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Rumor: Apple once again said to be strongly considering ARM-based Macs

Apple's latest A7 SoC. | Source: Chipworks

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Apple's most popular computing devices, from the iPhone and iPad to MacBook Pro and iMac, could all be powered by the same ARM-based processors, if the company were to decide to make such a switch, according to a new report.

Citing a "reliable" source, French Apple enthusiast site MacBidouille reported this weekend that Apple is exploring new ARM-powered Macs that would feature a "large format" Magic Trackpad built into the keyboard. Apple is said to be far along in development of these machines, but is "reluctant" to make the switch too early and hurt its Mac lineup.

The systems are said to be running a "completely equivalent" OS X operating system in ARM, with several prototype machines already said to have been developed. Interestingly, these machines are said to rely on multiple ARM CPUs, each with multiple cores.

Specifically, it was said that Apple has developed an iMac desktop with four or eight 64-bit quad-core CPUs, while a Mac mini is said to have been made with four such cores. In addition, it was claimed that Apple has developed a 13-inch MacBook sporting up to eight 64-bit quad-core ARM chips.

Apple's SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller introduces the A7 system-on-chip.

Of course, Apple already made a switch along these lines once, in a massive transition from IBM's PowerPC chips to Intel's line of processors. That switch proved beneficial to Apple, allowing its machines to run Windows and also tapping into Intel's speedier chips, and as a result Mac sales went to new highs.

As for ARM-based Macs, rumors of such machines floating around in Apple's secretive labs have existed for some time. One three-year old report claimed that Apple had built a MacBook Air powered by the same A5 chip as the iPad 2.

In the subsequent years since that rumor, Apple's custom mobile processors found in the iPhone and iPad have only become more powerful. The company's latest silicon, the A7 that powers the iPad Air, iPhone 5s and Retina iPad mini, is a 64-bit chip that's been called a "desktop-class" processor.