It's no secret that Intel has been putting a lot of effort into improving its integrated GPUs for the release of the Sandy Bridge processors, although how good they actually are is still somewhat of a mystery.
Well, according to CNET, sources in the know claim that the new chips are good enough to convince Apple to drop the discrete graphics processors from its next generation MacBooks. Apparently, the lower-end laptops - which may come in sizes smaller than 13in - will rely solely on Sandy Bridge's integrated graphics. The higher-end MacBook Pros will still include a discrete GPU, but the source believes that they will be supplied by AMD, rather than NVIDIA. While the latter supplies the graphics processors for all of Apple's current notebooks, Radeon GPUs now power the company's iMac and Mac Pro families.
If this is true, it would be a major vote of confidence for Intel, since Apple has insisted on shipping almost all of its systems with discrete GPUs for a number of years. The only recent system to rely on Intel's graphics was the original MacBook Air, although its successor makes use of an NVIDIA solution. It would also pave the way for new low-power systems that are able to last longer on a single charge as a result of moving from two separate chips to one.
Obviously, though, this all has to be taken with a grain of salt. There have also been rumours that Apple will eschew Intel all together in favour of AMD's Fusion CPU/GPU hybrids. However, it's more than possible - especially based on what we've seen - that Intel's graphics cores have come far enough to deliver a compelling experience without the need for a discrete GPU.