Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

Summary: An attack of the MacBook Air clones in underway, funded largely by Intel's $300M Ultrabook Fund. Will it push Apple to jump ship for AMD? We'll have to wait until next year to find out.

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Is Apple testing an AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air? Count on it

Last week Partially Accurate's Charlie Demerjian declared that a MacBook Air with AMD processor was dead. (MacRumors picked up on the storyline that Apple had late-stage prototypes of an AMD Fusion-based MacBook Air). Demerjian claims that an AMD Llamo-based MacBook Air was really, really close to production but that it never saw the light of day because AMD dropped the ball.

The problem is that Demerjian's posts creates more questions than answers.

For starters, Apple's going back to Intel's $300 million dollar Ultrabook dinner table (a.k.a. "plan B") doesn't explain why Intel has passionately executed its Ultrabook initiative -- which is squarely aimed at the MacBook Air. Why is Intel attacking the product line of one of its exclusive partners?

When Dell was the king of the hill, Intel paid it $6 billion not to use AMD processors, so it makes no sense that Intel would attack Apple with MacBook Air clones. Logic would dictate that Intel would want to keep preserve it's relationship and exclusivity with Apple -- at all costs.

Just a week earlier I raised questions about Intel's intentions with Ultrabooks and the prospect of a closer relationship between AMD and Apple. This leads me to think that Demerjian's information is coming from either Intel or Apple.

The post comes across like a decoy because it mentions the AMD Llano rather than Trinity. Llano is AMD's first generation fusion processor, Trinity is the second generation (see table above). Nobody actually thought Apple would use Llano. Analysts were long ago saying that AMD's Trinity and Krishna processors would make more sense.

Why was this post about Llano rather than Trinity? Could it be a clever decoy staged by Apple to help keep their plans secret?  (Especially after my piece may have blown the lid off their plans?) Could it be retribution by Intel for Apple testing Trinity in the MacBook Air?

If the FTC gets enough evidence that Intel is, in fact, punishing or threatening/bribing Apple despite their Consent Decree, Otellini himself could go to jail - assuming that the U.S. Department of Justice has any teeth.

At the end of the day, it's out of character for Intel to pull a "we are going to copy you" stunt on a precious, exclusive, premium manufacturer like Apple. If Intel was willing to pay Dell $6 billion, then I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't pull the Ultrabooks stunt on Apple without a compelling reason.

What's more likely the case is that Apple did consider the Llano processor but that it didn't like it. Apple probably wanted to look at Trinity instead. Intel probably didn't pay Apple enough to keep it exclusive and Steve Jobs was never the type of CEO to be Intel's lap dog.

Apple is either still considering using Trinity, or has already decided to use it.

AMD has repeatedly stated that it isn't having production issues with Trinity, and that is probably the same thing they are saying to Apple every day. A silent begging war is going on between Intel and AMD for Apple's affections. That's why, in that recent interview about Ultrabooks, an Intel executive said that it's "up to Apple" to decide whether the MacBook Air is officially an Ultrabook.

Was that a veiled threat?

Based on Intel's history of coercive tactics, its Ultrabook Fund and worldwide release of Macbook Air clones begins to look like a simple bribe and threat strategy. Intel's executive was simply telling Apple that it isn't too late to dump Trinity.

Again, dumping Llano was old news. In fact, it never even seemed to be a possibility. Instead we should be asking who led Demerjian to focus on Llano, rather than the true candidate, Trinity?

It looks like we'll have to wait until Apple's planned overhaul of the MacBook Air in 2012 to find out if Intel was successful in keeping Apple from using AMD's Trinity processors.

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Topics: Processors, Apple, Hardware, Intel, Laptops, Mobility

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19 comments
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  • RE: Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

    Lets hope for both INTEL and AMD products from Apple..
    customers will decide which one to go depends on their requirement.
    vvenkivlsi
    • Not really possible; Apple gets special treatment from Intel only because

      @vvenkivlsi: ... they use Intel and not AMD as CPUs.

      So there hardly will be choice on that matter.
      dderss
  • Market share?

    They are encouraging manufacturers which make up around 90% of their customerbase to buy more, expensive mobile chips...

    The Air concept is something that keeps cropping up. I remember DEC and Ti making an ultra-thin, light weight laptop back in the early to mid 90s.

    The Unibody of the Air is new, the rest is "old news", made fashionable again by Apple and Intel hopes to capitalise on the trend, by encouraging the majority of its customers to join the land rush.
    wright_is
  • RE: Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

    how much is the market share for apple again? I cannot believe the authour doesnt see the difference between dell and apple here. if Intel puts apple in front of the +90% of Windows OEM's, it stands to lose them all to AMD. So take a pick.
    Mohater
    • Apple already puts Apple in front of *any* others, including Dell and HP

      @Mohater: Apple received first-to-market exclusivity for key Intel's CPU all these recent years. However, this means that no AMD as CPUs will be allowed if Apple wants to continue to get this treatment.

      Intel gets billions of dollars from Apple each year. And since these are not Atom-class CPUs, this chunk of money is very pleasant to Intel.

