updated 07:00 pm EST, Wed February 22, 2012
Apple turned down AMD over Llano time rame
A potentially major rumor has asserted that Apple was at one point investingating using AMD's Llano architecture mobile processors in the MacBook Air. The company had the kind of power and performance Apple wanted, Forbes heard, but had trouble producing chips in time for the 2011 update. As its former manufacturing wing and now partner GlobalFoundries was adapting to make the Fusion-based chips, where the graphics core is part of the processor itself, it was having trouble generating useful test yields.
Apple ultimately ended up using Intel's Sandy Bridge-based Core i5 and i7 for the summer 2011 MacBook Air. The decision may not have necessarily been a drawback, as the modern Intel chips saw enough of a boost in graphics that they were potentially still faster overall. Llano, and other Fusion-based architectures, mostly count on having relatively modern Radeon graphics built-in to give reasonable 2D and 3D performance without needed power-hungry and costlier dedicated graphics.
Apple hasn't commented on the rumor.
AMD often finds its way into Macs and has seen a handful of staffers such as former graphics CTO Bob Drebin join Apple's ranks. It has never been included in Apple's processor choices, however, and has only periodically had a speed edge over Intel. Most of its current advantages are in servers, where Opterons have up to 12 cores where Intel's Xeon still peaks at 10, as well as the netbook- and crossover-class Brazos chip used for low-end but relatively quick notebooks.
Rumors of Apple talking to AMD did surface in 2010, but never manifested a real product.