Apple’s next laptops could be more iPhone than Mac

Christopher Mims, Wall Street Journal:

Many manufacturers are already using mobile chips from smartphones in laptops running Google’s Chrome OS, and are starting to put them in laptops running Microsoft Windows. Apple Inc. already designs its own chips, which are arguably the fastest mobile processors in the world—will it use them in its own MacBooks?


Imagine something that looks like a MacBook and works like a MacBook, but has the guts of an iPhone. In addition to things like facial recognition and AR capabilities, it could have longer battery life, built-in always-on connectivity to fast 5G networks, and more.


Last September, Apple declared that its A10X processor, which powers the iPad Pro tablet, was already faster than 80% of the Windows notebooks sold in the past year. The iPhone X’s A11 Bionic is even faster.


“You see Intel delaying new technologies anywhere from six to eight months, and that hurts Apple’s roadmap,” says Ben Bajarin, an analyst at market- research firm Creative Strategies. “Apple in particular doesn’t want to have to be hamstrung.” By using its own silicon, Apple could potentially offer machines that do things other notebook manufacturers might not match for some time, he says.

This is all speculation, not news. Will Apple build a Mac of some stripe with an ARM processor as the main CPU (as opposed to the Touch ID ARM chip in some MacBook Pros, which are task specific)? That does seem to be the way the wind is blowing.

The benefits are clear. More of the stack for Apple to control (though manufactured by TSMC, Apple controls the design of chips like the A11). An ARM chip would bring longer battery life, and could bring mobile capabilities like Face ID and on-chip AI for blazing fast machine learning and augmented reality processing.

Could this yield even thinner laptops? Before they do that, I’d hope that Apple considers making the keyboards and battery easier to replace. I’d gladly give up thinness for a speedier turnaround to fix a problem like that.

Imagine a keynote slide where Phil Schiller explains how much easier a keyboard or battery swap-out will be. That’d get my vote.