WWDC 2020: Apple to announce move to ARM-powered Macs

Apple reportedly intends to announce a move to use its own ARM-developed chips inside Macs starting next year.

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Apple apparently intends announcing a move to use its own ARM-developed chips inside Macs next year, a pillar announcement at WWDC 2020, where Apple will share more information concerning its long speculated plan  to sell Macs powered by its own ARM-based A-series processors.

The transition has already begun

Think about it – the transition really began when Apple migrated to OS X. That operating system’s Unix core is what makes it more possible to run the system on different processor platforms. Apple proved this with the iPhone and iPad, both of which run variants of the same OS.

A move to run Macs on this OS has been prevented by issues involving software support and processor power. But we now have tens of millions of iOS/iPad apps, Catalyst makes it much easier to plot Universal apps, and Apple’s processors are among the fastest in the world.

At the same time, as I’ve noted before, the company will still be required to show its customers what tangible benefits they would get from the move. One way to do so will be to extent the Mac features Catalyst brings iOS devices, and the iOS talents it brings to the Mac.

Bloomberg now tells us Apple will announce the move later this month at WWDC, when it will try to motivate developers to support this step.

What does the Bloomberg claim?

The report makes the following claims:

  • Apple to announce Mac-ARM migration this month.
  • The code name is Kalamata.
  • The idea is that developers will be given time to adjust apps for the new platforms, which won’t ship until 2021.
  • We’ve previously heard Apple plans to start selling these Macs next year, and that these will run the 5-nanometer A14 chip.
  • Macs will run macOS, not iOS.
  • But the timing of the announcement may change.

I’d anticipate one ARM-based Mac will be introduced quite early on, mainly in order for developers to test software on one of these machines.

The first Intel-based Macs running OS X were introduced January 2006 and the platform transition was completed by the end of that year. Apple announced the move at WWDC 2005, which meant the whole thing got wrapped up inside 18-months. Is it possible the company will announce a first-generation ARM-based Mac?

Quite a lot has already taken place

Look around and you’ll see most big-name developers have already migrated some form of their Mac apps to run on iOS devices. Adobe continues to improve Photoshop, Microsoft keeps developing its offerings, and there are thousands of apps available for almost every task on iOS.

It remains true that some highly specialized professional apps aren’t available on iOS, which means that unless Apple decides to abandon some of its most high-end users, some other form of help to get developers through the transition may emerge.

Apple’s chip development teams have excelled. Its mobile processors deliver industry-beating performance. Intel has been unable to match these gains in its chips, while Apple’s own internal tests of A-series Macs have shown significant performance improvements in graphics and AI compared to their Intel counterparts, Bloomberg states.

Bloomberg’s report also claims Apple has been testing Macs based on iPad Pro processors since 2018, when it introduced the A12X Bionic chip.

We’ve been speculating the company might make such a move since at least 2012, when a report claimed Apple engineers were confident its mobile chips could one day be powerful enough to run Macs.

It may also be relevant to note that ARM’s lead CPU and systems architect, Mike Filippo, joined Apple in 2019. TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has also predicted the transition to ARM chips would begin in 2021.

WWDC 2020 will be interesting this year.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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