Apple designs the processors used for iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches. But while the company has developed some special chips for recent Mac desktop and laptop computers, the company continues to rely on Intel processors to do most of the heavy lifting in those machines.
According to a report from Bloomberg, that could change in as little as three years.
Bloomberg’s sources indicate that Apple is working on a project, code-named “Kalamata,” to develop its own processors for use in Macs of the future.
Among other things, that would give Apple more control over the hardware used in its computers. It could also make it easier for Apple to offer a more unified experience across iPhone, iPad, and Mac products. While it’s unlikely that macOS is going away anytime soon, rumor has it that the company wants to let users run iOS apps on a Mac.
I think of that sort of like Google’s recent push to let users run Android apps on Chromebooks (and tablets). Chrome OS is basically a light-weight desktop operating system built around a powerful web browser. But adding Android apps dramatically increases the number of things you can do with a Chromebook thanks to a robust ecosystem of third-party apps.
MacOS, meanwhile, is a powerful desktop operating system that already has a pretty robust ecosystem of first-party and third-party apps. But there are a lot more iPhone users than Mac users, which has made iOS an even more attractive target for app developers in recent years.
Adding iOS app support to macOS would instantly bring over 2 million new apps to the Mac platform… while also allowing users to buy an app once and use it on their phone, tablet, or laptop or desktop computer.
The move could also make Macs more attractive for first-time computer buyers who may already be familiar with iPhone apps, but less so with desktop computing.
But it’s also possible that Apple’s move to develop its own chips has more to do with the company’s habit of designing as many things in-house as it can than the company’s efforts to blur the lines between its operating systems.
Apple’s ARM-based smartphone and tablet chips are already capable of outperforming entry-level Intel processors in synthetic benchmarks. It’s not hard to imagine that in a few years Apple might be able to produce laptop and desktop-class processors that are competitive with the latest mainstream chips from Intel and AMD.
While that would represent a major investment in research and development, it’d also reduce Apple’s reliance on third-party chip suppliers and break the company free from Intel’s release cycle. The move could help Apple add new features more quickly and it would help to further differentiate Apple’s computers from those of competitors like Dell, HP, and Lenovo.
Then again, 2020 is an eternity from now in tech years, so even if Bloomberg’s sources are correct about Apple’s current plans, it’s possible that the project could be canceled, delayed, or changed between now and then. It’s also possible that Apple could tread slowly by offering just some computers with Apple chips in 2020 and continuing to use Intel for other models for some years to come.