AMD could get business from Apple

After four years of Intel exclusivity, Apple may be about to mix up its processor choices a little bit. Quoting “people familiar with the matter,” AppleInsider reports that AMD reps “have recently been seen” on Apple Commuter Coach buses and heading to meetings with top Apple executives.

The site adds that AMD CPUs have also found their way inside Apple’s labs, where the Mac maker is purportedly cooking up future products based on them. There’s no word yet on what those products might be, although AppleInsider notes that Apple “is believed to be investigating” AMD’s workstation and notebook chips.

Right now, AMD’s product offerings don’t look all that enticing outside of the very low end—somewhere Apple typically refuses to tread. A look ahead at the chipmaker’s roadmap reveals a possible candidate for aluminum-clad Macs, however: Llano, an “accelerated processing unit” that will meld four Phenom II-class microprocessor cores with a Radeon-derived graphics processor, all on a single 32-nm die.

Intel already offers 32-nm CPUs with integrated graphics, but so far, Apple has paired every single one of those chips in its latest MacBook Pros with a discrete Nvidia GPU. And in the new 13.3″ MacBook Pros, which lack discrete GPUs, Apple opted for old Core 2 CPUs with Nvidia integrated graphics instead of new Core i3s or i5s with Intel graphics. The latest MacBook Pro lineup seems to hint at a lack of confidence in either Intel’s graphics hardware or its ability to supply a sufficient number of new Core Mobile chips. (AppleInsider actually speculates that tight supply of those CPUs forced Apple to delay the MacBook Pro refresh altogether.) In either case, adding AMD to the mix could be a solution.

On a more immediate time scale, a current AMD processor paired with Radeon integrated graphics might be a good candidate for an updated Mac mini. Intel’s Core 2 processors won’t stick around forever, and Apple might not want to sell a Core i3-based Mac mini with either Intel graphics or a discrete GPU. Otherwise, as AppleInsider points out, there’s always the possibility that Apple is merely using the prospect of a partnership with AMD as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Intel.

Comments closed
    • ronch
    • 10 years ago

    Perhaps Apple can price their products lower once they start using AMD chips?

    In the beginning, Steve hated IBM. IBM was the enemy. Now they’re treading the way IBM did by having two CPU suppliers. Good for Apple, though.

    • FuturePastNow
    • 10 years ago

    Sounds like a good deal for both companies. Llano seems a natural fit for the Macbook and Mac mini.

    • danazar
    • 10 years ago

    If it leads to a better price/performance ratio, I will gladly buy an AMD-based Mac mini. The current gen still seems too anemic to buy, especially in the graphics department.

    • crose
    • 10 years ago

    Settle down people, it’s just Apple negotiating prices with Intel. If Apple doesn’t show Intel it has alternatives Intel won’t give them that fat rebate.

    • Voldenuit
    • 10 years ago

    The last time Apple courted a new CPU maker, ppl were scratching their heads, because intel (with the P4) was the inferior choice.

    But Apple had the inside, track, because they were actually negotiating for Core and Core 2, and it turned out to be the right move.

    Makes me wonder if Apple knows something about Bulldozer and/or Llano that we don’t…

      • blastdoor
      • 10 years ago

      That would be nice, but I doubt it. More likely Apple knows what we all know — you can’t get decent integrated graphics from Intel but you can from AMD.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 10 years ago

    Apple wants to give everyone “the business.”

    • ub3r
    • 10 years ago

    Where is the discrete i7 with integrated h5870???
    See.. Competition is slowing the progress of technology..

    • blacksteel
    • 10 years ago

    If this becomes true, omg, my AMD stock is going to go up. I always thought that Apple should consider using AMD to not only supply affordable Mac’s but to influence competition as a bargaining chip to Intel. Intel can pretty much set the price of CPU’s on Apple as they wish because of no CPU competition.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 10 years ago

      Macs are expensive because Apple wants them to be. Using AMD CPUs won’t change that.

      • My Johnson
      • 10 years ago

      I’d still flip out of AMD.

    • Anvil
    • 10 years ago

    At first I thought this idea of Apple using AMD CPUs(and it’ll be CPUs because ATI GPUs are already being used in the Imacs and that would be a non-issue) to be a strange one, given that Apple has always billed itself as selling higher-end products, while AMD is more of a bang for the buck approach.

    And then I realized that the basic white unibody macbook has not been updated yet.

    What if it was, and then expanded using Llano or whatever AMD chipset is/would be available? You can pair it up with a 5650 or maybe the upcoming mobile Southern/Northern Islands GPUs as well in the bigger models, it’d be a trade of processor power for GPU performance that would blow the current 330m in the 15″ Macbook Pros away, for a presumably lower price.

