Apple to Put AMD Inside?
According to AppleInsider, Apple may be courting AMD in a possible CPU switch-a-roo. Nothing is official yet, but AppleInsider is reporting that “people familiar with the matter” have noticed AMD execs on Apple’s campus and commuter coach buses. Is Apple really looking to switch processors — or at least offer AMD options to gain price leverage over Intel? Well, actually…
Apparently, the AMD and Apple meetings have been regarding using AMD processors in Apple labs for testing. Which CPUs exactly, then? It’s not clear, but it’s generally believed that it’ll be desktop and notebook processors. Apple, ever the opportunist, is thought to be making this move as a key play to provide variety in their product, and broaden their horizons as far as who it works with and what hardware can go in their machines. It’s also good for competition, and may keep Intel honest as well.
So what went sour with Intel? Apparently, limited availability of new CPUs (which is rumored to have delayed the Core i5 and i7 Macbook Pros) along with Intel’s chipset restrictions that have blocked the creation of a standardized chipset using NVidia GPUs.
AppleInsider answers the question some of us may have had: Why didn’t Apple go AMD before? Very simply, because from 2000-2005 AMD didn’t have a competitive edge in their CPUS, and with Apple privy to Intel’s roadmap with the ‘Core’ brand of CPUs, Apple obviously chose Intel, since the Core chip was paramount to boosting their laptop performance.
So what does AMD offer now, that Intel doesn’t? A intimate relationship with AMD’s graphics card branch, ATI. (ATI was scooped up by AMD back in 2006). And while the AMD + ATI combo could be killer (Apple has been looking to capitalize on OpenCL like crazy), some suggest that AMD’s power efficiency and cheaper price point could offer Apple opportunities at more competitive price tags.
But this blogger thinks there’s a bigger picture. If AMD gave Apple their road map, like Intel did, Apple may be seeing something different. AMD recently announced their “Magny–Cours” processors, and their unified socket set. They also stressed their efficiency per-watt and their low price point regardless of cores and chip quantity. When I look at Apple’s lineup, the most expensive products are getting a little long in the tooth– the XServe and the Mac Pro. Both of these utilize Intel’s server-style CPUs, but a switch over to the AMD socket could mean much quicker production for upgrades, and a potential upgrade path for older machines instead of simply buying a new machine each time. (Even if it’s after-market, it can still be attractive to buyers.)
AppleInsider offers some other reasons for switching to AMD, like the idea of a system on a chip (what Apple did with their A4 CPU) that has a GPU and a CPU layered on top of each other. Intel is offering their own variants, but as noted earlier, AMD’s ATI technology is a much stronger contender.
The most interesting thing wrought out of this speculation was AppleInsider’s final note:
“If AMD can deliver 80% of the CPU performance of Intel at 60% of the cost, and add significantly better GPU performance and sophistication, it would not be surprising to see Apple working to adopt the company’s parts broadly across its Mac lineup within the next year or two.”
And that could very well be the bottom line.
But this blogger is a tad-bit wary regarding that statement. Apple’s switch to Intel was over processor prowess, and a 20% hit in performance — no matter what the cost — is a 20% hit. Apple doesn’t want to slump back to the PowerPC days. I speculate that Apple would be doing some very fancy coding to optimize OS X to squeeze every last drop out of that AMD processor before they even attempted a switch.
And that could very well be why AMD’s chips are in Apple’s labs right now.