Apple has been designing its own mobile CPUs (and now GPUs as well) for years even though it has used Intel’s chips to power its Mac notebooks and desktops since 2005.

In the meantime, Pete Bernard, Principal Group Program Manager for Connectivity Partners at Microsoft, confirmed to Trusted Reviews today that ARM-driven Windows notebooks will have battery life “beyond our expectations.”

Windows goes ARM

Here’s the full quote:

To be frank, it’s actually beyond our expectations. We set a high bar and we’re now beyond that. It’s the kind of battery life where I use it on a daily basis. I don’t take my charger with me. I may charge it every couple of days or so. It’s that kind of battery life.

“I would consider it a game-changer in terms of the way people have experienced PCs in the past,” he added. HP, Asus and Lenovo are apparently working with Microsoft on these ARM laptops.

For context, Microsoft and Qualcomm announced back in December 2016 that first Windows 10 laptops powered by Qualcomm’s ARM-based Snapdragon 835 mobile chips would be coming to market by the end of this year, in December 2017.

“We are still moving towards that timeline,” Bernard said.

Of note, Snapdragon 835 is the same chip powering flagship phones like Samsung’s Galaxy S8, LG’s V30 and OnePlus 5. The executive says Microsoft has been working furiously in Redmond and with its partners in San Diego on bringing ARM-powered Windows notebooks to market.

“We have hundreds of these devices being used on a daily basis in Redmond,” he went on.

Apple does not disclose its produce roadmap, but some analysts like KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo think a MacBook powered by Apple’s custom ARM-based CPU is due in the next 12-24 months.

Apple’s A11 Bionic chip provides MacBook Pro-level performance at lower power consumption.

Apple already has a custom ARM chip in the latest MacBook Pro notebooks, but it’s just a cryptographic coprocessor tasked with securing your Touch ID data, webcam input and the Touch Bar screen.

A secret transition?

Bloomberg said in February that Apple was working on a dedicated ARM-powered chip to handle low-power features in MacBooks more efficiently than the main Intel chip currently allows, but Macs using that piece of silicon have yet to emerge.

Back in 2002, Bloomberg said Apple had tasked its un-retired Technologies chief Bob Mansfield to explore ways to replace Intel processors in Macs with a version of the chip technology it uses in iPhones and iPads, with the goal of launching such an ARM-based notebook in 2017.

Now, macOS High Sierra code includes some suspicious strings that may or may not mean Apple is working on an ARM-based notebook. If such a project does exist in Apple’s labs, the company should be credited for keeping it secret all these years.

Eagled-eyed readers may point to Apple’s switch from Power PC to Intel chips in 2005. Back then, the company stunned WWDC attendees by revealing that every version of the Macintosh operating system had been secretly developed and compiled for Intel processors as they were developed.

Has Apple been developing latest macOS releases for the ARM instruction code in parallel with their x86 counterparts? Only time will tell. But I do think that an ARM-powered MacBook is inevitable.

ARM MacBook is inevitable

We may not see a MacPro with a custom Apple chip anytime soon, but I have no doubt in my mind that they’re working on a consumer Mac notebook powered by an in-house design ARM CPU and custom GPU optimized for power consumption.

Not only would such a product mean Apple was taking its desktop chip destiny into its own hands, but would allow for even thinner and lighter MacBooks with possibly multi-day battery life and new vertically integrated features like fully hardware-assisted full-disk encryption, secure networking, improved responsiveness and more.

Your two cents

So, will PC makers beat Apple in designing ARM laptops with multi-day battery life? Will we ever see a MacBook driven by a custom Apple CPU? Is such a MacBook a question of “if” or “when,” do you think?

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

  • Starfall88

    Looking forward to Windows on ARM. Will we be able to install windows on any Android Tablets? Dual boot Android and Windows will be great.

  • Bacillus

    It’s not about Intel/ARM or Cisc/Risc.
    It’s about sending Joni to a remote island where he can cure his anorexia instead of applying that to intolerable MacBook design.
    (Oh, and Phil join before he the last MacBook port left over gets abducted)

  • techfreak23

    “…allow for even thinner and lighter MacBooks…”
    Jesus, enough with the thinner and lighter already. The last revision of the MacBook lineup did great in that department, except with the cost of battery life. Pretty soon people are going to be walking around with paperweights with the same abysmal battery life. Apple is the company that “takes advantage” of new silicon with power saving features and makes their devices thinner while aiming for the same garbage battery life (10 hours for everything). Why not take full advantage of the new silicon, keep the battery the same size (or even marginally decrease the size, if needed), and blow everyone away with crazy battery life…? I am not completely saying that thinner and lighter isn’t better, but seriously there has to be a point where that isn’t the goal anymore. Once they are at that point, they should shift all of their focus into perfecting the software.

  • AMB_07

    Gosh those macbooks are just too fat, good thing we could finally make them thinner!

    /s

    Seriously tho if the performance is still there and the battery is truly that good then i’m all for it. I think PCs might beat Apple to the punch but i’ll be interested in seing what Apple has to offer before making a decision.

  • mcdave

    I can see this happening to MacBooks if there’s x64 emulation for compatibility not performance (MacBooks aren’t for speed).

    The MacBook Pro would need a different approach. It needs Intel until most key performance software has been converted (easy for most App Store titles). How could they sneak in an A11X? As a dGPU. With the A11 they halved the GPU core count & power consumption so take that back up to 12 cores and you have a Radeon Pro substitute. Re-configure the 2 performance + 4 efficiency CPU cores to 4 performance + 2 efficiency and you have the best of all worlds at no extra cost.

  • Antonio Bray

    Apple has been working on this for years. Please keep in mind that iOS and OSX are basically the same OS. Just like apple just started using their own GPUs.

    When Apple purchased Next, they were still using the PowerPC chip. Next had recently transitioned from Hardware to a Software company porting Next OS to x86 Intel.

    RISK is back. From the first relevant versions running at 25mhz on the Newton MessagePad, now they are awesome enough with the help of integrated subsystems and direct access to hardware using APIs like Metal 2 – all of this is possible.

    DARWIN is what made the transition possible for Apple and developers to transition from PowerPC architecture to Intel almost effortlessly. So I surmise the equivalent will be used to do it again. But of course, like Microsoft and Qualcomm, X86 emulation will possibly be included so that existing OS X apps will run without having to be reworked in the future.

    Apple had two choices when vetting an OS – Be OS or Next. They saw the writing on the wall that the PowerPC architecture was dead in the water, mainly because Motorola and IBM could not agree on direction for the next generation RISC processors. Plus intel, with it’s CISC x86 processors were catching up in performance by adopting some of the RISC architecture such as out of order instruction set computing, BPU and bipolar transistors.

    The irony is, ARM is RISC, so now we are back at the beginning in many ways. With the latest contingent of Apple designed ARM processors that have been released, and I am certain extreme versions that we have not seen yet, Apple is absolutely guaranteed to move to ARM. This will give them more control to optimize OS X to it’s hardware, but also allow Apple to design new subsystems, including auxiliary chips to increase performance and reduce power consumption/heat dissipation on next gen Macs.

    just like Apple has denied the existence of ARM based Macs for years, they deny the eventual merger of iOS/OS X into a unified OS. That’;s coming soon.