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Apple Could Start Transitioning Away From Intel Chips as Soon as 2020

By Evan Niu, CFA – Apr 2, 2018 at 8:26PM

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Stop me if you've heard this before.

Rumors of Apple (AAPL -1.26%) wanting to ditch Intel (INTC 0.89%) in favor of its own A chips have been around for years, and it seems like they could potentially materialize in the near future. The Mac maker has made incredible progress over the past decade with developing its own silicon in-house, including a growing portfolio of chips dedicated to specific tasks. Perhaps the most meaningful recent addition is Apple's own GPU.

Well, we might as well fan the speculative flames some more.

Marketing chief Phil Schiller describing the A11 Bionic chip on stage

A11 Bionic powers iPhone X. Image source: Apple.

Bringing the processor in-house

Bloomberg reports that Apple is looking to use its own chips in Macs, potentially as early as 2020. That would be a meaningful loss for Intel, which has supplied processors for Macs since 2005. The effort reportedly goes by the code name "Kalamata" and is still in the early innings. Of course, Apple could still choose to change its plans or end the project altogether.

Intel shares have sold off in response to the report, and Bloomberg estimates that Apple represents approximately 5% of Chipzilla's top line. For what it's worth, Stifel Nicolaus analyst Kevin Cassidy thinks the sell-off is an overreaction, given Apple's relatively low market share in the global PC market (about 7% in the fourth quarter).

Intel investors may find consolation in the possibility that Apple is expected to lean heavily on Intel as its sole baseband modem supplier this year, as Apple remains embroiled in an escalating legal battle with Qualcomm, which has long been the exclusive modem supplier.

It'll be worth it in the end

Developing processors in-house is a massive undertaking, but well worth the strategic benefits. Apple would have greater control over its product roadmap, as well as be able to take hardware/software integration to the next level like it does in iOS devices. It would also save money over the long run by insourcing one of the most valuable components that go into Macs.

Apple has already started laying the groundwork for a possible transition. Bloomberg had reported in December that Apple was working to allow users to run iOS apps on macOS, which could potentially pave the way for a consolidated app store for all apps. Rivals Microsoft and Alphabet subsidiary Google have both explored similar strategies.

It's also worth remembering that Apple downplayed this very idea just last year, suggesting that it had no intention of using its chips in Macs as the primary CPU.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends GOOG, GOOGL, and Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of QCOM and has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Apple Inc. Stock Quote
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QUALCOMM Incorporated Stock Quote
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Intel Corporation Stock Quote
Intel Corporation
INTC
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