Apple reportedly plans ARM shift for laptops

'Done deal', apparently

ARM muscles in

If not ARM then certainly the chip makers who license its architecture are trying to show that it is. And analysts are increasingly considering the notion that ARM will cut into Intel's market share, even past the walls of the the mobile arena.

IDC reckons ARM will have a 13 per cent share of the PC processor market by 2015. That's not so very far behind what AMD has now. Perhaps IDC too has heard the same whispers as SA.

It's hard, right now, to conceive of a 15in MacBook Pro - or the 27in iMac, for that matter, since it too is based on mobile Intel technology - getting the same performance out of an ARM chip circa 2013 as it would from an Intel CPU from the same year.

But the Air line is less performance dependent - it's one element buyers are willing to trade for the sheer bloody portability of the Air's design, though the machine is no slouch - and could provide Apple will a means to test such a shift in processor architcture.

But then it either has to convert the range into iOS machines, to run existing apps, or develop yet another emulator to allow new Air buyers to run their existing OS X apps. Forcing them to re-buy new, ARM-compiled versions of apps seems a very unlikely strategy.

Is that really worth the financial benefits of being able to bulk-buy even more ARM processors, especially when Apple will still be buying chips from Intel? Just for superior battery life, which you can get by underclocking? Or for the unknown - and possibly non-existent - benefits of combining iOS and OS X, two operating systems that may share a common core but have been designed for very different roles?

Especially when Intel would bend over backwards to encourage Apple to stick with x86.

OS X will become more iOS like, and iOS will gain OS X features it currently lacks. The two operating systems will harmonise. But that doesn't mandate their merger or, if that does happen, guarantee Apple can rely on one processor architecture spanning media players, phones, tablets, netbooks, notebooks and desktops.

Just as Intel has yet to prove its x86 chips can match ARM for power efficiency in mobile devices, ARM has yet to show it can match Intel - and AMD - chips for sheer compute performance. Until it does, it's hard to imagine Apple moving MacBook Pros, iMacs and Mac Pros away from Intel. ®

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