The computer maker, which on Monday announced plans to move to Intel processors starting in 2006, is expected to make the Pentium M its first stop, analysts say.
The Pentium Ms mix of relatively low power consumption and high performance—Intel Corp. geared the chip to deliver more performance per clock cycle in order to consume less energy and thus run cooler than its Pentium 4—makes it an ideal candidate for the likes of Apple Computer Inc.s PowerBook line and its Mac Mini.
"I think that —PowerBooks and iBooks—and Mac Minis would be the first to get Intel processors," said Steve Baker, analyst with The NPD Group Inc in Port Washington, N.Y. The Pentium M is ideal for those, as "the real problem here is heat. How do you get a big, fat, hot processor into a little bitty box?"
Intel offers several versions of the Pentium M, including some low-voltage processors that consume less energy than standard Pentium Ms, for notebooks. The low-voltage parts could make it easier for Apple, which is known for sleek designs, to deliver ultrathin, lightweight portables, if it chooses.
Of late, the chip maker has also been pitching the Pentium M for desktops, as the same properties Intel added to it to fit it into notebooks make it work inside the confines of a small desktop as well.
Of all Intels PC processors, "the Pentium M fits best into Apples philosophy," said Dean McCarron, analyst with Mercury Research Inc. in Cave Creek, Ariz.
Although it doesnt run as fast as Intels Pentium 4 or IBMs PowerPC 970FX—the current processing engine for Power Macs—the Pentium M still holds its own.
The chip, which currently tops out at 2.13 GHz, typically performs as well or better than all but the fastest Pentium 4 chips, which clock in at 3.6GHz and 3.8GHz, even for applications such as computer-aided design, Intel and analysts say, while consuming roughly a quarter of the amount of power those chips use.
Baker predicts that Apple will turn to the Pentium M to create a wide range of new models, ranging from ultraportables—notebooks that often weigh 4 pounds or less—to models that are similar to its current 15-inch PowerBook.
Right now, Apples smallest portable, its 12.1-inch iBook, weighs in at 4.9 pounds, including a built-in CD drive. Despite many peoples affinity for Apples systems, Pentium M-based notebook PCs such as MPC Computer LLCs TransPort 1000 often weigh less. The TransPort 1000, which includes a 12.1-inch display and a built-in CD-drive, weighs only 3.8 pounds.
A higher-performance version of the Pentium M, meanwhile, will arrive near the same time that Apple plans to begin shipping Intel-based systems. Intel will roll out Yonah, a new, dual-core version of the chip, late this year, and it will be available in systems in early 2006. Apple said its first systems would appear by June of 2006.
Based on its timing, Yonah is the likeliest candidate for the first Intel-based small desktop Macs and PowerBooks, McCarron said.
The chip, which Intel has said will be manufactured using its forthcoming 65-nanometer process, will receive a number of tweaks aimed at boosting performance and power management capabilities, Intel said recently. The chips twin cores will provide a performance boost while multitasking, for example, but also aid machines running on battery power by shutting down one core to cut power consumption.