Apple's A7 Processor found in the iPad Air and iPhone 5S is a stunning achievement amongst mobile processors. There is no chipset in its class and the industry knows it. Samsung, Intel, Qualcomm and nVIDIA all scrambling to play catchup. But for all its current achievements, the future glory of Apple's A-series processors is likely to be found in what Steve Jobs described as “trucks” — that is — desktops and laptops running OS X.
During Apple's iPad Air reveal, Apple's top brass were keen on calling the A7 “64-bit desktop-class architecture” showcasing technical details not typically shared by Apple executives. The A7 has over 1 billion transistors, rapidly catching up with Intel's latest Ivy Bridge architecture (found in Intel's Core i-series of processors), all in a package only slightly larger than the previous generation A6.
Apple heaping praise on its own A7 was not just an iPad Air promotion, it was Apple tipping their hat to the future plans of their Mac lineup. Looking at it another way, it’s a roadmap where Intel is nowhere to be found within Apple's future.
A next generation, all-new, MacBook Air is the most logical starting point for Apple to launch an ARM-based processor. There are rumors of a 12" iPad, but frankly an unwieldy 12" iPad is ridiculous. iPad Air's 9.7-inch display already reaches the "large enough" limits. Adding insult to injury is the fact that these large-screen iPad stories are being spawned from sketchy Asian media outlets. However, a 12" display will fit into the current 11" MacBook Air, if housed with a thinner bezel. Apple’s ARM processors allow for easy heat dissipation, which delivers the MacBook Air a razor thin base, feeling as if it’s not much more than a keyboard with a bit of battery weight. The new A8 MacBook Air will simply be an amazingly thin and lightweight Mac, with a battery-performace ratio no one in the industry will be able to achieve. Apple's hardware is it's sex appeal, and this is one Mac millions, or tens of millions, of customers will want to get their hands on.
This question of why Apple would make such a laptop is simple. The iOS and ARM processors are the short-term and long-term future of Apple. The processor shift simply mimics in great detail the PowerPC to Intel switch.
Considering the A7 has been Geekbenched just ahead of Intel's original Core 2 Duo at 2GHz, running current Mac App Store apps within a Rosetta-like emulation won’t be a problem. Porting iOS apps will be absolutely trivial.
The new Mac A8 architecture gives iOS developers an amazingly easy path to expand their apps market reach, delivering users state-of-the-art hardware, in form, function and battery life, all while eliminating the Intel "Tax" (the heavy price Intel charges for their x86 processors).
As for Adobe, Microsoft and the rest of the legacy and heavy lifting video and audio applications, they'll port their power hungry apps over time, but as usual will whine and drag their feet. However, when they do make the decision to port, there will only be one road for them to deliver the newly coded apps — Apple’s built-in App Store. Like iOS devices, the only way to install apps on A-series Macs will be via the App Store.
Apple should be able to deliver this revolutionary MacBook Air starting around $799 USD, with iLife and iWork apps ported and running natively right out of the box, with hundreds of thousands of iOS apps waiting in the wings.
In 2005, Steve Jobs announced the transition from PowerPC to Intel at their WWDC event. It makes equal sense to announce this Intel to Apple processor transition at this years WWDC, as it gives developers the opportunity to get their heads around the new SDK, while embracing the new revenue opportunity Apple will have just given them. After the 2005 announcement, Apple waited 6 months before launching the first Mac with Intel inside (the iMac). Don't expect the lead time to be that long with this transition. Apple already has a cadre of developers building apps for the iOS and ARM platform. The move to make those apps run on this new platform will be among the easiest ports ever delivered for any platform. Expect Apple to launch the all-new MacBook Air by August, only a few short months after its announcement at WWDC. We can't wait.
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