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Analyst: Apple likely uninterested in ARM-based MacBooks

updated 01:35 pm EST, Fri February 3, 2012

Info stems from meeting with Apple execs

Apple is likely uninterested in building a MacBook Air with an ARM-based processor, says Citigroup's Richard Gardner. The analyst met with Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer at the company's Cupertino campus on Thursday, when among other things Cook repeated a view that iOS expansion will eventually result in tablets outselling conventional PCs. "We have wondered whether Apple might offer an ARM-based version of the MacBook Air at some point; we walked away from this meeting with the impression that Apple feels iPad satisfies -- or will soon satisfy -- the needs of those who might have been interested in such a product," writes Gardner in a new memo.

Rumors of Apple testing ARM-based MacBook Airs have been circulating for a number of months. In theory Apple would benefit from being able to use custom hardware, since it could make tweaks to performance or battery life. The company could also support iOS apps, or even merge OS X and iOS down the road. OS X code would need to be rewritten to support ARM processors, though, and the platform would lose compatibility with many apps. Parties like Intel have also tried to discredit talk of an ARM switch.

Gardner notes that Oppenheimer also addressed topics like China, saying that Apple is "just scratching the surface" in terms of sales. Cook is said to have hinted that the Apple TV, or an Apple-branded TV, would not become more than a "hobby" unless it could scale across multiple cable companies, as well as multiple regions.

Asked about issues like gross margins and average selling prices, Oppenheimer reportedly stuck to a mantra of "producing great products." Gardner argues that this means Apple will not produce low-cost iPhones. "We did not get the impression that Apple feels a burning need to move down-market in smartphones, but rather that the company believes consumer preference will continue to gravitate toward the more capable devices that Apple currently produces," he comments.

Cook is meanwhile said to have promoted iCloud, contending that it is as important to Apple as the long-standing "digital hub" strategy. The concept helped to foster the growth of the iPod, and is often credited for many sales of Apple products, since people buying iPhones may be more likely to consider complementary devices like Macs and iPads.

by MacNN Staff



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