Apple says using its own chips gives it a 'unique advantage' over PC industry

It’s been a little more than two years since Apple (AAPL) kicked long-time partner Intel (INTC) to the curb in favor of designing its own chips. And with its latest processors hitting the market in its new MacBook Pros and Mac minis the tech giant says its bet has paid off handsomely.

“If you look at even just the gains between M1 Pro and M2 Pro and M2 Max, you know, the CPU performance has gone up 20%, GPU’s is 30%,” Bob Borchers, VP of worldwide product marketing at Apple, told Yahoo Finance. “This is not normal for the way in which platforms like this advance. A few years back, you would have been happy with 5% here, 6% there, etc.”

Apple’s M2 Pro and M2 Max, are high-powered versions of its M2, which it introduced in June. The company says the M2 Max, which packs a 12-core CPU and 38-core GPU, is the most powerful and efficient chip for a professional laptop. A MacBook Pro with an M2 Pro, the company claims, is 40% faster than a MacBook with an M1 Pro and 80% faster than a MacBook with Intel’s older Core i9 chip.

But it’s not just about improving product speeds, Tim Millet, Apple vice president of platform architecture, told Yahoo Finance. Building its own chips also allows Apple to avoid third-party bottlenecks.

Apple's latest MacBook Pro comes with either an M2 Pro or M2 Max chip. (Image: Apple)
Apple's latest MacBook Pro comes with either an M2 Pro or M2 Max chip. (Image: Apple)

“If you are a merchant silicon vendor, and somebody like Apple comes and says, ‘Hey, we want you to add all of these transistors into these chips that you sell because we want to enable this amazing new product.’ They're going to scratch their heads a little bit and sort of say, ‘Well, what's the return here?’" Millet said.

“They've got to sell that chip to maybe 10 more customers that don't necessarily care about the same things Apple cares about. We don't have to worry about that problem when we're building chips for ourselves. And that, I would argue is…the thing that is providing a unique advantage.”

Apple wasn’t always interested in dumping Intel, though. In fact, a few years ago, the company was content with its relationship with the chip giant.

“Five years ago, maybe we weren't ready, maybe we were at a point where the relationship with Intel was still strong. We didn't want to disrupt anything there,” Millet said.

But Intel’s slow progress on improving chip performance and a desire to build out its Mac line to its own standards meant that Apple had to put the chip maker in its rearview mirror.

“It was clear that third parties were not worried about this problem,” Millet explained. “They were worried about maintaining their own competitive edge with each other with the assumption that everybody was going to be happy to take something that was just marginally better. We did the math, we figured out, 'Nope, that's not where the technology is.' And so you can see the big steps we took between our last generation Intel-based Macs and the M1 generation.”

Of course, leaving Intel behind also means one less company to have to pay for parts, helping Apple keep more of its cash in its own coffers.

That Millet said, allowed Apple to set a new baseline for its overall Mac performance.

Still, Apple, like the rest of the computer industry, is contending with a slowing PC market. The company is expected to report that Mac sales declined substantially in its upcoming earnings announcement on Feb. 2.

With two new lines of chips and a faster MacBook Pro and Mac mini, though, the company might just have the firepower it needs to quickly turn around that decline.

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