tom Kilroy had this to say on the matter:

"We're very closely aligned with Apple. We've got our best design teams working with their best design teams. And we're quite comfortable we've got good collaboration going forward."

CNET also spoke to Anand Shimpi who runs Anandtech who concurred with Tom Kilroy's perspective. However, he believes that it is likely that Apple would be, at the very least, testing ARM-based notebooks:

"It's not surprising to me that Apple would be experimenting with an ARM-based notebook. However, it would have to be running iOS - the experience under OS X would be suboptimal by Apple's standards. Remember, this is what kept Apple from ever making a netbook based on [Intel's] Atom."

Electronista Senior Editor Jon Fingas also argues that it is unlikely to that Apple will switch from Intel designs even in the next two to three years. The most compelling reason against Apple switching to ARM-based chip designs for its notebooks is that it would risk forking its product roadmaps. It would leave Apple's desktop line running Intel chips, which would create too many coding problems for Apple and for its developers.

by MacNN Staff




  1. Peter Bonte

    Joined: Dec 1969



    "which would create too many coding problems for Apple and for its developers.". yeah right, that didn't stop Apple to change processors twice and OS's more than that. Apple has a clean processor agnostic codebase from the start and the developer tools already work with ARM and Intel depending on the platform. It won't have Photoshop or Office but anything else would be relatively easy to update.
    We also don't need all apps to work on the Air, making it smaller and pricing it at $500 is more important i think.

  1. facebook_Clarence

    Via Facebook

    Joined: May 2011



    Good thing the PC manufacturers are finally starting to catch up to Apple on hardware design. They still have a little way to go but hopefully they'll be there in a couple of years just in time for me to ditch Apple hardware completely before Mac desktops become oversized iToys. Only thing keeping me on board right now besides the good hardware design is the ability to run Windows 7.

  1. gprovida

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Don't confuse lab stuff with product plans

    If every patent from Apple based on internal research was a product it would violate Apple's tenet, say no to even good ideas until you have a breathtaking idea. It is prudent for Apple to play, but people way over state the consequences.

    If MS Windows comes out on ARM and it makes great traction and there is an Office version and and and, then it might make sense. Right now ARM has a power advantage, that gap will close, and using your own chips gives you control (Apple Tenet). So not impossible.

    INTEL has been a good partner and Bootcamp, etc. has given Apple great market growth into WINTEL market 5-10% and lots of growth opportunities. Ergo stick with INTEl for the foreseeable future on desktop and laptops.

    I do wonder if a successful MacOS App store might change the computation. For example 50,000 MacOS Lion Apps by 2013?

  1. Peter Bonte

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Lab stuff

    A lab product like this would easily cost a few million dollars to make if not more, its not just swapping the processor. Apple won't prototype a complete laptop with software if they are not seriously considering the option, it's the last stage of the idea and the testing will determine if its ok to continue or not.

    For that mater, in the Jobs era i can't remember the existence of a real Mac prototype that didn't made it into a actual product, even the big-a** CRT iMac that Jobs didn't like became a shipping product.

  1. dagamer34

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Software not hardware

    Making the hardware isn't the hard part, but convincing developers to invest extra time and energy in testing their software for an ARM platform. There will be ZERO chance of a "Rosetta" type app, simply because x86 emulation would suck up so much power, it'd defeat the purpose of running it on ARM.

    And what I really don't get is that Apple already has a variant of OS X running on ARM and it's call the iPad!

  1. The Vicar

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Well, of course they'd say that

    Really, though, there's no significant barrier to an ARM-based Mac except one: since you need to compile applications for each new architecture, if Apple releases an ARM-based Mac without warning it won't be able to run anything but the OS (and the programs included with it).

    That's why all this speculation is pretty stupid: long before Apple releases a new architecture, there will be a version of Xcode which compiles for it, and developers will have been told about it.

    (Yes, I'm aware that they've gotten around this in the past via emulation -- 68k emulation for PowerPC and Rosetta for Intel. But ARM wouldn't work well with that -- ARM is low-powered; the only reason to use it right now is battery life. A Rosetta-for-Intel would work very poorly on it.)

  1. viktorob

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Remember OS X had a secret live for 5 years?

    Remember that Apple has pushed all the developers to move into X Code, so switching processors will take only to re compile their apps. And better yet, iOS apps will be capable of running on OS X and OS X apps will run on iOS, so at the end they are became one.
    I'm not saying this is Apple's plan, I just saying today is a lot more easy than they days when they switch from Mac OS 9 to OS X and the time they switch from Power PC to Intel. So apple does not have to wait for any other company any more.

    Remember that Steve Jobs once said that OS X was living a double secret live running on intel and Power PC? well, OS X is back again with his secret identity... ;)

  1. facebook_Timothy

    Via Facebook

    Joined: May 2011


    Clarence is the only sane one here

    If Steve Jobs thinks I'm going to help Apple subsidize another pea-brained move to a yet another new architecture, he can suck on my low-hanging fruit.

  1. Peter Bonte

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The big question is

    Would this make my G5 power Mac modern again?

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Mac OS is an easy RISC -> CISC port

    Mac OS X was born on PowerPC RISC. It isn't locked in to the archaic Intel x86 CISC architecture like Windoze is. Apple has years of experience building development environments and compilers for both PowerPC and Intel.

    Mac OS on ARM should be trivial to do, and Grand Central Dispatch could split the workload among 2 or more cool-running dual-core A5 chips. It's the Adobes of the world that drag their feet trying to port their bloatware apps.

    Apple waited 10 years for Adobe to port Photoshop / CS over to Cocoa. Never again. I wouldn't be surprised to see Apple write a lean, mean Photoshop alternative of their own. iOS has taught Apple to write tight, efficient code from the OS up to the frameworks up to the apps.

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