Intel fail foreseen: ARM reportedly wins Mac computer processor design-ins

March 31, 2020 //By Peter Clarke
Intel fail foreseen: ARM reportedly wins Mac computer processor design-ins
Intel falling behind foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) in the global chip manufacturing race looks set to provide ARM with wins as the main processor for Apple Mac computers.

According to Apple Insider Apple will use ARM-based processors for desktop Macs and MacBooks starting in 4Q20 or 1Q21. Apple Insider quotes a note to investors sent out by TF Securities' analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. According to the analyst Apple will bring ARM chips to a wide selection of Mac desktops and laptops within a year.

Apple has designed processors based on the ARM architecture for many years but until now only for use in its mobile phones and tablet computers. Apple has shied away from replacing Intel processors in its computers although there was talk of the possibility when the Cortex-A series cores first appeared from ARM and when Apple designed its own A series application processors.

Now the note reckons Apple is moving forward with an "aggressive processor replacement strategy."

ARM has been used as the main processor for some Chromebooks and is achieving success in servers and networking. The last area holding out has been client PCs under the Windows and iOS operating systems.

As Apple controls the design and manufacturing of its ARM chips it would avoid being at the whim of supplier Intel. The move also suggests that Intel's fall off the pace in manufacturing – it is stuck at 14nm or 10nm while foundry TSMC is pushing from 7nm towards 5nm – finally means that if Apple wants to make the best computers it can, it needs the processors to be made by TSMC, or possibly Samsung, but not Intel.

In Windows PC, x86 computers Intel remains the dominant supplier but even there it is starting to struggle against its primary competitor Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) led by CEO Lisa Su. AMD went fabless many years ago with Globalfoundries but has recently switched to TSMC to allow it to access leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing processes.

The move to ARM processors will save Apple about 40 to 60 percent in cost, Apple Insider quotes Kuo as saying. The move would also allow Apple to control the hardware-software stack and tune processor hardware to professional applications for MacBook Pro or iMac Pro machines and for power consumption in consumer-oriented MacBook Air computers.

Related links and articles:

Apple Insider report

News articles:

Intel apologies for another supply shortfall

Intel blames production shortfall on strong demand

ARM versus RISC-V at European Processor forum


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