It’s been seven years now since Apple started using Intel processors in their computers, and they haven’t exactly done poorly since then. Their Intel-powered Macbooks and iMacs have flown off the shelves in larger numbers than they ever did back in the PowerPC days, and their adoption of the x86 architecture used in Intel processors has allowed a lot of Windows-based software to make the jump to OS X fairly easily.
Despite all that, Apple might be planning on throwing it all away. A report from Bloomberg says that Apple is considering ending their use of Intel processors in their computers, and moving into making their own processors like they already do for iPhones and iPads. This information comes from “people familiar with the company’s research,” which doesn’t exactly sound like a rock solid source, but it’s certainly a possibility.
Fortunately, it will be a few years until Apple stops putting Intel CPUs in their computers, apparently. Apple’s research into CPUs that will be suitable for more powerful applications like desktop computers has only just begun, and it will be quite some time until they have hardware that’s ready for primetime. According to Tim Cook, Apple wants to have seamless integration of all their computers, phones and tablets by 2017, so that might be when they’re aiming to have these new processors ready for.
There’s a lot of challenges inherent in switching away from Intel, not the least of which is how to keep up with the raw power of Intel’s hardware. There’s not really anyone else (with the possible exception of AMD) who can keep up with Intel when it comes to desktop processing power, and it seems unlikely that Apple will be able to in the near future. There’s also the issue of processor architecture; if Apple moves away from x86 processors, they’ll lose a lot of compatibility with PC software (including Windows itself), and with software designed for current Macs.