After years of integrating Nvidia graphics in almost all of its notebooks, Apple may be about to move on. CNet News quotes anonymous sources as saying Apple will return to using Intel integrated graphics in its entry-level MacBooks once Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors come out.
As we saw in early performance tests, Sandy Bridge looks to have an impressive graphics component that performs on par with today’s entry-level discrete GPUs. Part of Apple’s rationale for outfitting its cheapest notebooks with Nvidia graphics—the inadequacy of the Intel alternatives—may therefore disappear. Another part of that rationale has got to be OpenCL support. The case for Sandy Bridge looks less clear-cut there, but CNet News has word that Intel "is also working on OpenCL for the graphics part of Sandy Bridge."
Ditching Nvidia GPUs in its cheaper laptops is probably a smart move, then, since it may help cut costs and shrink motherboards by removing the need for discrete graphics chips (which are the only alternatives to Intel IGPs with Core 2010 and later processors). Interestingly, though, CNet News goes on to say that Apple may also kick Nvidia to the curb on the discrete front, opting for AMD GPUs for its higher-end MacBook Pro laptops. "Whether Nvidia will still be present in higher-end models is unclear," the site adds.
That last move would be a little harder to decipher, although some—like Charlie Demerjian of SemiAccurate—have been predicting a falling out between Apple and Nvidia over the so-called "bumpgate" issue for some time. Perhaps we’ll see the effects of that next year… or perhaps there are other factors at play. Either way, losing one of the top four PC vendors in the U.S. could hurt for Nvidia.