Apple A6 MacBook Air by 2013 says analyst: OS X and iOS to merge

Apple will need to merge OS X and iOS if its aim of satisfying seamless content management and cloud-service delivery is to work out, according to Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek. In a new investor note this week, Barrons reports, Misek argues that the MacBook Air will be first to make the switch, jumping to an Apple "A6" processor in late 2012 or early 2013.

"We believe Apple is looking to merge iOS (iPhones/iPads) with OS X (Macs) into a single platform for apps and cloud services starting in 2012-13" Peter Misek

The idea of an ARM processor inside a MacBook notebook, rather than an x86 Intel chip, is one we've heard talk of before. Reports earlier this year also suggested Apple was eyeing mid-2013 to begin the transition, using new 64-bit cores. Subsequently leaks from Apple's engineering labs tipped ARM-based MacBook Air ultraportables undergoing testing, albeit using the A5 dual-core processor found in the current iPad 2 rather than the A6 chip.

"Users want to be able to pick up any iPhone, iPad, or Mac (or turn on their iTV) and have content move seamlessly between them and be optimized for the user and the device currently being used. We believe this will be difficult to implement if iOS and OS X are kept separate" Peter Misek

Misek predicts that Apple will launch the iPad 3 and the Apple A6 SoC in Q1 2012, along with a new iPhone in the summer of that year. The MacBook Pro line, and Apple's desktop computers, will initially stick with x86 chips so as to maximize 64-bit app compatibility, though the analyst suggests they too will cross over to ARM by 2016.

"We believe Apple is ready to start sampling the A6 quad-core app processor and will be the first such multi-device platform capable of PC-like strength" Peter Misek

The A6 itself is tipped to be a so-called 3D processor, with a layered construction that allows for components on each layer to intercommunicate at high speed. Sampling is believed to have already begun, with TSMC Apple's partner of choice as the company distances itself from Samsung. Software-wise, OS X Lion is already reminiscent in many ways of iOS, including its scrolling system – which inverts the standard scroll-direction in previous iterations of the desktop platform – and support for the Mac App Store.