Will Apple and AMD ever be?

Rumors about Apple developing AMD-based products continue

Rumors about Apple having an Advanced Micro Devices processor project persist. (Link: Here.) I don't think it will surprise anyone to hear that AMD would like to win some of Apple's business. Meanwhile, there’s absolutely no reason that Apple could not offer an AMD-based Mac, iMac, Mac Mini or Apple-TV-like device, at some point in the future. While Intel, Apple’s current chip supplier, and AMD do some things differently, including their processor power management, they both adhere to the same underlying processor architecture, x86. Meanwhile even items such as the two companies’ on-processor virtualization technologies are similar enough to allow software vendors to write one piece of code to take advantage of both, the companies say.

There are at least three reasons why Apple chose to work with Intel. The first one is support. Intel has dedicated an Apple Group to serving the maker of Macs. The group appears to include hardware and software engineers, who lend Apple a hand in developing its products. AMD does not have the same number of engineers or software developers as Intel and thus can not offer the same degree of assistance. The second reason might be financial. Even though Apple doesn’t use Intel brand names like Centrino, Intel could still provide the computer maker with financial assistance. Mind you, I have no proof that it does or does not. However, it does happen. Recently Sun Microsystems’ CFO, Mike Lehman, said his company would receive financial assistance from Intel to aid in the development of its Intel Xeon servers. AMD likely provides assistance to its customers where it can as well. But its pockets aren’t as deep.

A third issue for Apple is technology. The company switched to Intel chips at a time when they were on the technological and performance upswing. Intel’s Core processor family, which offers a mix of performance and energy efficiency, is well thought of among most in the industry at this point. Apple saw the family as a good thing. However, if AMD's forthcoming products work as well as the company says they will, there’s no reason that Apple shouldn’t or wouldn’t evaluate them. I have a hard time believing Apple would not use an AMD product it believed was superior. AMD’s Fusion product line, which will meld processors and graphics, is still in development. But it has great promise, I think. That’s what I’d put my money on.

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