Mobile computing grows up

Apple tipped to design chips for Mac computers, just like for iOS

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.



7 Responses to “Apple tipped to design chips for Mac computers, just like for iOS”

  1. it would be interesting if apple released a new ARM based laptop that they did not call a Mac(and does nto run OSX), and that ran a custom version of iOS optimized for a multi-window desktop environment mouse/trackpad and keyboard input controls.

    perhaps they could call it an ‘iBook’


    I’m hoping this is to make OSX more efficient and not to screw over the Hackintosh community.

    Or maybe now that they are working with IBM again maybe they’ll move us back to a Power 9. Of course they would have a smoking fast system but then even fewer people will be able to afford them.

  3. Sounds like a new device category if anything. I suspect perhaps just chips for the rumored 12.2″ ipad. Apple doesn’t like to go down in power and a custom chip with power between an atom and i3 is quite a step down from i5 if that is what they are using now.
    On top of that – as you mention – they’d have to do something to make current OSX apps usable, which implies some kind of translation or virtualization. This would further eat into the power of the cpu.
    Frankly I think a cpu of that capability would be more than enough for most users. And Apple might be the one company that can just jedi mind trick its users into being happy about a reduction of performance. Suddenly realizing they never needed that extra power to begin with.

  4. Joris Witteman

    iOS apps on a Mac, really? How would they even translate?

    Touch apps – designed for finger touch mind you – have no business running on a desktop machine. This would be something else entirely from the Classic/Carbon transition between OS 9 and OS X, or the PowerPC/Intel transition. Those both took place on the desktop.

    • I live in both worlds, Joris. Some of my Windows work is with a Microsoft Surface. The appeal of what Kevin has described…

      “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.”

      …is undeniable. The Surface is a really really really sexy device.

      Sign me up for two Apple devices that enable me to do tablet things on the screen (when separated from the keyboard) and laptop things when connected to the keyboard.

      No, wait, make that four. I’m serious. I would buy four. One for me; one for my wife; and one each for our two children.

      Apple would be foolish not to be working on this sort of thing.