A rumor that circulated last week suggesting that Apple was looking at moving the processors in their laptop line from Intel to ARM architecture generated a lot of interest amongst users and developers alike. However a new report from David Kanter at Real World Technologies is suggesting that this rumor was completely inaccurate and that the obstacles which Apple would have to overcome in order to make the switch make it, quite simply, a bad idea. In his analysis, Kanter comes up with several convincing reasons as to why it would not happen, amongst them:
•ARM microproccesors are designed for lower performance and unlikely to match x86 performance in the next few years
•High-end ARM designs may not have a power efficiency advantage over x86
•Emulating x86 on ARM is necessary for compatibility and reduces performance and efficiency even further
•Thunderbolt I/O is probably not available on ARM
•No second source ARM vendors for key components such as the GPU
•Intel and AMD already do an excellent job competing to meet Apple’s needs
The analysis certainly seems to answer many of the questions that were raised following the rumor that Apple was planning on putting ARM processors in its next generation of MacBook Air laptops as early as 2012. Certainly, that migrating to ARM processors would have little or no performance or power benefits seems to be the biggest obstacle. Kanter also points to the lack of Thunderbolt support (although this could be easily solved) and the fact that Intel is extremely competitive in meeting Apple’s requirements.
Many people would like to see the iPad and the MacBook line grow closer together and, while moving to ARM processors in Mac laptops would be one step nearer to accomplishing this, in the near future at least, it appears that Intel in Macs is here to stay.