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Three months ago, I reported on rumors that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) might kick Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) out of its notebook and desktop computers and invite Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) in to replace it. Specifically, the rumor mill noted that "these discussions have focused on notebook and workstation/desktop processors -- not on fancier graphics chips."
As it turns out, that's baloney. Apple just updated its computer systems, and the new iMacs and Mac Pro systems now come exclusively with AMD graphics inside. Apple already offered AMD's ATI Radeon chips as either standard or upgrade graphics on some system models, but the difference now is that you can't get an NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA ) GeForce card in your desktop Mac even if you wanted to.
Rumor has it that Apple simply didn't want to wait for NVIDIA to start delivering competitive notebook chips again after a couple of years where ATI has dominated that market. When you're on Apple's bad side, you're on the really bad side and need to prove your worth before working your way back into its lengthy product development cycles. In other words, Apple desktops are pretty much a lock for AMD across the foreseeable future.
While Apple might lag market-share frontrunners Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , Acer, or Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) in total sales, its standardized setups assure graphics cards are attached to each system. HP and Dell might rule the roost in market share, but many of those low-end offerings come with entry-level integrated graphics that are controlled by Intel. So this is still a decent contract for AMD that should boost sales of its graphics division to a meaningful degree in the coming quarters. And it goes a long way toward explaining what all those AMD executives have been up to in the cross-Valley Cupertino campus.
Does AMD's Apple involvement end there, or will we see Athlons in the next MacBook refresh cycle? Discuss in the comments below.