According to a new report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Ian King, Apple is developing a new ARM-based chip for Macs that would take on more of the low power mode functionality that’s currently being handled by Intel processors.
This upcoming piece of silicon may first become available in a next-generation MacBook Pro planned for later this year. Among other things, it would help improve battery life.
Could Apple be working on next-generation Mac hardware that would be powered by an in-house designed processor based on CPU blueprints from British fabless semiconductor maker ARM Holdings plc? That’s exactly the conclusion one could reach by looking closely at code strings in the macOS Sierra kernel, discovered by Dutch outlet TechTastic.nl.
Chip giant Intel announced today at its Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco an important deal with UK-based fabless semiconductor maker ARM Holdings that will permit other foundries to build chips based on ARM’s most advanced Cortex-series CPU cores using Intel’s sophisticated ten-nanometer process technology.
Given that Apple’s in-house designed A-series chips include fully customized 64-bit CPU cores based on ARM technology, the announcement expands Apple’s options by letting its contract silicon manufacturers such as Samsung and TSMC fabricate iPhone and iPad chips using Intel’s foundry services.
Japan’s carrier SoftBank has announced it will be purchasing British fabless semiconductor maker ARM Holdings plc for a reported $32 billion, which is around a 43 percent premium on its closing market value of $22.25 billion on Friday. ARM confirmed the deal (PDF download) on Monday.
According to the statement, ARM’s board is expected to recommend shareholders accept the offer. Apple is an investor in ARM and licenses its technology as a basis for custom CPU designs for its own A-series chips which power iOS devices.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (TSMC), the world’s top semiconductor foundry, and ARM holdings plc, a British multinational fabless semiconductor designer, have joined forces to make an upcoming 7-nanometer FinFET process a reality in time for volume production in early-2017.
TSMC currently manufactures the iPhone 6s’s A9 chip on its 16-nanometer process, while Samsung-made A9 chips are fabbed on a smaller 14-nanometer process.
The timing of TSMC’s seven-nanometer FinFET process suggests it might be used to fabricate Apple-designed ‘A11’ processors for the iPhone 8 in 2017. By comparison, Intel has said it will produce 10nm node processors in the second half of 2017.
It’s been speculated for years that Macs which run ARM-based processors instead of Intel chips have been in internal testing for quite some time.
This weekend a French publication has resurrected the rumor, claiming that the iPhone maker is indeed actively prototyping several ARM-based Mac models.
Moreover, the company is also working on a brand new keyboard which integrates the Magic Trackpad, Apple’s multitouch trackpad currently available as a standalone $69 accessory. But why would Apple transition from Intel to ARM-based chips and what benefits would such a major brain transplant bring to your daily computing?