    I’d dig it.

    I should add that AMD and Apple would probably come out with some sort of Apple-exclusive answer to Optimus, which is actually exactly what Apple has already done now with the Nvidia stuff.

    I could see this working.

    • xtremevarun
    • 10 years ago

    this is good news for AMD…they can piggyback on the popularity of Apple..and their increased popularity should increase their presence in other computers too…making people aware of AMD’s existence

    • Nikiaf
    • 10 years ago

    A mac mini with an athlon II x4 and one of AMD’s excellent integrated gpu’s, and the mac mini suddenly becomes a lot more appealing…

      • shank15217
      • 10 years ago

      I think if they are gonna go with a mac mini, then a discrete GPU would be better. The 5670 is a good compromise between power and performance for that form factor.

    • phileasfogg
    • 10 years ago

    A MacMini with state-of-the-art IGP would be very welcome. But… there’s a fly in the ointment. People will want to use these things to watch HD decoded video on their television sets, among other things. And,most HD video on the web today runs on, wait for it….. Flash.

    That’s like oil and water, isn’t it? 😉 😉

      • jdaven
      • 10 years ago

      Dude, WTF. Flash works just fine in Mac OS X. The comment was about the Mac mini which runs Mac OS X. You can watch Hulu all you want on a Mac computer.

      The controversy over flash with Apple products applies to the iPod touch, the iPhone and the iPad all of which use a completely different OS called the iPhone OS.

    • jackbomb
    • 10 years ago

    Apple just went up a few in my Book of Greatness: from 0% to 3%! Not bad.

    Actually, make that 5% for killing those awful Mac commercials.

      • JediWombat
      • 10 years ago

      Was scared to click the link, but now so glad that I did!!!

      • September
      • 10 years ago

      Block by youtube.

    • keplenk
    • 10 years ago

    Smells like Vanilla Kernel for AMD hackintosh .. yummy.

      • StashTheVampede
      • 10 years ago

      This is actually good news for AMD users that want hackintosh.

      Maybe this could form the mythical (if ever so elusive), xMac: desktop chip, desktop GPU with expandable slots!

      Oh wait, it’ll never happen.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 10 years ago

      Yeah, now let’s get some DX11 GPU drivers to go with it and we’re ready to rock.

        • sweatshopking
        • 10 years ago

        dont you mean opencl? no dx on unix, but you knew that already.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 10 years ago

          No I mean I need Mac drivers for my Radeon 5770. If they make drivers for Evergreen GPUs (which I referred to as DX11 hardware, which it is) then I can hackintosh my desktop.

          I didn’t mean to create a DirectX runtime for OS X. I know better than that.

    • blastdoor
    • 10 years ago

    The only current Apple product where AMD chips might make sense is the mac mini — cheapness is the primary selling point there, not speed or performancewatt.

    But in the future, the MacBook and 13″ MacBook Pro might be a very nice fit for AMD chips. The new 13″ MBP may be a leading indicator — Apple is showing that they are willing to use a slower C2D cpu in order to get a better integrated graphics solution than is possible from Intel. This is obviously a market segment that AMD should be able to address — combine a mediocre x86 cpu with a very capable ATI integrated gpu.

    I don’t think that Apple would have ever really considered going with AMD until Intel killed NVidia’s chipset license and then withheld mobile Core i5/i7 from Apple for a few months. Both of those were not good choices if Intel wanted to hold onto 100% of Apple’s business.

    • Ushio01
    • 10 years ago

    So in other word Apple unable to fit a seperate gpu in its 13″ macbook/pro/air and unwilling to accept current intel graphics is considering AMD.

    • StashTheVampede
    • 10 years ago

    The main reason why Apple went to OSX: to save costs on R&D.

    With the latest Macbooks, it is clear that the costs HAVE gone up because they have to deal with more than one maker of product(s). Sure, they have done this before, but with Optimus, the R&D is even higher because of its implementation (even as transparent to the user as it is). Going AMD would give them (soon) an integrated solution for an entire product by lowering total costs (single supplied of gpu, cpu, chipset).

    What it really is: bargaining chip to Intel to lower costs.

    • anotherengineer
    • 10 years ago

    Hmmmm be nice if they get some ATI graphics options also, my cousin isnt impressed about his macbook’s nvidia 8400M buring out 5 months after the warranty ended lol

    • tejas84
    • 10 years ago

    At long damn last. It is about time AMD get their shot with Apple!

