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Apple mulls ditching Intel for ARM in Macs

06 Nov 2012
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Apple is reportedly considering plans to move all of its products to a proprietary platform based on the ARM architecture.

A report from Bloomberg cited company sources in reporting that Apple was looking at a long-term plan which would see the Macintosh line of computers switch from Intel's x86 processors to a platform based on the ARM architecture.

The report noted that the company is only considering the plan and that such a move would be dependant on a new generation of ARM CPUs fit for use in desktop and mobile PCs.

A move to ARM by Apple has previously been floated, particularly after an experimental build of OS X for the architecture was spotted.

Apple currently uses ARM-based processors as the CPUs for its iOS devices. The company has used Intel chips to power its iMac, MacBook, Mac Pro and the now-defunct Xserve platform since 2005.

A move from Intel to an in-house platform would not be the first for Apple. Prior to the Intel x86 switch-over, the company spent nearly two decades in a joint project with IBM and Motorola to establish the Power architecture in the desktop space.

Through much of the 1990s, Apple based its Macintosh desktop and notebook platform on the PowerPC architecture, as did the third-party "clone" Macintosh systems of the day. The partnership eventually dissolved and Apple looked to Intel to provide CPUs for the Macintosh line.

Should Apple make the switch, it would be a significant boost for ARM. Its designs were once limited to use in mobile devices and embedded systems, but increasingly powerful versions in recent years and have moved into new markets.

A number of hardware vendors including AMD have begun plans to implement ARM-based chips in scalable server environments, where the low power consumption of the processors make them ideal fits for the large datacentre deployments required in cloud computing and web application deployments.

Intel, meanwhile, has looked to conquer the territory by expanding x86 into the low-power market with the Atom line.

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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