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.

Apple A11 Bionic chip used in the iPhone 8 and iPhone X

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.

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38 replies on “Bloomberg: Apple to ditch Intel, use its own chips in Macs”

  1. Oh goody back to the days of the G series farce. No doubt we will have leaking liquid cooled bricks again.

  2. His all,
    Lost in all the tech talk is the elephant in the room…
    Does this mean Apple will be coming out with touch/pen based Macs? or will developers be limited to the touchpad and mice as the devices for input? This could be a shift that would dramatically change the hardware. Nice to think of a 27 inch iMac with Apple Pencil support like the Surface Studio…:)

  3. That would be an excellent excuse to ban Macs outside of the US… 🙂

    1. I understand if you don’t want to use it, but why ban it? Are you afraid someone might force you to use one?

  4. Doesn’t matter a lot to me, since Apple doesn’t even exist in my universe. But only time will tell whether this actually occurs, and if it does whether or not this will be Apple’s “Metro moment” – as big a mistake as the one that has cost Microsoft so much.

  5. If this is ARM based, does that mean all the SW you have bought for your x86 mac won’t run on a new future ARM based Mac?

  6. Well, I hope they do. I like the idea of some other desktop arch re-entering the game. They could use some variant of ARM or even a desktop version of RISC-V ( if they use RISC-V they do not have to pay anyone royalties for the ISA). Even though my daily driver is my Wintel box, I would buy a iMac with a non-x86 based architecture just to learn about it.
    Secondly, switching CPU arch would prevent people from making Hackintoshes, which would make them Apple quite happy.

    1. I don’t think they consider it too much. Heck, even on the same machine different versions of OSX will give you a compatibility nightmare. Have you ever used AVID Media Composer? That thing would refuse to run on anything but the hardware and OS version it was released on. MC6 on OSX 10.7+? Nope! Wanna use MC9 on OSX 10.12? Ha-ha, good luck! And this is professional software, the licence costs almost as much as the rig it runs on.

  7. I’ve owned several Apple computers and still have my 2015 Macbook Pro. While MacOS has been a poor gaming platform, Apple has allowed dual booting via Boot Camp. This was their way of still embracing the desktop gamer. If Apple were to do this, it means they see mobile gaming as eventually taking over for desktop gaming.

  8. Sounds a lot like the old repeated rumors about replacing Intel chips in MacBooks, which never happened.

    1. Difference is Apple actually has a viable alternative now…the A11X and beyond, and it is scalable. The chips can have as many cores as Apple decides, they can easily have a 16 Core ARM chip inside an iMac. The chip would still be less than 12-16 watts, both CPU and GPU. Hell they could put the equivalent of 4 A11X processors and still be under 30 watts. And doing that would mean they could make their iMacs as thin as the Surface Studio…or even thinner.

      1. Intel’s Kaby Lake Y series Core i7 have 4.5W TDP’s, which still way outperforms the Snapdragon 835 even though the 8 has more cores. So again, Intel probably costs about the same, has significantly better performance, and uses less power in your scenario. Not to mention if we go up to 15W i7’s, the difference is even larger.

  9. They just killed any sort of professional use case I’d need a Mac for.

  10. This is a great idea. Windows is already in the process of doing this but not as an actual transformation, but rather a fork. I wish Microsoft was making a bigger effort into making this a transformation.

  11. As a non-Apple user, this rumor pushes me even further away from even considering Apple. Their hardware is already pretty locked down to their wares only and it sounds that this is some kind of final solution. I can only imagine what their hardware will look like in a few years in terms of even simple servicing such as battery swapping, etc.

    1. Let’s be honest though. Where you ever going Apple to begin with? For the most part, this is exactly what happens currently with just about everything branded Apple. I think their stuff is mostly great, but I prefer PC. I won’t ever buy a Mac.

  12. Waits for GeneralKidd to come and say how ARM chips will never be able to compete with intel.

    1. Darn you beat me here. I still stand by that statement as do may people here as well. The article itself further confirms that after all this time, the top of the line ARM chips are still only competitive with entry level Intel chips at best, to quote the article. And that’s a hard fact too. No benchmark has ever put ARM close to an i7.

      Here is where you try to convince everyone that Intel and AMD will stagnate and make 0 progress from this point on allowing ARM to catch up. Fortunately most people here are not trapped in your bubble of denial and see the reality that a Core i7 is way more powerful and cost effective. Performance per watt ratio drastically tilts in favor of Intel and AMD.

      1. Check the geekbench benchmarks.
        iPhone X’s A11 has a single core score of 4102, and multi-core score of 9613.
        2017 MacBook Pro i7-7920HQ has single core score of 4630 and multi-core score of 15601. That seems pretty close to Intel’s fastest low-power chip.
        The geekbench test does not estimate the power in watts to perform the entire test… but I would imagine that the phone chip uses much less power for the same amount of calculations. The A11 already is faster than the fastest mobile i5s. I think the fact that held them back is that Intel desktop CPUs will always be faster (they might have to ditch their line of tower Macs if they want to go completely ARM).

