Apple Inc. is planning to use its own chips in Mac computers beginning as early as 2020, replacing processors from Intel Corp., according to people familiar with the plans.
The initiative, code named Kalamata, is still in the early developmental stages, but comes as part of a larger strategy to make all of Apple’s devices — including Macs, iPhones, and iPads — work more similarly and seamlessly together, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The project, which executives have approved, will likely result in a multi-step transition.
While this may seem like inside baseball to the uninitiated, this is a very big deal. Apple’s decision to build their own chips has far-reaching implications. It’s not just that they will no longer depend on Intel, which makes chips for a broad range of computing devices, but that Apple will be able to tailor-make chips for its computers. They already do this for iPhones and iPads, but doing so for laptops and desktop computers will give them much more control over how the chips run, how much power they use, and more.
But the biggest thing here is this:
As part of the larger initiative to make Macs work more like iPhones, Apple is working on a new software platform, internally dubbed Marzipan, for release as early as this year that would allow users to run iPhone and iPad apps on Macs…
Those of us who write about Apple have long opined about the iOSification of macOS, and the ability to allow iPhone and iPad apps to run on the Mac will be a big deal. It might not work; or it might only work for very simple apps. But it will be a game-changer. I don’t expect Apple to fully iOSify the Mac platform, but allowing iOS apps to run on Macs in a special environment makes sense.
Another advantage would be the ability to include certain security chips on the main processor, rather than having them as separate chips, strengthening Apple’s position as a financial intermediary with ApplePay. As smartphones and tablets become commodified, Apple is looking to increase its revenue from services, and it is highly possible that they see the company becoming a financial services provider with ApplePay as the first such service.
Of course, this move is not without risk. Apple doesn’t have a long experience designing and manufacturing their own chips, and, while they would be making millions of them for their Macs, that’s still only a fraction of the number of processors that Intel makes for computers. Apple could face issues in design and production that would be harder to manage for them than for Intel. But so far, the company has shown that their chip designs work well in the devices they sell the most: iPhones.
I’ve seen some discussion on Twitter, suggesting that the Mac Pro, slated to be released this year, might contain Apple chips. I think this is unlikely. As the Bloomberg article says:
Apple’s current chip designs made their name in thin and light mobile devices. That would indicate Apple will start the transition with laptops before moving the designs into more demanding desktop models. Apple has to walk the fine line of moving away from Intel chips without sacrificing the speed and capabilities of its Macs.
This makes sense, in part because Apple sells more laptops, and because their existing processors are probably close to what is needed for a portable computer.