      If AMD would able to completely switch Apple to AMD chips, their income would immediately grow like 50%.
      dderss
  • RE: Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

    completely backs up what I have been preaching for the last few years. "Soon the only difference will be the software itself". That is happening. IT started with the first hackintosh's when people discovered the only HUGE difference was EFI. Then EFI loaders started appearing and more OSX install's appearing on all Intel basec pc's, some nforce chipsets and of course.... amd. Now that apple is talking about making models with AMD processors. Not only will I stop buying AMD products getting in to bed with apple but the truth of "It's all software since 2001" remains true.
    Apple pushes they are better, they can run windows, better. They can run windows apps like office better. Once you see AMD in a MAC you will know for sure that my statement is absolutely true. All NEW motherboards are being made with UEFI (which has always been the only difference with Mac/PC machines and the OS it can run) so technically speaking there will be no difference in hardware between the machines but only the ability to run it on said "Licensed" hardware, eh hem, from apple, only. So the truth of the coming matter remains, we Can run your stuff, just as well as you, at a fraction of your cost because we make more, support more and and yet you run off of our stuff in the end. Wolf in sheep's clothing strikes me here in some odd way...
    Nate_K
    • RE: Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

      @Nate_K As a member of the Hackintosh community since 2006, I couldn't agree with you more. However, can you cram a P67 system with i7 2600 and AMD 6xxx GPU and UPS into a 1" case with embedded 27" LED monitor? Just because we can make a machine with the same specs for less money, doesn't mean we have the ability to mimic Apple's absolutely gorgeous designs and the over all aesthetics. THAT, and the software will be the deciding factors consumers will compare in the future.
      Bansaku
  • At the moment...

    ...AMD is useless to Apple.

    They have unending production problems and their performance lags Intel and has for a while now.

    Why would Apple willingly return to the PowerPC days? That's why they came to Intel in the first place!
    wolf_z
    • RE: Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

      @wolf_z Assuming the Trinity yield is good, Apple could switch and would have an amazing product on thier hands. A MacBook Air with a Trinity would be very competitive. The PowerPC was dying out and Intel offered better CPUs at the time.

      Apple doesnt have to be AMD exclusive, they can still use Intel in the high-end machines. There is nothing wrong with using Trinity in the Air. It is more power-efficient, faster than the Atom, has amazing graphics, and it would strengthen their relationship with AMD.
      Tylemagne
    • RE: Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

      @wolf_z Apple should just buy AMD, set up foundries in the US, and start thumbing their noses at Intel. :P
      Bansaku
    • Not entirely useless...

      @wolf_z Maybe they're considering AMD (or at least making it look like they are) as leverage.
      Third of Five
  • RE: Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

    "...an Intel executive said that it???s ???up to Apple??? to decide whether the MacBook Air is officially an Ultrabook."

    As much as I hate Apple, I must say... It's up to Intel to decide whether the Ultrabook is an Air...
    Tylemagne
  • RE: Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

    I think this would be a huge WIN based on the complete AMD CPU/APU along with the other AMD chipsets play very nicely together and would give better power management overall without sacrificing as much performance if an Intel Atom CPU was used.
    bobiroc
  • RE: Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

    What you don't understand is making a notebook thin - is not copying Apple.<br>It's obvious.<br><br>Sure, Apple - I'll give them credit, they moved into that space more aggressively and with style - which is something Apple does. <br><br>But just because they got ahead of the curve for a moment, doesn't make the ultrabook category a copy, any more than Apple's Air - is a copy of previous thin efforts by other manufacturers.<br><br>Companies can and do, and will, make thin and light notebooks - and the masses, can and will, miscredit that to one company, but a journalist should have a better perspective on matters.
    rdupuy11
    • RE: Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

      Thin notebooks have been around for a long time, but I think the author makes a good point. Why did Intel suddenly decide to flood the market with these Macbook lookalikes? Look at the Acer and Asus Ultrabooks... Dude, totally clones of the Macbook Air.

      http://www.businessinsider.com/acer-aspire-s3-ultrabook-review-2011-11

      "Acer Aspire - Another Macbook Clone"
      paulpp
  • RE: Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

    http://qqurl.in/HjdMYZ

    http://qqurl.in/HjdMYZ


    http://qqurl.in/HjdMYZ
    chzhrr
  • I doubt it very much

    I think this story has garnered way too much light considering most say its a dead ideal. I would be more inclined to believe Apple will work on a more propriatary chip with Intel as to some extent they have already done so. I think in the end Apple at least when Steve was running the show would have liked to have their own chip design again. I was always surprised when Apple never at least entertained the ideal of buying AMD. What I think Apple would benefit from is a cheaper Mac laptop with a AMD core to offer as a trial. Maybe even a school only offering to reduce the price and gain more traction in schools. A white Macbook would be great.
    jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
  • RE: Will Apple's AMD Trinity-based MacBook Air see the light of day?

    The real heart of the matter is the 22 nm die shrink. Intel is ready at the gate, but AMD hasn't even made it to the racetrack. Intel has their 22nm roadmap ready with their Ivy Bridge "Tick" (or is it "Tock" yet? I can't keep track). If I were Apple, I'd go with whoever has the smallest, fastest, lowest-energy u-arch, and intel's 22 nm is apparently the only game in town. ARM really isn't quite up to Apple MacBook/Pro/Air snuff.<br><br>I'm no fan of intel's predatory tactics (i've owned quite a few AMD-based systems in the past, and LURVED them), but facts are facts. AMD is still stuck at 32nm.
    pauldoyle98@...
  • looks possible

    On amd's fusion developer summit 2012 page, under keynotes, it introduces the keynote speakers. Two of them worked for apple previously;does this have something to do with amd venturing inside apple notebooks for the first time?

    http://developer.amd.com/afds/pages/Keynotes.aspx
    tesla154