Apple is actively planning to move away from using Intel-series processors in its Macintosh computers, according to a new report today from Bloomberg. The move to Apple in-house chips is expected to take place in 2020, and the story led Intel’s stock to drop as much as 9.2 percent since publication. Shares have since recovered some of their losses.
According to Bloomberg, Apple’s move from Intel Core-series CPUs to Apple-developed processors is code-named “Kalamata,” and it’s planned to increase the seamlessness of transitioning between the company’s various computing platforms — desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, and watch alike. An earlier report said that Apple is developing “Marzipan,” a version of MacOS that will run iOS apps, blurring the line between the Mac and iPad platforms.
Rumors of an Apple desire to move Macs away from Intel processors have circulated since shortly after the Cupertino company first announced its A-series processors for iPhones and iPads eight years ago. While Apple has consistently downplayed those rumors over the years, its latest iMac Pro and MacBook Pro computers have added Apple-developed T1 and T2 coprocessors to handle various OS- and BIOS-level features, including security authentication of both users and components.
Despite its own chipmaking advances, Apple currently depends on Intel for both Mac CPUs and the LTE modems found in many of its iPhones and iPads, accounting for around 5 percent of Intel’s annual revenues. A disagreement on patent licensing fees with Qualcomm reportedly led Apple to give Intel an exclusive on modems for 2018’s iPhones, leading Qualcomm’s stock to drop in February. However, it’s unclear whether Intel’s chips will be able to match Qualcomm’s as the mobile industry begins to transition to 5G wireless hardware later this year.
From a performance standpoint, Intel’s low-end Mac chips and the iPad’s top-of-line A-series processors began to overlap over the past year or so, with Apple’s processors steadily gaining ground. In today’s review of the entry-level 2018 iPad, we noted that the entry-level $329 tablet now rivals Apple’s $1,299 12-inch MacBook in single- and multi-core processor performance.
Moving Macs from Intel- to Apple-developed processors comes with clear risks and benefits. Apple’s integrated CPU and GPU chips have become capable of delivering console-quality visuals for games, as well as outstanding energy efficiency, but fall well short of the upper end of raw horsepower delivered by PC-class CPUs and GPUs.
The shift is expected to be a “multi-step transition,” according to the original report. In other words, Apple could first move its lowest-powered Macs to self-made processors, followed by its Pro models, or simultaneously pair Apple and non-Apple chips in certain models to let users toggle between them as needed for performance or compatibility.