On Friday, reports surfaced that Apple officials have decided to dump Intel processors for ARM-based solutions in its upcoming MacBooks and MacBook Pros-- and possibly even Mac desktops. The transition, stated as a "done deal" by unnamed insiders, won't take place immediately, but is expected to happen "as soon as possible"-- probably in mid-2013.
According to sources, Apple is waiting for ARM architecture to move beyond the 32-bit architecture, possibly holding off for the company's upcoming Cortex-A15 processor design which is expected to hit the market in late 2012 or later. Nvidia's own ARM-based Project Denver processor, which integrates the CPU and GPU onto one die, is expected to launch in the same timeframe and will also use a 64-bit instruction set. There's speculation that Apple's plan and Nvidia's release is not a coincidence.
For Apple, moving to ARM chips would mean it would have a consistent processor architecture across all of its products. Currently the company is using Intel chips in its desktops and laptops, but ARM-based solutions in the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad tablets. The move could also signify a possible attempt to follow Microsoft's footsteps and develop one operating system that can be used across different form factors-- to offer the same OS on the iPad, iPhone, MacBook and Mac desktop.
Then again, so far ARM chips have yet to prove themselves in the PC market, remaining the dominant solution only in the mobile sector. Yet research firm IDC recently stated that it expects ARM to own 13-percent of the PC processor market by 2015. That market shift is expected to be steered by Microsoft's modular Windows 8 which could be released as early as next year.
Speculation of Apple's move to ARM arrives just days after Intel revealed its Tri-Gate transistor design which will begin to appear in 22-nm "Ivy Bridge" chips later on this year, or in Q1 2012. The new 3D transistor structure will enable Intel to increase performance while decreasing the overall chip size, power consumption and leakage. These chips are expected to put Intel in a better position to aggressively compete with ARM in the mobile sector while retaining the x86 architecture.