A MacBook with Apple inside? Intel begs to differ

Another rumor has surfaced pointing to a MacBook with an Apple chip inside. In this case, it's a report about a specific chip in a specific system.

Rumors about Apple developing a MacBook with one of its own chips--not Intel's--were advanced on Friday, based on a post at a Japanese-language Web site. An Intel executive had some thoughts on the subject.

Apple's rumored experimentation with a MacBook Air using the same kind of processor used in the iPad is probably little more than the usual dabbling in new design concepts that any device maker does.
Apple's rumored experimentation with a MacBook Air using the same kind of processor used in the iPad is probably little more than the usual dabbling in new design concepts that any device maker does. Apple

Let's get right to the post on the Japanese Web site Macotakara Kanteidan about the rumored MacBook Air test vehicle packing a Thunderbolt port. In a Japanese-language post entitled "Is an A5-equipped MacBook Air being tested?" the site claims that "according to someone who has seen a model running with [Apple's] A5 processor, the performance is better than had been thought."

Assuming the report is credible, that's a pretty big leap from a frantic rumor about Apple "dumping Intel" to a real system running on the A5, the Apple-branded chip--based on an ARM design--that's used in the iPad 2.

To date, Apple's ultrathin MacBook Air has run exclusively on Intel processors. And that's expected to continue when Apple announces new Airs based on Intel's "Sandy Bridge" processors this summer, based on my own sources who are familiar with Apple's plans.

I asked Intel's marketing chief Tom Kilroy about this latest report early today. "We're very closely aligned with Apple. We've got our best design teams working with their best design teams. And we're quite comfortable we've got good collaboration going forward," he said. And based on the foreseeable future for the MacBook, Kilroy is most likely correct.

And I also checked in with chip expert Anand Shimpi, who runs the highly respected site Anandtech. He believes it's not unusual for Apple to do some experimentation. But tinkering with a test vehicle is one thing, building a commercial system is quite different.

"It's not surprising to me that Apple would be experimenting with an ARM-based notebook," he said in response to an e-mail query. "However, it would have to be running iOS--the experience under OS X would be suboptimal by Apple's standards," he said, adding, "remember, this is what kept Apple from ever making a Netbook based on [Intel's] Atom [chip]."

And he had some more thoughts. "In my opinion, Apple won't think about moving to ARM-based notebooks until the 'A6,' which should be based on ARM's Cortex A15 core. At that point we can have a discussion, but remember that just as ARM is climbing up, Intel is scaling down. I would be very surprised to see Apple ship an ARM-based OS X machine where performance is a concern. That's not to say that they aren't experimenting with the idea."

The Japanese blog also speculates about some of the challenges facing the iOS running on a MacBook Air, among other challenges, and concludes that the A5-based MacBook Air is likely just an exercise in experimentation.

(Via Apple Insider)

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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