Apple last changed the chips it uses in Mac computers back in 2006, making the switch from PowerPC to Intel. The next change could take place as early as this year, according to KGI Research. In its latest report, it suggests Apple is working to scale up the custom chips it uses in iPads and iPhones for Mac computers.
This chart from the report, reported on by 9to5 Mac, shows KGI’s production assumptions with new A9x and A10x chips aimed at both [company]Apple[/company] iPads and Macs:
KGI assumes that Apple’s chips would offer performance between a current Intel Atom and Core i3 processor, so if this scenario does play out as outlined, the Apple-designed processors would be best suited for low-end Macs initially.
My guess? A chip like this would be inside a next-generation MacBook Air, which currently runs on either a 1.4GHz dual-core i5 or 1.7GHz dual-core i7 [company]Intel[/company] processor. Indeed, the MacBook Air is a bit of a blend between Apple’s iPad and MacBook Pro laptops today, offering capable performance in a lightweight, thin computer that runs for 9 to 12 hours on a charge.
As Apple continues to tighten up the relationship between iOS and OS X through common services, apps and interface methods, using its own chip would give the company more control and optimization for a Mac running on an iOS chip. Perhaps we’ll see that happen with either the reported but still rumored 12-inch MacBook Air. Here’s a wild thought: Maybe it has a touchscreen with removable keyboard and is actually that larger iPad Pro we’ve been hearing about for some time.
Regardless, one challenge to this scenario is on the software side. Switching chip architectures for OS X would bring potential app compatibility issues. Last year, Apple reportedly had a version of OS X working on ARM-based chips, so it’s possible — likely even — that it has at least tested its desktop platform on mobile processors. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Apple finds a relatively seamless way to support iOS apps on such a device as a transitional step.