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Apple to ditch Intel – report

Here we go again

Apple A5

Apple may dump Intel as its CPU supplier for the Mac, reports Bloomberg.

The newswire quotes “people familiar with the company’s research” as saying Apple is “exploring ways” to use its own silicon in future Macs, as it has become frustrated with Intel’s inability to deliver chips that can be built into thin and light devices. Cross-platform integration is also said to be an issue Apple would like to tackle, the report says, paraphrasing one of three sources as saying Cupertino thinks it can make better products if all are based on the same silicon.

A move away from Intel would be stunning, given that it was only in 2005 that the fruity company proclaimed its decision to go with Chipzilla as a long-overdue and epoch-making partnership. Apple has since said very nice things about Intel’s chips and their ability to make Macs go very fast.

But since that 2005 tie-up with Intel, Apple acquired P.A. Semi and turned its technology into the Ax microprocessor range. Those chips now ship in the tens of millions, thanks to their presence in iPhones and iPads, products that dwarf Apple’s iMac business.

One can therefore imagine that Cupertino likes the idea of using its own silicon, instead of shipping cash to Intel.

Last week, CEO Tim Cook also reminded the world of Apple’s fondness for total control of its products by saying, in the announcement he was booting Scott Forstall out the door, that Apple products are “… the direct result of our relentless focus on tightly integrating world-class hardware, software and services.”

Any move away from Intel CPUs would almost certainly be a colossal hassle for Mac owners, given the enormous installed base of applications for Chipzilla’s kit. Compatibility issues would doubtless challenge even Apple’s usual mania for perfection (maps aside).

Yet if anyone can pull it off, Apple can as it has more experience than most in asking its users to walk away from old operating systems. In 1991 the company abandoned backwards-compatibility by introducing System 7. The 2005 shift to Intel imposed a similar burden on Mac owners whose computers ran Power chips.

If the rumour is true, it means Apple must be confident it can scale its Ax line to considerably greater heights.

Mac-using Photoshop fans won’t tolerate slower processing times, but the most recent Apple CPU, the A6x, is said to offer a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor alongside a slowish quad-core GPU.

Faster speeds and meatier specs would be needed to get the Ax line into the game on PCs, unless Apple has something extraordinary up its sleeve. ®

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