Tunabelly Software

Will Apple use an A10 chip in the next MacBook?

Reading the well summarized article on MacRumors about the new A10 chip in the iPhone 7 (read it here), I began to feel quite strongly that Apple might switch the CPU type in the next low power MacBook. It wouldn't be unheard of as Apple has switched the CPU architecture quite a few times already to best use the technology of the time. Check out the timelines so far:

1989 - 1996: Motorola 680x0
1996 - 2006: PowerPC
2006 - 2016: Intel x86-64
2017 - 2027: ???

So the current models of Mac laptops all use some variant of a 64-bit Intel CPU. However over the last few years the performance increases have not been so great, especially for lower power processors such as the Intel Core M which is used in the 12" MacBook. Apple had the same issue with the original ARM processor that was used for the iPhone 2G so they decided to make their own. Turns out that was a really, really good idea as they developed the king of mobile processors, the A9X and now, they have the A10 which is 50% faster. So the idea that Apple might pop one into say a 2017 MacBook isn't that far fetched. In fact, check out the benchmarks between the Apple A9X and the Intel Core M (graph is from an Arstechnia review):


The A9X is faster than the 2015 MacBook and almost the same as the 2015 MacBook Air! Now if the new A10 or an A10X variant was used with a faster clock speed (which is ok because the Macs are physically larger and can dissipate heat a lot better), it could easily outpace a new Core M or Core i5.

Now switching the CPU may be easy for Apple to do, although what about all those apps that are compiled for Intel x86-64? How will they still work? There are at least two options:

  1. Apple uses some type of software emulation to run older apps designed for Intel CPUs. This was done when the switch form 680x0 to PowerPC happened and overall it worked pretty well.
  2. Apple uses the magic of byte code to simply re-compile newer Mac App Store apps over to the ARM architecture and instantly makes them available on launch. This is something is is relatively new to the Mac App Store and not many people have put much thought into it. For those who haven't seen it, here's what it looks like in iTunesConnect:

Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 2.51.02 PM

So what do you think? Do you believe that Apple will introduce a A10/A10X powered MacBook, perhaps in early 2017?
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