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Monday, November 05, 2012, 01:19 pm PT (04:19 pm ET)

Apple mulling transition away from Intel chips for Macs

Rumors have once again surfaced that Apple may be looking to move away from Intel processors to power its Mac lineup, replacing the silicon with proprietary ARM processor designs like those found in the iPad and iPhone.

The rumblings come from Bloomberg, which cited people familiar with Apple's research and development process as saying engineers are confident that the company's A-series chip designs will one day power desktops and laptops. Currently, the ARM-based silicon is limited to iOS devices, though rumors of a switch have persisted for years.

Two people claim that the change is not likely to take place "in the next few years," as Apple is currently tied to Intel's products, however a shift to proprietary chip designs is "inevitable" as powerful devices like the iPad further blur the line between mobile and PC.

Apple reportedly has a team dedicated to the project, the engineers of which imagine a lineup of machines that leverage a common chip design, much like current iPhones, iPods and iPads.

According to one of the sources, the recently-returned Bob Mansfield has long been interested in making a more consistent experience across iOS and OS X, a goal that could take shape as former mobile software chief Scott Forstall was recently ousted. Mansfield, who previously didn't have the authority to make significant changes to iOS, now leads the Technologies team which is responsible for semiconductor research, among other duties.

Apple CEO Tim Cook in also hinted that there could be a further convergence of iOS and OS X, as he said ARM chips may one day make their way into Macs.

iPad 4 Logic Board

Apple's newest A6X chip boasts a dual-core CPU and quad-core graphics. | Source: iFixit


The publication reported in early October that Apple was exploring options to phase out Intel-based machines, though at the time it was unclear what processor the company would use as a replacement.

Despite being used in Mac products since Apple switched from IBM's PowerPC chips in 2005, Intel has yet to make its way into the more popular iOS device lineup. In May, the chip maker said it was going to build high-efficiency processors in a bid to make headway in the mobile marketplace currently dominated by ARM designs.