[Updated] Should Apple really ditch chipzilla?

In the latest Bloomberg news Apple is said to be exploring the possibility to ditch Intel processors. This is not the first time such a rumor appears and it could happen.. eventually.

Let's start by considering the "why?" part of the equation. All could come down to the well known control freak nature of people in Cupertino but the decision would really be too big to be guided just by that. Some other things Apple is quite fond of are design and consistency and both may take advantage of a switch to ARM.

ARM chips are, as of now, less power hungry than x86 counterparts and so leaving more margin for ultra thin designs, long battery life and increased mobility. ARM is also the platform of choice of the two main Apple products: the iPhone and the iPad. Using just one processor architecture could be the step needed to unify iOS and Mac OS. That would be an ambitious goal to achieve but it could lead to a unified experience on all devices and a single OS to maintain and evolve. That's something I'd expect form Apple!

Now, based on that hypothesis, let's analyze the "how" part.You could see Mac on ARM as the exact specular move of what I think is Microsoft current plan but with some remarkable differences. For one Microsoft is making the switch on their main platform, the PC, while Apple would be switching their by now second platform. The Mac is not the main OS for Apple anymore and they now make all the big money from the iOS devices so even if things go wrong the damage would be less devastating.

Secondly they would kill in the switch about 7 years of legacy apps (form the switch form PowerPC in 2005) and not almost 20 years of apps as in Microsoft case. But to compensate for that the user would gain access to the immense catalog of the iOS App Store. In Windows RT you don't get that!

Despite these points, a lot of challenges remain in such an ambitious move. ARM chips are not as powerful as Intel processors and that is not likely to change in the near future. Conversely Intel is aggressively cutting on power requirements for its processors with each step of their tick-tock and they have a node of advantage on all competitors on fabrication process. In fact it is not a secret that Intel is aiming straight at ARM with its future architectures and, till now, they have been very successful in eliminating their competitors.

If I were in Apple I'd probably wouldn't take any risks on the Mac and work to stay the king in the mobile space where the money is going. Or perhaps I'd wait for the do-it-all piece of silicon that I dream about?

Update: rumors change fast, according to the new rumors Apple could not only stay with Intel but actually use them for the production of their ARM processors.

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