Brian Caulfield over at Forbes is reporting that Apple was considering using an AMD CPU/GPU hybrid in last year’s MacBook Air refresh, but AMD just couldn’t deliver the goods.
AMD couldn’t even get early working samples of Llano to Apple on time, one former employee says. Several former AMD employees disagree on just how close AMD came. “We had it,” one says. “But the yields didn’t come in.” Instead, Apple chose to new Intel processors dubbed ‘Ivy Bridge,’ that, like AMD’s Llano, included built-in graphics processing capabilities.
While Apple’s relationship with AMD is good enough to use AMD graphics cards in many Macs, there hasn’t been much rumbling about Apple switching away from Intel processors since the initial move in 2006. Hell, maybe this reported discussion with AMD was just a ploy to keep Intel on their toes. Considering how wildly competent Tim Cook is at supply chain dealings, that wouldn’t surprise us in the least.
Keep in mind, AMD and Intel chips are the same platform. Software developers wouldn’t need to port their code like the PowerPC to Intel switch. In a theoretical situation where Apple switches to AMD, developers likely wouldn’t have to do anything differently. End users certainly wouldn’t have to think about it. While it’s nice to have options available, Intel isn’t really feeling any heat from AMD. They’re much more worried about ARM processors in mobile devices becoming ever more dominant. iPads and iPhones running A5s are much scarier than a MacBook Air running an AMD.