In its most recent earnings call, Intel indicated that it has pushed back production of its new Broadwell microprocessor from later this year to the first quarter of 2014. Will the impact the release of new Mac systems? In all likelihood, no.
The Broadwell microprocessor builds on the foundation Intel laid with Haswell, the fourth-generation Core processors that Apple has used in 2013 revisions to its MacBook Air and iMac computers, and that Apple is widely expected to use in the next iteration of the MacBook Pro and Mac mini.
The hallmark of Haswell processors hasn't been their performance - while integrated graphics performance is better, the clock speed of the CPUs aren't remarkably different than the previous generation. Where Intel has focused is on efficiency. A Haswell-equipped MacBook Air can run all day on a single charge. And while their are some new instruction sets in Broadwell, the new processors are going to be up to 30 percent more efficient than their predecessors, meaning longer battery life for mobile computers still.
Since 2007, Intel has, like clockwork, followed a manufacturing process widely described as the "tick tock model." Intel releases a new microprocessor architecture, as it did in 2013 with the release of Haswell microprocessors, and follows that with an iterative design that shrinks the die size of the microprocessor, enabling Intel to improve efficiency and performance.
It's a system that's proven remarkably effective, but this fall Intel suffered a rare misstep. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich revealed during a conference call to discuss Intel's third-quarter earnings that Intel's Broadwell yields - that is, the number of usable chips - have been especially low, and it's taken a while for Intel to get the fixes it needs in place. The fixes have been made, though, so Intel plans to begin to roll the new processors into production a few months later than expected, but with the necessary changes to guarantee good production yields.
Where does this leave the Mac? Largely unaffected, thanks to Apple's own production schedule. Apple has only gradually moved the Mac to the Haswell architecture, and Intel isn't having any problems keeping up with demand for those chips.
The new Mac Pro, which was announced in June and which Apple says will be out before year's end, uses Intel's Xeon E5 processor, a workstation and server-class chip based on Intel's Ivy Bridge-EP architecture. So that, likewise, shouldn't be affected by Intel's Broadwell blip.
In other words, Intel's production problems come at a time when Apple isn't hinging its design plans around that shift. What's more, Broadwell is an iterative improvement to the foundation that Intel has already set with Haswell, so migrating to the new chips shouldn't be a huge hassle for Apple - when it and Intel are ready.
Are you planning to - or have you - bought a new Mac with a Haswell microprocessor? Does Intel's plans to shift Broadwell production into 2014 make you nervous about the Mac's roadmap? Sound off in the comments - I want to hear from you.