Apple is exploring the possibility of a long-term move away from Intel-manufactured processors in its Mac personal computers, a Bloomberg report suggests. The story comes from unnamed sources inside the company and suggests that the iPad manufacturer believes that its own ARM-based chips, currently used in iOS devices, may one day be up to the task.
Apple first started using Intel chips in its Mac computers in January 2006, when it made the move away from the increasingly under-powered PowerPC architecture. Cupertino is currently fully committed to its partnership with Intel, and even if the rumors prove accurate, the move is unlikely to take place before 2017.
The report comes from three anonymous individuals who are “familiar with the company's research," meaning that the rumor should be regarded with some caution. However, if accurate, the move would be indicative of an ongoing trend towards a more cohesive mobile device/PC environment.
Mobile operating systems are becoming increasingly capable of providing a fully-featured computing experience, while traditional or “full” operating systems are moving to incorporate mobile features such as social network connectivity and the inclusion of application stores. This is perhaps most evident in Microsoft's Windows 8 OS, which delivers a touch-centric approach to computing.
The move towards mobile-orientated processors in systems running full operating systems would be a logical next step in this process, providing that no significant performance premium is paid. It's also important to note that Microsoft has already made a similar move with the release of Windows RT, a slimmed-down version of Windows 8 designed to run on ARM-based systems.
If the rumors are accurate, then Apple's MacBook laptops would stand to gain the most. While the processing power of the company's ARM-based mobile chips is currently dwarfed by Intel's top offerings, they do provide significantly more battery life than the average x86-based chip. The move would also be in line with the trend of thinner, lighter and more mobile machines that don't make significant performance sacrifices, such as the MacBook Air and Intel Ultrabooks.
As you would expect, both Apple and Intel have declined to comment on the rumors.