Could one chip rule all of Apple's future hardware? The Cupertino company is known for its driving desire to integrate hardware and software, and that may soon extend to the brains inside MacBooks.
Sources tell Bloomberg that the recent management shakeup at the company has Apple exploring the possibility of ditching Intel's powerful Core processors in exchange for the in-house, ARM-based chips found in iOS devices.
Bob Mansfield's new Technologies group heads up semiconductor research at Apple, and insiders say that Mansfield is much more interested in combining iOS and Mac into a single, unified experience than the soon-to-be-departed Scott Forstall was. Apple's head of software may also push for the move, Bloomberg reports.
Just how credible could such a deep and drastic switch be? Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu sent out a report calling the eventual merger of iOS and Mac "inevitable," but he says it isn't likely to occur for at least a few years. Moving to a single ARM-based architecture for all of its products makes sense for Apple, Wu argues, as it would allow the company to both create the aforementioned seamless cross-platform experience as well as leverage the deep code base and application library in place with iOS.
However, while ARM-based chips still sip energy and are exponentially increasing in processing power on a yearly basis, they still don't have the sheer computing heft of Intel's PC-focused chips. Also, porting the Intel-based OS X software ecosystem to the ARM architecture would be nothing short of a massive undertaking that would take a ton of man hours to accomplish.
Will Macs make the switch to ARM? It's a definite possibility -- but it won't happen anytime soon.