Bloomberg dropped a news bomb yesterday saying Apple will soon transition away from Intel chips in its line of computers and will instead manufacture its own processors. Intel stockholders were not amused as the chipmaker's stock dropped 7% immediately after rumor surfaced.
It's been over a decade since Apple switched from PowerPC to Intel. At the time Motorolla was unable to produce PowerPC processors suitable to Apple's demands of ever increasing power and efficiency. The lineup has stagnated; the dreams of a G5 in a notebook never materialized.
It somewhat parallels Apple's current relationship with Intel. Fans like to harp at Apple for being infamously slow to update the internal hardware in its Mac line (the guts in the Mac Mini dates back to 2014), but a big contributing factor is Intel's horribly delayed release schedules. Team blue seems to have hit a wall: the 'Core' processors have been stuck on the 14nm process for years. The significant step-increases between each generation early in the Core era are no more: Intel has abandoned the "tick-tock" cadence.
Meanwhile Apple have reached performance breakthrough after breakthrough with its mobile A-series chips. In benchmarks the latest A11 Bionic chip is shown to outclass even a base Macbook Pro. Vertical integration of chip, hardware, and operating system have allowed Apple to produce mobile products unrivaled in computing power and efficiency. The iPhone is often criticized for having less RAM than its competition but in truth the iPhone can do the same/more with less memory than any Android unit.
With Intel in a stagnant position and itself having great success at making mobile chips, Apple's obvious next step is to migrate that expertise to the Macintosh. A Macbook running a bespoke integrated A-series style chip would have performance and battery efficiency not possible with the Intel partnership.
Not to mention MacOS itself: iOS have rightly gotten the bulk of engineering time ever since the first iPhone. Because of that MacOS is in sort of a limbo mode. It has converted to a yearly release cadence to match its mobile sibling, but the attention to detail in the recent releases have been sorely lacking. MacOS, while still immensely powerful, doesn't have a truly "next-gen" feel like iOS does. Perhaps syncing the processing architecture between desktop and mobile would then allow Apple to reimagine MacOS into a proper desktop facsimile of iOS.
While the initial stock price shock may suggest otherwise, I wouldn't worry too much about Intel just yet. Even if Apple quit cold-turkey on Team Blue's processors, Intel would only be out 5% of its chip revenue. However, I don't think Intel will take this news lightly because while 5% is small, actions have subsequent reactions, and no one can predict what kind of change Apple ditching Intel can affect in the market. What if Google follows suit with its popular Chromebooks? Microsoft is already working with Qualcomm to have Windows run on ARM.
For the near future I think Intel will still carry the mid to upper tier market for the Mac because Apple hasn't yet shown it can (though I'm sure it ultimately can) produce a chip capable of professional desktop-class work (or games). What we can expect real soon are entry-level Mac computers running Apple-made chips, and that's an exciting prospect indeed.