Apple Looking to Develop Custom ARM-Based Processors for Mac as It Seeks to Reduce Reliance on Intel and Qualcomm

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 29 Sep 2017

iPhone 8 Plus showing logo and camera island

Apple’s own custom designed A-series chip found inside the iPhone and iPad give it a serious competitive advantage over various other Android OEMs. The company aims to build on that as it is looking to reduce its reliance on major chip makers like Intel and Qualcomm. 

The company wants to design its own AI chips and “core processors” used in notebooks, modems/baseband for iPhones, and a chip that looks after the functioning of the display driver, touch sensor, and the fingerprint scanner.

Industry sources and analysts suggest that Apple is keen to expand its semiconductor capabilities further. They say the company is interested in building core processors for notebooks, modem chips for iPhones, and a chip that integrates touch, fingerprint and display driver functions.

Apple currently relies on Intel for processors for its MacBook lineup, while Qualcomm and Intel both supply Apple with modems for the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Apple has so far only designed core processing chips for the iPhone and iPad, with the 2017 iPhone lineup also featuring a custom developed Neural engine chip for faster AI processing. The A11 Bionic chip inside the iPhone 8 and iPhone X also features Apple’s custom designed 3-core GPU. The Cupertino company had previously relied on GPU design supplied by U.K. firm Imagination Technologies.

The Nikkei report specifically states that Apple is looking to reduce its dependence on Intel by developing ARM chips for its MacBook lineup. Even if Apple ends up developing its own ARM chips for Macs, it remains to be seen how they will power macOS which is based on x86 instructions.

To help build chips that control the display driver and fingerprint sensor, Apple has hired engineers from Novatek and AU Optronics. These custom chips will allow Apple to control every aspect of the performance of these devices and allow it to realign its roadmap according to the breakthrough it achieves.

Apple has managed to repeatedly shake up the mobile chip industry with its custom-designed A-series chips every year. With the company now looking to build more chips of its own, it will be interesting to see just how much of an impact it would have on the overall industry and the competition.

[Via Nikkei]