What If Apple Puts A-Series Processors in MacBooks?

Ben Bajarin / August 22nd, 2011

Apple Insider posted a bit of news around the rumor that someday Apple may use its own A-Series chips in products like the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. When Apple made the move to design their own ARM processor by acquiring P.A Semi and Intrinsity it became clear that using their own processors in all their products made perfect sense.

Apple wants to control all the critical elements of the value chain. For smart phones and tablets it’s clear that Apple wants to control the semiconductor in those products so it can highly optimize iOS for a proprietary SOC. The interesting question is if they want to do the same for OSX in the future.

Apple has no control over the architecture decisions that Intel makes, nor do they control the timeline of those decisions. One could see how future MacBook products could benefit if Apple specifically designed A-Series chips to run OSX. The optimizations they could make for efficiently running OSX could make the OS that much better and that much harder to compete with.

In this scenario Apple unlike Intel doesn’t need to try and make a processor that can run any and all software and operating systems. In fact they don’t even really need to follow Moore’s law in their designs like Intel and AMD. All Apple needs to do is design the most effective piece of silicon to run OSX.

You may think they could never do something like this because of all the software for OSX now running on Intel silicon. That is true but if you remember they made the move from the G5 to Intel and it was fairly smooth. Their developer toolkits and their virtualization software Rosetta could be key pieces in making a smooth transition to their own silicon.

The real question in all of this however is where would that leave Intel if Apple ever stopped using them as a supplier?

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
  • Keeping up with Intel in the category of processors that have lots of available space/power/cooling is a really difficult thing to do (speaking from experience, I’ve been there twice, both attempts failed) Intel can leverage the very high investment to deliver performance on hundreds of millions of PCs, everyone else has to plan on multiple dollars per unit. The technology sector is littered with people who tried to compete with Intel in the desktop area. MIPS, Alpha, PA-RISC, SPARC, etc. In the end, no one was able to keep up. (and all of the above once held the performance and even price/performance title)

    However, that said, if anyone can do it I would put my money on Apple.

  • Jim

    The fact that I can run both OS X and Windows is important to me. Personally, I’d use OS X exclusively, but the reality is I need Windows for my contracting business (my clients use Windows). Most likely the A6 won’t support this (unless Apple is also working on some killer virtualization software).

  • Anonymous

    Apple has moved from Mostek to Motorola to AIM to Intel to be continued? There can be no question whether Apple knows how.

    In the Mostek to Motorola case (Apple II to Macintosh), Apple continued to sell the Apple for almost ten years after the introduction of the Macintosh. They also made a successful side trip, using the Western Design Center’s 65C816 as the basis for the Apple IIgs.

    Apple even made some forays into compatibility cards. Who is to say that won’t happen again? (Me, actually)

    There are rumors that Apple will introduce a new computer line this fall. If so, my bet is that it will not directly compete with the Macintosh; rather, it will take Apple in a new direction. I can think of a number of possibilities. At this point, rather than speculate, I prefer to engage in wishful thinking (that’s what many anal-ists do anyway, when they claim to be predicting). I wish that the “Next Big Thing” will be wearable computers. Apple’s Augmented Reality patents suggest that this is more than a remote possibility.

  • schmayter

    Why would I want a laptop with an A5 in it? I like being able to compile x86 stuff.

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