Tim Cook Won’t Rule Out Macs with Apple Processors

Apple CEO Tim Cook isn’t ruling out the idea of using the company’s own processors to power its Mac desktop or laptop computers. Currently, Apple uses its own A4 processor to power the iPhone 4 and the A5 to power the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, and in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Cook said his company is keeping its options open on what processors to use on its Macs.

Apple AX Processor?

The comments came in an interview with Mr. Cook on Mountain Lion, the new version of OS X Apple introduced on Thursday in a developer preview. Mountain Lion includes several new features that were originally developed for iPhone and iPad, including Messages (Messages was also released Thursday as a beta for Lion), Notification Center, Game Center, and tighter integration with iCloud.

With the software getting tighter integration, The Journal took that one step further and asked if Apple would consider tighter hardware integration. Mr. Cook told the newspaper that Mac laptops and iPad tablets would continue to coexist, but when he was asked if the two could share CPUs in the future, he said, “We think about everything. We don’t close things off.”

The A4 and A5 processors mentioned above have been specifically optimized for two things, mobile performance and offering the specific and exact features that Apple wants. Controlling the architecture of its iOS microprocessor is part of Apple’s ability to lengthen battery life and offer the kinds of features the company wants to bring to customers.

The problem with using them on the Mac is that the A4 and A5 processors are based on ARM, a line of microprocessors used in many mobile devices. At this point in its life, ARM is all but dedicated to mobile applications, making its suitability for desktop and laptops questionable. At the same time, as advancements take place in the technology behind ARM, such questions could easily become moot over time.

Apple’s previous CEO, the late Steve Jobs, was a master at using interviews and speeches to misdirect its competitors and to serve as notices to the company’s own partners.

For instance, it was Steve Jobs who told shareholders that Apple wasn’t worried about video on its iPods because, “It’s abut the music, stupid.” Seven months later, Apple introduced the iPod Video, making Mr. Jobs’s comments a marvelous example of misdirection.

On the warning side, Mr. Jobs, CFO Peter Oppenheimer, and then-COO Tim Cook all said at one time or another that Apple runs iTunes at just above break even, comments that served as a warning to competitors not to bother entering the space. Mr. Jobs also warned the world that you can’t make a good interface on a 7” tablet, and yet the company is rumored to be bringing just such a device to market later this year.

Our point is that Apple has a track record of using interviews to send coded message to competitors and suppliers alike. It’s possible that Mr. Cook is doing the same thing with his comments about keeping the option of using its own processors in the Mac product line on the table.

If so, that message would be intended for Intel, and it could be interpreted as, “You had better make it worth our while to stick with Intel processors, because if you don’t, we will do our own thing.”

Of course, that comment could also simply be Mr. Cook’s way of playing his cards close to his vest, and only time will tell.

Moving on, Mr. Cook also told the newspaper that Apple intends to move anything and everything from iOS to OS X that it can, as long as it makes sense to do so.

“We see that people are in love with a lot of apps and functionality here,” Mr. Cook said. “Anywhere where that makes sense, we are going to move that over to Mac.”

He also dismissed Microsoft as a source of pressure on Apple, noting that the pressure to innovate is “self-induced.”

In a similarly-dismissive way, he said that he is proud of the MacBook Air, adding, “The industry at large is trying to copy it in some way, but they will find that it is not so easy.”