Apple confirmed Monday that its Mac line of desktop and laptop computers will stop using Intel microprocessors, a widely anticipated shift that eventually will cost Intel billions of dollars in lost revenue.
At its annual developer conference, Apple told an online-only audience it will have some new Macs running on its own, custom-designed chips by the end of the year.
Apple didn’t say which Macs will get the new chips first, however, and said it will take two years to complete the transition. Apple will continue developing new, Intel-based Macs in the interim.
Portland investment analyst Weston Twigg, who follows Intel for KeyBanc Capital Markets, had estimated the shift would cost Intel $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion a year in lost revenue and at least several hundred million dollars in annual profit.
That’s a relatively small piece of Intel’s total revenue, forecast at $73.5 billion this year. And Twigg said that given Apple’s long, two-year timetable for shifting away from Intel, the impact will be less significant in the near term.
Still, Apple is a prestigious brand and when Intel won the Mac’s business 14 years ago it was a big deal.
Apple’s own chips are based on designs by Intel rival ARM Holdings, which give Apple the flexibility to customize the chips for its own computing needs – and to create a unified environment so apps designed for iPhones and iPads also run on Macs.
The switch also frees Apple from Intel’s own development timetable. Intel used to release microprocessor upgrades on a dependable, two-year cycle. But Intel struggled with persistent defects when developing its latest, 10-nanometer processor.
Those issues delayed PC upgrades from Apple and most other PC manufacturers — and also cost Intel its technology lead over rival chipmakers. Apple may now be able to create its own processors with performance that rivals Intel’s.
Intel is Oregon’s largest corporate employer, with 20,000 workers in Washington County. The company continues to dominate the market supplying chips for new PCs and laptops, but that slow-growing sector has declined in importance for Intel, which is increasingly focused on its highly profitable data center business.
The PC market now represents less than half of Intel’s total revenue.