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Apple is working on custom ARM-based Mac chips for future laptop models

After nearly falling into bankruptcy in the late 90s, Apple under the masterful command of Steve Jobs began to take a keen interest in owning as much of the underlying technology in its products as possible. In turn, rumors of Apple designing its own chips for the Mac — something it already does for the iPhone — have persisted for quite some time, especially as Apple’s prowess in the chip-design space has progressed.

In a new Bloomberg report which signals that Apple is aggressively trying to lessen its reliance upon Intel, Mark Gurman and Ian King relay that engineers at Apple are hard at work designing a new ARM-based chip for upcoming laptop models that will reportedly live alongside Intel processors.

The chip itself is said to be a variant of the T1 SoC Apple first introduced on the recently released TouchBar MacBook Pro. While the T1’s duties aren’t exactly all-encompassing — it handles TouchBar and Touch ID related functions — Apple new chip is being designed to carry more of the system load for certain tasks.

Apple engineers are planning to offload the Mac’s low-power mode, a feature marketed as “Power Nap,” to the next-generation ARM-based chip. This function allows Mac laptops to retrieve e-mails, install software updates, and synchronize calendar appointments with the display shut and not in use. The feature currently uses little battery life while run on the Intel chip, but the move to ARM would conserve even more power, according to one of the people.

Apple of course is always looking for ways to increase power efficiency, especially given that the company still remains intent on rolling out increasingly svelte devices, a design choice which inherently limits the battery capacity of its notebooks.

Looking ahead, there is no indication that Intel chips will be leaving the Mac anytime soon. Still, it’s a safe bet that abandoning Intel at some point in the future is a scenario being tossed around among Apple executives, especially given the frustration Apple has experienced with Intel with respect to various processor delays.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.