Bloomberg Technology’s Mark Gurman and Ian King recently posted a report suggesting that the ARM technology Apple T-1 chip grafted inn from the Apple Watch 2 and used to power the Touch Bar OLED panel in higher-end late 2016 MacBook Pros, might get its responsibilities expanded to include more of the functionality currently provided by Intel Core ‘i’ chips. One objective of such a move would be improved battery life for Apple laptops.
Unnamed insider sources tell Gurman and King that the updated co-processor chip, internally codenamed T310, has been under development for a year or so, and is intended a to work in tandem with the main Intel processor, taking over some of the MacBook’s low-power mode functionality such as the “Power Nap” feature that enables it to execute certain tasks such as downloading emails, installing software updates, and synchronizing calendar appointments with the display remaining off according to the cited sources who requested anonymity.
Gurman and King, who report that both Apple and Intel declined to comment, suggest speculatively that having ARM-designed silicon inside Apple laptops marks another step forward in advancing a long-term company strategy to eventually power Macs as well as iPhones and iPads with its own A-Series processors that it has used in the mobile devices since 2010.
Aside from enhanced profitability and the ability to even more closely integrate Mac hardware and software functionality that would result from taking chip design and sourcing in house, ARM technology powered Macs would open up a new range of possibilities (as well as closing others, such as Intel powered Macs’ ability to run Microsoft Windows natively). Particularly intriguing is the potential to run iOS apps on Mac laptops, and indeed with the need to port the macOS to ARM anyway in order to support the chipset technology switch, greater integration or even merging the two operating systems would seem more logical than ever.
It will be interesting to see if any Windows PC laptop makers adopt features mimicking Apple’s Touch Bar. There are already many PC laptops with real touchscreen support available, which IMHO is a much more desirable capability than the Touch Bar. Bringing touch support to the macOS would also enable Apple to compete in the convertible laptop market, although Cupertino might insist that they already do with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and optional keyboard — a point I vigorously dispute as long as the iPad is limited by the iOS and a lack of mainstream compatible hardware connectivity.
However, while they reported that Intel stock prices declined and Apple’s rose on the news, Gurman and King say their sources emphasize that Apple is not planning to drop Intel powered Macs in the near term future. Indeed, the next major MacBook Pro hardware upgrade is projected to be to seventh-generation Intel “Kaby Lake” Core “i” processors. Forbes tech columnist Ewan Spence noted last week that the latest latest macOS beta includes three motherboard configuration profiles that do not as yet exist in commercially available Mac hardware — presumably the coming Kaby Lake chipsets. That would square with respected KGI Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities predicting in an investor note at the time of Intel’s Kaby Lake processor release at CES in January that all MacBook models will be upgraded with the new silicon in 2017 (presumably not including the currently fifth-generation Core ‘i’Broadwell powered MacBook Air which is likely to be end-of-lifed), along with a broadened range of memory uprade upgrades
Mr. Kuo expected production of Kaby Lake powered MacBook Pros to begin in early Q3/17, pointing to a probable October release, but suggested that 7th generation Core silicon might be rolled out in an upgraded 12-inch MacBook earlir earlier year than that, which would be logical since the MacBook is overdue for a refresh.
However, sticking to Apple’s customary late October laptop hardware announcement schedule in this instance will mean a three-quarters of a year lag between Intel’s Kaby Lake release and the latest Intel chipset availability in MacBook Pros. An end to that sort of scheduling conflict is one of the benefits Apple would derive from powering Macs with its own A-series chipsets.