Apple uses the desktop version of Intel’s Core i5 and Core i7 processors in its current iMac lineup, and despite some DOA machines and some odd display problems being reported, people seem generally pleased with the results. It makes sense then that Apple would be interested in using the mobile version of those processors, codenamed “Arrandale,” in upcoming versions of its notebooks.
But Apple apparently isn’t interested in using the mobile platform, at least not in its default configuration. The problem is that the yet to be released 32nm Core i5 and Core i7 processors include mandatory integrated graphics. Since switching to the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor, we haven’t seen hide nor tail of an Intel integrated chip, and thank goodness for that.
According to reports from Bright Side of News citing sources “close to the matter,” Apple is said to have demanded that Intel build it a custom version of the Arrandale platform that leaves off the integrated graphics. That would allow the Mac maker to then make use of its own graphics option, which at this point seems like it will continue to be NVIDIA despite rumblings about a serious rift between the two companies.
In the past, Apple has received special treatment from Intel on numerous occasions. Perhaps most relevant to the matter at hand, the original MacBook Air featured a custom-designed Merom Core 2 Duo processor that featured very low power usage. Due to Apple’s continued success in the marketplace, and its high-profile public image, Intel must consider them a valuable customer and will probably try to accommodate if it isn’t financially irresponsible to do so.
If no special, non-GPU version of the processor is forthcoming, two outcomes are possible. Most likely, Apple will just continue to use existing processor tech until Intel finally does introduce a GPU-free version. The other, less probable outcome is for Apple to either seek CPUs from AMD, Intel’s biggest competitor, or to begin producing its own in-house, something it might be prepared to do thanks to acquisitions and hires made over the years. I still think going in-house is kind of a nuclear option for Apple, since outsourcing is probably much more cost-effective.
Either way, I’d love to see a major change in the MacBook and MacBook Pro line soon. They’ve been using Intel Core 2 Duo processors for quite a while now, and while incremental processor speed upgrades are all well and good, a serious boost would be much better. Still no quad-core mobile computing anywhere on the horizon, though, despite long-standing expectations.