Apple Fixing To Drop Intel Silicon In Macs? – ARM-Based Macs Seen As ‘Inevitable’

Appleinsider’s Neil Hughes reports that according to Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu, in a note to investors on Tuesday, it’s “inevitable” that Apple will merge its Mac and iOS devices at some point, but that he believes it will take Apple some time to optimize its Mac OS X operating system for the ARM processors currently found in the iPad and iPhone, although he does believe that ARM processors will eventually become powerful enough to replace Intel chips.

Mr. Wu was responding to a major report by Bloomberg’s Adam Satariano, Peter Burrows and Ian King that says according to a trio of insider sources, Apple Inc. studying strategies to replace the Intel Corp. processors it’s used in its Mac personal computers since early 2006 with a version of its in-house designed, ARM-based A-series chips based on technology from Cambridge, England, based ARM Holdings Plc (ARM) that Apple uses in the iPhone and iPad.

Mr. Wu deduces that making Apple’s entire product line based on custom-built ARM-based processors would simplify device architecture, help to create a more seamless experience for users, and improve Apple’s balance sheets, also observing that the Mac represents just 14 percent to 18 percent of Apple’s total revenue while the iPhone accounts for between 45 and 50 percent, and the iPad 20 to 25 percent.

The Bloomberg article notes that Apple engineers have grown confident that its A-series CPUs will eventually be powerful enough to run desktop and laptop computers.

Such a switch (which the Bloomberg article says is unlikely in the immediate to near term – there’s likely to be another U.S. presidential election before Apple makes such a move) would be disruptive to say the least, and would eliminate the advantage of Macs being able to run Microsoft’s Windows OS natively, that has been a major factor in the Mac’s substantial market share gains since 2006.

However, other recent rumors contend that convergence of OS X with Apple’s iOS mobile operating system will continue toward the eventual objective of a merger of the two OSs, which would make standardization on common processor silicon a logical (or perhaps even necessary) step.

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