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Apple developing ARM chip for Mac to handle low-power functionality

As it looks to lessen reliance on outside chip manufacturers, Apple is developing an ARM-based Mac processor designed to take some of the burden off primary Intel silicon, a report said on Wednesday.

Dubbed T310, the rumored component has been in development since last year and is similar to the T1 chip powering Apple's MacBook Pro Touch Bar, Bloomberg reports, citing inside sources.

Unlike the T1, which is limited to Touch Bar operation and Touch ID security authentication, the next-generation ARM chip would facilitate certain low-power Mac functions offloaded from the main Intel CPU. Specifically, Apple is looking to dedicate the ARM processor to handle Mac's Power Nap feature.

Introduced with OS X Mountain Lion in 2012, Power Nap allows Mac to stay up to date while the machine sleeps. The feature automatically downloads software updates in the background, syncs iCloud data and performs other functions without activating Mac's screen.

Currently, macOS hands off Power Nap control to the onboard Intel CPU, which operates in low-power mode, but a dedicated ARM chip would make the process even more efficient, sources said. Handling Power Nap, the rumored chip will have access to a range of Mac hardware like storage components, wireless communication suites and other vital equipment. If implemented, it will be the first ARM-based chip to gain wide access to Mac hardware and could pave the way to an all-ARM architecture.

While a definitive launch timeline went unreported, Apple's advanced ARM chip could find its way into a MacBook Pro revision slated for release later this year, sources said. Considering the relatively low-key introduction of Apple's T1 chip last year, the company might not throw a spotlight on the upgraded component when it does see integration.

The T1 chip landed in MacBook Pro with Touch Bar as Apple's first ARM component to see integration in a Mac, a major step in the company's supposed plans to move to custom silicon.

For its mobile products like iPhone and iPad, Apple chose to design and engineer its own processors to work seamlessly with iOS software, a project that resulted in today's A-series chips. The company has for years been rumored to do the same for Mac.