Apple is working with AMD on several prototype Macs, but will they see the light of day?

Reliable sources have reported on prototype Mac motherboards based on Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) chipsets being tested in Cupertino for years, but so far none have seen the light of day. One recent rumor even suggests the current Macbook Air was planned around AMD’s “Llano” platform but switched to an Intel alternative at the last minute. Will the latest generation of prototypes be any different?

According to a rumor currently making the rounds on the grapevine, Apple very nearly based its most recent generation of Macbook Air on AMD’s “Llano” chipset but changed course at the last minute. This doesn’t entirely comport with our own source reports at the time, but is close enough that we found SemiAccurate’s article on the topic to be of significant interest and took it with only the usual grain of salt.

SemiAccurate’s take and comments posted by their readers highlight the widespread belief on the grapevine that production problems at AMD’s manufacturing division spin-off GlobalFoundries Inc. are largely responsible for Apple’s hesitancy in relying on AMD hardware for its products. Given Apple’s history of extreme caution in depending on unreliable component suppliers going back to the “G4 fiasco” caused by Motorola’s problems with the first generation of PowerPC 7400, any doubts about a supplier’s ability to deliver will result in Apple looking elsewhere for alternatives.

More recently, sources have told Rumors that AMD based motherboards for the entire Mac product line-up are being evaluated for the company’s 2012 hardware roadmap. The Executive Suite has reportedly undertaken intensive talks with both AMD itself and GlobalFoundries not only for AMD’s products but also for possible future partnerships involving Apple’s future in-house A-series ARM System-on-a-Chip (SoC) designs beginning with the quad-core Cortex 9 based “A6″…and much depends on Apple’s evaluation of GlobalFoundries’ ability to deliver on its promises in the year ahead.

Apparently Apple has not yet finalized its plans on either front, but key decision points are fast approaching and we expect to hear more before the end of the month because production of Infinite Loop’s next generation AppleTV is very much dependent on the outcome of these deliberations. Stay tuned; this rumor will almost certainly prove to be a major pivot point for the shape of the year ahead and we are keeping a close eye on developments.

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