Apple Planning Mac Computers with Own ‘Kalamata’ Chips

Two years ago, Apple stated plans to sell Mac computers with its own chips, and now announced it will roll them out in 2021. The company is developing three Mac-specific chips using the 5-nanometer process it will debut this year. The chips, which are expected to be faster than those found in the iPhone and iPad, won’t be able to initially surpass Intel’s performance for Apple’s high-end MacBook Pros, iMacs and Mac Pro. For that reason, Apple will likely first debut a laptop. Apple has used Intel chips since 2005.

Bloomberg reports that Apple’s chip project, codenamed Kalamata, requires “close collaboration between Apple’s software, hardware and component-sourcing teams.” The Mac processors will include “the main processor, known as a Central Processing Unit or CPU, and the GPU, the graphics chip.”

Apple developed its own Mac chip as early as 2018, “based on the iPad Pro’s A12X processor for internal testing.” The company is already reported to have “started designing a second generation of Mac processors that follows the architecture of chips planned for the 2021 iPhone,” which, says Bloomberg, “indicates Apple wants to put its Macs, iPhones and iPads on the same processor development cycle.”

Apple is also exploring ways to ensure backward compatibility for apps developed “for older Intel-based Macs.” The company’s Catalyst technology allows software developers to “build an iPad app and run it on Mac computers.”

Apple’s abandonment of Intel processors will be “a blow to [that company’s] prestige.” Although the collaboration enabled the original 2006 Mac Pro, second-generation 2010 MacBook Air and thinner MacBook Pro in 2012, “the pace of Mac upgrades has declined, partly due to a slowdown in Intel’s chip advancements.” Apple also plans to “stop using Intel cellular modems — chips that connect smartphones to the Internet and support calls — after using them for only four years.”

VentureBeat reports that, “we’re nearing a potentially seismic shift in professional-class notebook performance,” whereby “over the next year, high-end business laptops powered by Apple’s ARM processors are likely to deliver true full-day battery life and dramatically faster processing than today’s machines.”

Much of that is due to the shrinking of the processor, “from a 14-nanometer manufacturing process to 10-, 7-, and 5-nanometer sizes.” Intel has lagged in making 10-nanometer processors and is still using the 14-nanometer chips. By switching to 5-nanometer manufacturing, Apple will produce chips that are “even smaller and more energy-efficient than they have been over the last two years.” That includes the likelihood of laptops with “true 20- or 24-hour run times, unless they compromise on battery size.”

For comparison, Apple’s A12X and A12Z chips, with eight CPU cores, “already outperform around 90 percent of recent PC laptops in overall performance.” Bloomberg points out that, “Intel’s laptop chips currently top out at eight cores, like Apple’s tablet chips, so if Apple is working on a 12-core chip, that means it wants horsepower superior to current MacBook Pros, not just equal to them.”

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