        1. Since Mac users typically aren’t concerned with cost, there are much more powerful mobile Core i5’s and i7’s Apple could go with if they wanted better performance. But anyways, many applications these days are multithreaded meaning the multi-core score ultimately is more important, especially going forward as we get into machine learning and AI stuff. But yeah you’re also right that this move by Apple would put the desktop Macs in jeopardy as no ARM chip would be able to replace the high end Xeons and i7’s found in the high end Macs. Switching from PowerPC made sense since x86 was more mainstream and was making better enhancements than PowerPC was. Switching from x86 to ARM though is questionable outside of the lower end MacBook Airs and entry levels MacBook Pros. It would certainly be outrageous to switch in the Mac Pro towers where people depend on the performance for high end compute and rendering tasks.

    2. Ah I just the latest announcement from Dell and Intel today. For $999, you can now get a Dell XPS 15 with a Core i9, yes the i9 series, which also comes with a GTX 1050 Ti. All this while being just as thing as your Windows on ARM laptops and costing the same too considering there were WoA laptops going for as high as $999. So now instead of comparing ARM to a Core i7, we can now move the goalpost and compare it to a Core i9 since we’re still in the same price point now. So tell me how competitive a Snapdragon 835 is compared to a Core i9 and GeForce GTX 1050 Ti? I’m curious how you justify a $999 WoA laptop compared to a $999 Core i9, GTX 1050 laptop.

      1. You might want to re-read or read the article. It’s on the front page.
        The entry-level model Dell XPS15 will features an Intel Core i5-8300H quad-core processor and integrated Intel UHD 630 graphics. You are not getting a i9 for that price and you’re certainly not getting a GTX1050.

        1. Ah yes my bad, I originally got that from another article that was vague on the pricing specifics. I had a feeling it was too good to be true. Regardless though, doesn’t change my original point that a mobile Core i9 and GTX 1050 would still way outperform even the best ARM chips today. Even if Intel stopped making x86 chips today and the Core i9 was all we had, it’d still stay ahead of ARM for many years to come.

  13. If anyone can pull this off, it’s Apple. Why? Because they’ve changed architecture twice before are hugely experienced with both fat binaries and emulation, and because they control all the hardware macOS runs on – unlike Microsoft who do not control the hardware base. I see this as a winner. A Macbook Air on steroids with multi-day battery life.

    1. A winner? Seriously? Tell that to all us G5 owners that got burned with about 9 months of support for hardware that cost over 4K. A winner my ass

  14. Does this mean we’ll soon have an RT version of macOS??? I wonder how old mac programs like MS Office will run on it?

    1. The latest Office360 runs on the Windows 10 Snapdragon laptops. I don’t think it would be difficult to have it run on Apple ARM processors. I suspect that support for Office360 would be very important to have before they switch away from Intel.

      1. They do because it’s on UWP codebase. If UWP as a platform starts to support Motorola 68k or a Turing Machine, Office 360 will run on that without the devs having to do anything but setting the flag in the compiler.

        1. That’s mostly false. Unless your UWP app was written entirely in .NET with no native code, libraries, drivers, or dependencies, then it won’t run universally without needing major changes and to be compiled specifically for ARM. UWP doesn’t magically make everything work everywhere.

    2. Based on Apple’s past behavior: they won’t. Maybe they’ll provide a virtual environment to run legacy apps (for a year or two), like they did with Mac OS 9 apps when OSX came around, but most likely they’ll just tell developers to adapt to the new tech, they have 4 months, bye.

    3. Apple developed Rosetta to let Intel Macs run PowerPC legacy apps at a performance loss for some time. I guess they’d do the same thing here.

    4. Apple is good at handling architecture transitions, they will come up with a way to smooth it out.

      MS has incompetent people in charge of it’s efforts and produced an Arm Windows platform were they blocked developers from making Win32 Arm native code, had no universal binary to simplify end user choice, had zero out-reach to Windows developers and used a poor performing emulator as their primary means of running Win32.

      OSX on Arm will definitely not be Windows on Arm.

  15. Not that it’s going to turn me into an Apple customer, this can only be a good thing since three major desktop/server CPU manufacturers is almost certainly better than two for the consumer. We’ve already seen Intel responding to AMD upping its game, so pressure from Apple is only going to spur them on more.

    1. Yeah, the only thing that bugs me about this is that it’s not like Apple will make its chips available to third-party PC makers. So it kind of just sets Apple devices further apart from everything else.

      I know Intel will take a hit in terms of chip sales and market share. What I don’t know is how much pressure there will be on Intel and AMD to compete with Apple’s chips in terms of features of performance… since it sounds like Macs may only be available with Apple chips while Windows PCs will come with a choice of Intel, AMD, or maybe Qualcomm processors.

      1. I suspect this will be similar to how Apple’s phone chips don’t really push Qualcomm to make better chips for Androids.

      2. If Apple is using an ARM based chip -it won’t be that far deviated from ARM chips in general. The software lockdown will still just be at the OS level and not really restricted by the chip. Sort of like how they are now with Intel. Might make it harder to install Linux though. Not that I’d want to

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