Apple Reportedly Experimenting with A5 Processor in MacBook Air

| Rumor

A report from Japanese Mac fan site Macotakara said that Apple has ordered a MacBook Air with an A5 processor in it, rather than the Intel Core 2 Duo or Intel’s Sandybridge chip set, which another rumor from Taiwan’s DigiTimes said will be arriving in July. The report cites an anonymous source who claimed to have seen the A5 MacBook Air, which was supposedly built for Apple by Quanta, one of Apple’s Taiwan-based manufacturers.

As rumors go, this is a weak one, and on many levels. We’re only bothering to mention it in order to squash the idea that Apple is planning on shipping such a MacBook Air.

There is little doubt that Apple has long been experimenting with running Mac OS X on ARM and its own ARM-derivative processors like the A5, and there’s little doubt that the company has also experimented with running iOS on Mac hardware.

For instance, Apple had Mac OS X running on Intel for as much as five years before the company moved from PowerPC processors to Intel processors, and it would be surprising if Apple didn’t have the full version of Mac OS X running on ARM or A5 processors, as well.

Such experimentation is part and parcel for Apple’s R&D efforts, but few of those experiments will ever see the light of day as a commercial product.

In the meanwhile, Apple’s A5 processor is designed and built for mobile devices running iOS. It doesn’t have the processing power to handle many tasks that users look to full desktop and laptop computers to do — it wasn’t built for such tasks.

So if this A5-powered MacBook Air exists, it’s a play-pretty built by an engineer tasked with finding out “What if.”

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I know Apple development has been heavily influenced by the vapor trail of the iPad lately, but I’d like to believe that this is one area where their laptops do go beyond what-if scenarios, and cross over into “handheld electronics” territory.

A4/A5 processors are super awesome at what they’re designed to do: energy efficiency for light computing in a one-app-at-a-time environment. I have serious doubts that they’d hold up to a true multi-tasking environment.

Of course, I have to acknowledge that pretty much everything I just said was already stated in the article. smile


One thing Apple excels at is keeping loyal partners nervous. Nervous partners = maximum attention plus low prices.


Historical question:  Did Apple abandon it’s PowerPC partners or did the partners give up on working with Apple?

Today Apple has both Samsung and Intel on the nervous seats.  The first could be harmed financially while the second by marketing.


Historical question:? Did Apple abandon it?s PowerPC partners or did the partners give up on working with Apple?

I’d say Apple gave up on IBM, but you could argue that IBM was not giving enough attention to the Mac side of the PowerPC architecture. If low-power G5s had come out sooner (they were planned), maybe things would be different today.

You could argue the same for Motorola/Freescale. IBM was more interested in supercomputers, while Motorola was more interested in embedded applications.

IMHO, Motorola was just incompetent (from day 1 the G4 under-delivered; remember the 50MHz “speed dump” when the G4 first came out?), while IBM did a damn good job with everything they chose to produce. IBM’s G3 and G5 were big successes, and I can’t attribute Apple’s Intel switch to the G5’s desktop performance. If anything it was because there was no mobile G5 and the G4 had no future left. And at the same time, Intel finally started caring about mobile performance, and in a big way.


I?d say Apple gave up on IBM, but you could argue that IBM was not giving enough attention to the Mac side of the PowerPC architecture.

I distinctly remember within two or three weeks prior to Apple announcing the switch to Intel, and when rumors to that effect were very strong that IBM was said to have been making panicky calls to Apple. And Apple wasn’t returning them.

The unfortunate issue with Apple & IBM’s partnership is that Apple is acutely aware of where their product roadmap will be headed in years to come, and IBM simply had no roadmap for low power and mobile chips. When a computer maker is forced to put radiators in their machines just to keep them from frying, something is seriously wrong. Remember that Microsoft used the same G5 processors in their XBox’s, and that ended up costing them something like a billion dollars in recalls?


Why can’t the A5 run “desktop” OS X well. There is over half of the die on the A5 that contains unknown circuitry. Maybe Apple looked at all the tasks a processor does while running OS X, and they optimized a few in custom silicon.

Never say never!

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