Widely expected to announce a new line of Mac computers Tuesday morning at its latest "event," Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) could very well ignite a new war over processors by doing so.

That's the view of numerous pundits, who see the company's announcement that it would power the devices with a proprietary chip as a possible opening shot in such a conflict. The company had been utilizing x86 chips from processor giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) since 2006; in June it announced that it would transition the full Mac line to its silicon chip in a two-year process

In the heyday of the PC, Intel was a dominant player, in near-constant battle with the perennial runner-up, Advanced Micro Devices. However, new competitors have been entering the field in the age of the smartphone.

CPU being inserted by a hand.

Image source: Getty Images.

One potential big rival to Apple and Intel in this endeavor is mobile devices component maker Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM). As with Apple's announced plans, Qualcomm makes chips based on ARM architecture from the eponymous U.K. company that is set to be acquired by NVIDIA. Qualcomm co-developed processors with both AMD and Microsoft specifically to power the latter's Surface line of laptop/tablet products.

Apple had pledged to contract a third-party manufacturer to produce the silicon chips. Speculation is rife that this will be Taiwan Semiconductor, although neither Apple nor the Asia-based chipmaker has yet confirmed this.

While Intel doesn't have the prominence it once enjoyed in the processor world, its chips still power a great many of the world's PCs, and it's likely to remain a major player in the segment.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.