Some things in life are just inevitable. If you eat one potato chip when the entire bag is available, it is inevitable that you will eat more; if you drink often in bars and pubs and then drive home, it is inevitable you will someday get a DUI. If you are in Vegas and on a lucky streak, if you keep betting it is inevitable that the casino will win all its money back and then some.
Concerning Apple and its Mac computers, at some point it is inevitable that the company will grow tired of Intel's main CPU pricing, known in the industry as the “Intel tax." The Intel tax is a bitter pill for computer makers to swallow, as Intel's gross margins can reach upwards of 80% for their CPUs.
In may ways Intel was lucky in the late 90's to have AMD come along and begin a semi-serious challenge to their x86 microchip empire. Without AMD, the U.S. Department of Justice may have very well put Intel it its cross hairs instead of Microsoft. If you think about it, Intel has enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the desktop microprocessor business for over 30 years, and their processors are the most expensive component in computers today.
Apple somewhat broke through Intel's monopoly when it introduced the iPhone that ran on a Samsung manufactured ARM processor. Soon after, Google followed suit by developing Android for ARM, as Intel's Atom processor was not yet efficient enough for mobile smartphones. While mobile became free of the Intel monopoly, desktop manufacturers have remained its slave.
Compared to OS X devices, iOS devices pricing has remained very consistent over time. That can not be said for Macs. Roughly every six months any given Mac model receives a processor update and the price goes up or down by $100. The reason is simple: Intel.
How long will Apple allow Intel to dictate their Mac upgrade cycles and prices on its OS X products? Recent rumors are beginning to point to the inevitable – Apple will turn to its own ARM based A-Series processors for Macs. Apple’s latest A7 processor already boasts desktop class 64-bit architecture, which Apple has been keen to point out. Furthering the A series move towards the Mac is ARM's latest partnership with AMD, expanding ARM's reach into the architectural world of Intel's x86 realm. Apple will surely leverage and customize these designs, eliminating the Intel tax, while dictating their own launch schedules.
Will Apple make the switch all at once, changing over the the entire lineup of Macs over night? Or will Apple take a more steady approach, converting Mac processors over time, like their transition from the PowerPC to Intel? Will the new laptops run a new version of iOS Desktop or a re-written version of OS X?
While these questions may not be answered until Apple makes its move, it is inevitable that Apple will eventually leave Intel for its own class of processors. The most logical timeframe would seem to come around the WWDC (world-wide developers conference), where developers can dig deep into Apple's new Mac hardware direction, learning how to best re-write and optimize their code. An imminent change? No. An inevitable change? Yes. The only question is, when?
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