Apple Inc on Tuesday is expected to unveil new Mac computers using its own in-house processor chips, a move that could reignite a race to control the market for desktop and laptop chips and benefit players such as Qualcomm Inc.
The market has been dominated by Intel Corp and Advanced Micro Devices Inc since 2006 when Apple joined most other major computer makers in using chips based on Intel's 'x86' computing architecture.
On Tuesday Apple is expected to start a two-year process of ending its nearly 15-year relationship with Intel by introducing Mac computers with Apple-designed chips based on computing architecture technology from Arm Ltd, which Nvidia Corp has agreed to buy from SoftBank Group Corp in a $40 billion deal.
Apple will design the chips using Arm technology and have them manufactured by a partner, most likely Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, which makes processors for Apple's iPhone. UK-based Arm's technology also powers most Android phones.
Apple's forthcoming machines already have competition from Qualcomm, which since 2016 has worked with Microsoft Corp to adapt the Windows operating system to Qualcomm's Arm-based processors.
Qualcomm and Microsoft have worked with PC makers such as Lenovo Group Ltd and Asustek Computer to sell laptops using the new chips, and Microsoft's own Surface Pro X released last year uses a Qualcomm processor.
Those devices are niche sellers today, but Apple’s entry into the market is likely to grab consumer attention around the emerging technology shift, especially if Apple begins to develop chips that rival Intel’s performance.
“Apple diving headstrong into Arm will speed this up,” said Patrick Moorhead, founder of Moor Insights & Strategy.
Arm-based PCs have key differences from Intel-based machines. Because the chips are derived from smartphones where power consumption is a key concern, they tend to claim better battery life than conventional machines.
Like smartphones, they also turn on quickly and can remain constantly connected to cellular data networks.