Following on from reports last week that Apple was considering implementing ARM processors into their laptop line up as a replacement to the current Intel chips, a new analyst report is suggesting that the company is seriously working on the move and that it may happen in some models of the MacBook as early as 2012. The suggestion comes from analyst Ben Reitzes of Barclays Capital (via 9to5Mac), who notes that the Air would be the first of the MacBook line-up to apparently benefit from the switch to ARM from the current Intel line of processors.
There are several arguments for and against Apple choosing to move their laptop line-up to ARM processors. Obviously such a move would require that the company would have to drop the market leader Intel which may put them at a disadvantage. In addition the process of moving the MacBook line to ARM processors isn’t as simple as removing one chip and putting another one in. Software would either have to be run in an emulated environment or recompiled to work with the ARM processor architecture which would be a big ask for developers.
Additionally, unless Apple completed a migration to ARM across the whole of the Mac line-up, software would have to written which would be natively compatible with two different chipsets otherwise consumer would have to purchase one version for their ARM laptop and one for their Intel desktop. Without running in an emulated environment, this sounds like a logistical nightmare.
However, on the flip side, moving to ARM would mean that Apple could bring their processor design and construction in-house. In addition, ARM processors, as used in the current generation iPad and iPhone, are extremely power efficient, and such a move in a laptop like the MacBook Air could enable longer battery life or thinner construction than the current Core2Duo models.
Could Apple be planning to migrate iOS into the laptop environment rather than simply limiting it to personal mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad? The possibility exists.