Apple to Ditch Intel for ARM Processors? No.

There has been a rumor floating around for a few months about Apple eventually transitioning its hardware over to ARM based processors (the ones that are in the iPhone / iPad) and phasing out Intel machines.  The rumor recently popped up again because a Wall Street analyst released a report stating so.  The idea is that the when the A6 comes out (a quad-core, 64-bit processor, supposedly) Apple will move the MacBook Air over to it and release a new OS that unifies the iOS and Mac OS X.  Over the next few years as the ARM processors become more powerful, they will move the MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac mini, and Mac Pro over to ARM.

This is total BS and here’s why:

  1. Wall Street analysts have a terrible track record predicting Apple’s strategy in the past.  They generally read rumors on the internet, substantiated or not, publish them in a “note to investors”, and voilà, it’s truth. BS.
  2. Apple just completed a binary transition to a new processor architecture.  Remember Rosetta, the software that let you run Power PC applications on your Intel Mac?  It was just removed in Mac OS Lion, which came out two weeks ago.  Switching to an entirely new hardware architecture means that none of the existing apps will run without recoding by all the developers or use of a translation framework (which tends to be slow).  Apple’s last transition took four years.  They aren’t going to do it again.
  3. Sure, ARM processors will continue to get faster, but so won’t Intel desktop processors.  ARM processors are designed for low-power mobile devices, not desktops.  The extra power available in a desktop allows processors to be faster.  If Apple was even considering moving to a new platform, I don’t think its possible to run a desktop-class OS on the same exact processor that you run in a phone (anyone ever hear of the Motorola Atrix?)
  4. They won’t combine the iOS and OS X.  Mac OS X is designed to be used with a mouse.  iOS is designed to be used with your fingers.  There is a reason that they are separate.  Steve Jobs has explained why they don’t put touch screens in Macs – because people get tired of lifting their hands to use their computer.  It’s awkward.  There is no way that they could optimize the user experience for both touch and mouse within the same OS. That is Microsoft’s strategy.  How many people do you know who own a Windows 7 tablet? That’s what I thought.
  5. The analyst states that Apple will use the A6 in a MacBook Air next year.  First of all, nobody even knows what the A6 is going to be! How does he know it will be quad-core? He doesn’t.  He just looks at an ARM roadmap, sees that 64-bit quad-core chips are on it for 2012 and assumes that it will happen.

Now Apple might use an ARM processor in a MacBook Air type of computer, maybe, but I’m still not sure.  I don’t see the benefit, other than reduced power consumption (which Intel is already working on for their next generation CPUs).  I don’t know what it would offer that would give Apple any more of an advantage over other manufacturers.  Macs are already selling well.  They don’t need new CPUs.  I think the whole thing is bogus.

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