    This is great news if true!

    • HisDivineShadow
    • 10 years ago

    There’s a lot to like when it comes to AMD’s Fusion-based products when you’re a company that wants a balance between CPU and GPU processing for your OS.

    Apple’s focus on having good GPU technology in their computer products would almost certainly make Llano or Bulldozer look great. I wonder if AMD will be able to deliver said product on time and in sufficient quantity without any slip-up’s (ie., Phenom).

    I suspect Apple’s just testing to see what the advantages would be. Intel will throw a small fortune at them to get them to reconsider. In fact, Steve Jobs might test them just to make that happen.

      • shank15217
      • 10 years ago

      I don’t think Intel is actually allowed to do that.

        • FuturePastNow
        • 10 years ago

        I believe the terms of their legal settlement specifically prohibits Intel from doing that.

      • mutarasector
      • 10 years ago

      “There’s a lot to like when it comes to AMD’s Fusion-based products when you’re a company that wants a balance between CPU and GPU processing for your OS.”

      Especially when one considers that AMD is planning several core combo *variants* of Llano which dovetails nicely with just about any low power mobile device Apple cares to build around one of these.

      “Apple’s focus on having good GPU technology in their computer products would almost certainly make Llano or Bulldozer look great. I wonder if AMD will be able to deliver said product on time and in sufficient quantity without any slip-up’s (ie., Phenom)”

      .Considering that Apple is already sampling Llano internally as well as “a few select OEMs” (wanna bet Apple is one of them?), I’d say the chances are pretty good. Remember, Global Foundries is producing these, not TSMC.

      “I suspect Apple’s just testing to see what the advantages would be. Intel will throw a small fortune at them to get them to reconsider. In fact, Steve Jobs might test them just to make that happen.
      collapse”

      Personally, my guess is that Apple probably is one of these select few OEMs who already have samples, but what Apple is really angling for is a deal from AMD on the Ontario processors.

    • Flying Fox
    • 10 years ago

    I think it is just normal technology/product evaluation that any worthy company does. It is called due diligence.

      • khands
      • 10 years ago

      It would be right on cue for a 5 year re-evaluation schedule.

    • ModernPrimitive
    • 10 years ago

    hmmm. Ample Computers…

    • erick2red
    • 10 years ago

    Finally, eh, AMD platforms far better than Intel+Nvidia mixes, and Clarkdale platform, besides AMD CPU are powerful and cheap, They may not has the same supply that Intel has but, cmon Apple didn’t sale as much as PC makers.
    Dragon platform, Llano platform on Mac, taht would be great.

    • Shining Arcanine
    • 10 years ago

    Why doesn’t Nvidia make a chipset for Intel’s i3/i5/i7 series processors that has integrated graphics?

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 10 years ago

    Yeah I’m getting tired of catching the g[

      • UberGerbil
      • 10 years ago

      I used to know one of the guys in that band.

    • grantmeaname
    • 10 years ago

    “workstation and notebook chips”

    Well duh, Apple doesn’t make products that use anything else.

      • dpaus
      • 10 years ago

      iPhone, iPod, iPad……?

      • jdaven
      • 10 years ago

      The iMac uses desktop class chips now.

    • Edvin1984
    • 10 years ago

    Man Apple needs a nice iMac with a Phenom X2 965 w/58702gig and id buy one lol.

    • potatochobit
    • 10 years ago

    Apple lives on popularity alone, since AMD has been on top for a while now, the regular consumers are starting to notice that apple does not have the latest and best hardware, and that is a problem.

    • willyolio
    • 10 years ago

    haven’t we already had this discussion years ago? did they ever address the supply problem?

      • indeego
      • 10 years ago

      I Imagine every Fortune 1000 company reviews suppliers, constantly. At least, I hope they dog{<.<}g

        • Palek
        • 10 years ago

        That, and the AMD sales guys wouldn’t be doing their jobs right if they weren’t sitting on that “Apple Commuter Coach” once a week, or at least once a month.

        • DrCR
        • 10 years ago

        The overall trend in the supply-chain logistics world is actually fewer, but more loyal customers/suppliers with greater transparency. Cheaper for both (transparency = much less evil inventory).

        My guess is AMD has something new that Apple is interested in prototyping.

          • indeego
          • 10 years ago

          My guess as others have noted is leverage against Intel. Apple is a powerhouse now and threats against suppliers mean significant repercussionsg{<.<}g

      • dpaus
      • 10 years ago

      I imagine that after the anti-trust settlement, all manufacturers are keen to be seen throwing AMD a frikkin’ bone at the minimum…

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