When Apple switched to Intel processors in 2006 the move was a tectonic shift for developers allowing Macs to run four classes of software (Mac OS X, Java/.NET, Unix and Win32/x86) at near native speeds.
Five years later Apple appears to be making another shift -- this time away from Intel processors.
According to anonymous sources of technology news site SemiAccurate (love the name!) Apple will be dropping Intel CPUs from its line of MacBooks and MacBook Pros, replacing them with ARM-based chips. The site boldly states that it's already "a done deal" but the move isn't expected anytime soon.
The short story is that Apple is moving the laptop line, and presumably desktops too, to ARM based chips as soon as possible. With A15/Eagle allowing more than 32-bit memory access, things look up, but it seems silly to do so before the full 64 bit cores come in the following generation. Nvidia is directly telling certain favored analysts that they will have Denver out in Q4 of 2012, maybe Q1/2013, and that uses the full on 64-bit ARM instruction set. It won’t be out by then, but that gives you a good estimation of when that ISA will break cover from one vendor or other. Think mid-2013.
SemiAccurate’s moles tell them that Apple plans to switch its notebook line to ARM at about that same time. The site goes on to say that Apple is desperately searching for fab capacity from Samsung, Global Foundries, and TSMC.
There's a certain amount of logic to the move.
Apple acquired ARM chip maker P.A. Semi in April 2008 for around $300 million in cash which Steve Jobs then explained as a way to acquire expertise and technology to help run increasingly sophisticated software on iPhones and iPods. Shortly thereafter Apple acquired ARM core experts Intrinsity for a reported $121 million. Then in 2009 Apple hired two former CTOs from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
Many questions remain. For example, if Apple indeed moves to ARM will it use its own core, a Samsung core, or the generic ARM black box?
If the report pans out to be true, x86 could be history on Apple notebooks in 2-3 years. Can the desktops be far behind?