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What Could Apple Achieve by Ditching Intel Chips in Macs?

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Oct. 25 2018, Updated 11:50 a.m. ET

Intel expected to lose Mac processor socket

There’s growing speculation that Apple (AAPL) will abandon Intel (INTC) processors in its future Mac devices. Mac is Apple’s line of personal computers, including laptops and desktops. According to the latest note from famed Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple could start using non-Intel processors in Macs in 2020 or 2021.

Kuo’s latest note on Apple’s Mac processor plan aligns with an April Bloomberg report that said Intel could lose the processor spot in future Macs.

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Mac processor transition journey

Apple originally used Motorola processors in Macs before transitioning to IBM (IBM) processors. In 2005, it transitioned from IBM processors to Intel processors. That happened when Intel was consistently developing better processors for laptops and other systems.

But that is no longer the case. Intel appears to be struggling to consistently improve its chips. For example, the Intel Cannon Lake processor series was expected to hit the market in 2016, but its release has been delayed and is now expected in 2019.

Apple was forced to refresh its line of low-cost Mac laptops with last year’s Intel processor because it apparently couldn’t get its hands on the Cannon Lake chip.

Taking more control of its product road map

Shifting to its own processors in Mac devices is expected to free up Apple from relying on Intel’s chip schedule and give it more control of its product road map. That could allow Apple to better compete in the personal computer market where Microsoft (MSFT) recently made gains at Apple’s expense.

Apple contracts with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSM) to manufacture its A-series chips used in iPhones. TSM is also expected to produce Apple’s Mac processors. The Mac business declined 5% year-over-year and generated $5.3 billion in revenue for Apple in its June quarter.

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