Apple has embedded support for quad-core ARM CPUs in its Xcode developer tool. Such processors could one day power next-gen iPhones, iPads and even future MacBook Airs.
The references - first reported by Ars Technica - indicate that Cupertino recently added support for Marvell's quad-core ARM-based Armada XP processor.
Chris Foresman of Ars speculated Apple was probably using the Marvell chip in prototype versions of future iPhones and iPads as a placeholder, while designing its own indigenous next-gen processor.
Interestingly enough, Apple's upcoming ARM-powered CPU, dubbed A6, is expected to be a dual-core chip built on a 28-nm process via 3D stacking technology.
As AppleInsider's Katie Marsal points out, the Xcode references could also signal that Cupertino may begin using Marvell chips in future iOS devices, or even a next-generation MacBook Air.
"[Then again], Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors are built on an advanced 22-nanometer process that will boost performance and reduce battery life [for Macs]," wrote Marsal.
"Ditching Intel would require developers to recompile Mac OS X software for ARM-based Macs."
Apple's A6 CPU is currently believed to be in trial production for a 2012 launch, most likely inside a third-gen iPad. Cupertino's A7 CPU is projected to debut sometime in 2013.