New rumors point to Apple eying Macs based on ARM chips

Apple is undoubtedly testing ARM-based Macs internally and has been for some time. The question is, when -- or even if -- it will make the switch? A new rumor says it may be getting closer.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
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.
Brooke Crothers
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Apple continues to work on ARM-based versions of its Mac line, according to spate of reports from blogs that follow Apple.

So, is Apple considering OS X-based Macs using its own A series processors or other ARM processors? Yes (it would be dumb if it didn't). Will Apple actually make the move to ARM, from Intel, in a real product? That's what we don't know (yet).

But reports from MacRumors and other blogs on Monday claim that Apple is actively developing ARM-based Macs, including an iMac, Mac Mini, and 13-inch MacBook.

The machines, as rumored, come with a new keyboard that integrates "a large-format Magic Trackpad," MacRumors said.

Of course, this also presumes that an OS X equivalent operating system is running on Apple's ARM processors.

It's important to note that this rumor isn't from a traditional source like KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo but rather a French-language Apple site, MacBidouille (which MacRumors cites). And the fact that MacBidouille claims multiple 64-bit quad-core processors inside the rumored devices (the iPad Air and ARM-based Chromebooks, for example, use just one) is peculiar.

Put aside all the rumors for a minute, though, and consider what Apple has been saying ever since it announced the 64-bit A7 processor last September: its A series processors are now 64-bit and offer "desktop-class" performance.

Fast forward to the A8 processor (rumored successor to the A7), which will likely be considerably faster than the A7 and be offered in quad-core variants, making it at least theoretically suitable for a low-end Mac.

One of the first widely cited rumors claiming Apple was switching to ARM was in May 2011, appropriately headlined: "Apple dumps Intel from laptop lines."

And this wouldn't be the first time that Apple made a platform change. In 2005 Apple announced that it was switching to Intel processors and dumping the PowerPC architecture.