French site MacBidouille has started an interesting new rumour [translation] that Apple is currently experimenting with new ARM-powered Mac prototypes that include a Magic trackpad built into the system’s keyboard. The company is also working on a new version of OS X that will be compatible with these ARM machines, according to the report.
According to MacBidouille’s “reliable” sources, Apple is developing three new machines with this configuration: an iMac and Mac mini as well as a 13″ MacBook, presumably a MacBook Air. The iMac and notebook are both said to have “4 or 8″ quad-core ARM 64-bit processors, while the Mac mini has only four.
The systems are reportedly far enough into development that they could become public knowledge soon, but Apple is hesitant to make the move, concerned that making the switch from Intel to ARM too early could be disastrous for the entire Mac lineup, and thus has decided to keep things under wraps for now.
Of course, the lineup has survived a similar change once already. In 2005, Apple announced that it would be moving away from its then-current PowerPC architecture in Macs and switching to Intel x86 chips for the newer ones.
MacBidouille isn’t a frequent source of rumors, so its hard to gauge its source’s credibility, but rumors of ARM-based Macs have been circulating for years. It seems likely that Apple has prototyped such devices, but many have doubted the feasibility of moving forward with such a plan.
The first inkling of such a plan might have come when Apple threatened to abandon Intel’s chips if they didn’t work to slash power consumption. While AMD might have been one way to go for Apple, the first
rumors of an Apple migration from Intel to ARM processors appeared earlier that year. Later, a report claimed that Apple already had an ARM (A5) powered MacBook Air in their labs back in 2011.
Since the launch of the first-generation iPad, Apple has been designing its own ARM-based processors (the A4-A7 line) for use in iOS devices. Thoughts of switching the Mac to an ARM platform could indicate that the company is finally ready give its other products the same treatment.
An analysis in 2012 suggested that Apple shifting from Intel to ARM wasn’t implausible but it faced several hurdles. The most significant one was Apple’s own ARM chips being able to keep a pace with Intel’s future roadmap.
Apple, however, has been making great strides in performance in their ARM processors. The A7 (above) is described as desktop class even in an independent analysis. In fact, the A7 chip is currently being underutilized in Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices, leaving some of its power untapped.