Apple Inc plans to start selling Mac computers with its own main processors by next year, relying on designs that helped popularize the iPhone and the iPad, people familiar with the matter said.
The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is working on three of its own Mac processors based on the A14 system-on-a-chip processor in the next-generation iPhone, the people said, adding that the first would be much faster than the processors in the iPhone and iPad.
Apple is preparing to release at least one Mac with its own chip next year, they said.
However, the initiative to develop multiple chips, codenamed Kalamata, suggests that the company will transition more of its Mac lineup away from current supplier Intel Corp.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), Apple’s partner for iPhone and iPad processors, is to build the new Mac chips, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private product plans.
The components would be based on a 5-nanometer production technique, the process size Apple is to use in the next iPhones and iPad Pros, one of the people said.
An Apple spokesman declined to comment, as did Intel and TSMC.
Apple is designing more of its own chips to gain greater control over the performance of its devices and differentiate them from rivals.
Getting Macs, iPhones and iPads running the same underlying technology should make it easier for Apple to unify its apps ecosystem and update its computers more often.
The move would also reduce reliance on Intel, which has struggled to maintain annual increases in performance it once offered.
Mobile device chips designed by Apple have multiple processing units, or cores, that handle different types of tasks.
The latest iPad Pro has four cores for performance-intensive workloads and another four to handle low-power tasks to preserve battery life.
The first Mac processors would have eight high-performance cores, codenamed Firestorm, and at least four energy-efficient cores, known internally as Icestorm, the people said, adding that Apple is exploring Mac processors with more than 12 cores for further in the future.
In some Macs, Apple’s designs would double or quadruple the number of cores that Intel provides. For example, the current entry-level MacBook Air has two cores.
Like Qualcomm Inc and the rest of the mobile semiconductor industry, Apple designs its smartphone chips with technology from Arm Inc, which is owned by Softbank Group Corp. These components often use less energy than Intel’s offerings.
However, in the past few years Arm customers have tried to make processors that are also more powerful.
The transition to in-house Apple processor designs would likely begin with a new laptop, because the company’s first custom Mac chips would not be able to rival the performance Intel provides for high-end MacBook Pros, iMacs and the Mac Pro desktop.
The switch away from Intel would be complex, requiring close collaboration between Apple’s software, hardware and component-sourcing teams.
Given work-from-home orders and disruptions to the company’s Asia-based supply chain, the shift could be delayed, the people said.
Like with the iPhone, Apple’s Mac processors would include several components, including the main processor, known as a central processing unit, and the graphics processing unit.
Apple’s lower-end computers currently use Intel for graphics, while it has partnered with Advanced Micro Devices Inc for graphics cards in its professional-focused offerings.
The Kalamata project has been under way for several years. In 2018, Apple developed a Mac chip based on the iPad Pro’s A12X processor for internal testing.
That gave the company’s engineers confidence that they could begin replacing Intel in Macs as early as this year, Bloomberg News reported.
Apple has already started designing a second generation of Mac processors that follows the architecture of chips planned for next year’s iPhone. That indicates that Apple wants to put its Macs, iPhones and iPads on the same processor development cycle.
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