Apple to debut multiple ARM MacBook, desktop models in 2021

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 2020
Apple is predicted to integrate its custom ARM processors into multiple Mac models in 2021, with designs spanning both Mac desktops and MacBooks, according to TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

MacBook Air
Macs like Apple's 2020 MacBook Air could benefit from ARM CPUs in 2021.


In a note to investors seen by AppleInsider, Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple is moving forward with an "aggressive processor replacement strategy" that should bear fruit in the fourth quarter of 2020 or the first quarter of 2021. As part of the movement, the tech giant will bring its ARM chips to a wider selection of Mac desktops and laptops next year.

With Apple in control of chip design and manufacturing, the company will be able to introduce new Mac models at peak market demand, Kuo says. Importantly, Apple will no longer be held to the whims of Intel, which has in the past delayed development, manufacturing and shipment of promised silicon.

Further, switching to in-house designs will reduce processor costs by about 40% to 60%, Kuo estimates. Cheaper parts equate to cost structure flexibility and, perhaps, more competitive product prices.

Finally, ARM-powered Macs will enjoy market differentiation from Windows PCs, which almost exclusively rely on processors from Intel or AMD.

Just as Apple transitioned from Samsung-manufactured ARM chips to its own TSMC-fabricated A-series system-on-chip designs for iOS devices, Mac, too, should benefit from a distinct competitive advantage in pricing and supply. By "owning the stack," the Cupertino tech giant will be able to customize its processors to define Mac's unique hardware and software capabilities, whether it be a pro-minded MacBook Pro or iMac Pro workhorse, or a consumer-oriented thin-and-light like MacBook Air.

During the transition period, Kuo estimates annual Mac shipments will increase to 25 million to 30 million units, up from the current 20 million units.

Kuo also believes Apple will formally adopt USB 4.0 technology in 2022. Finalized last year, the protocol incorporates assets from Thunderbolt 3 and supports data throughput of up to 40Gbps, power delivery of up to 100W, and backwards compatibility with older USB formats and Thunderbolt 3.

Apple has been speculated to switch its Mac platform to ARM for nearly a decade, with initial rumblings coming shortly after the company debuted its first A-series chip with iPhone 4's A4 SoC in 2010. Concrete rumors of an ARM-powered Mac arrived in February, when Kuo pegged hardware to debut in the first half of 2021. He more recently moved up that timeline, saying a MacBook with an Apple-designed CPU would reach market by the end of 2020.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 54
    thttht Posts: 4,130member
    What I’m most looking forward to is for the ARM switch speculation to cease. It’s been like this 7 years. Moving on to endless performance comparisons next!

    If Apple is shipping in 8 to 12 months, the processors, boards, basically all of components are done and they are just working on getting the mass production processes worked out now. The design is in early validation stages. The SoC has to be in pilot production now. 

    If true parts have to leak sometime in the next 3 to 4 months. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 54
    Ok, so now I'm not buying a Mac and will have to wait another  year for the ARM Mac!
    toysandmetokyojimu
  • Reply 3 of 54
    Ok, so now I'm not buying a Mac and will have to wait another  year for the ARM Mac!

    If there is no urgency, you can wait. ARM Macs are one thing, but the decider would be if all the software you use is also ported.

    Office probably would, given how Microsoft now seems pretty proactive in that regard. But there definitely will be teething problems with respect to software.

    toysandmeflyingdpwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 54
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    So if this doesn’t happen then Captain WellConnected will drop a hastily-written note to investors:

    A few hours before release, Apple found a critical bug in the ARM chip and was forced to switch back to Intel. 

    🙄
    swat671macpluspluslkruppchasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 54
    revenantrevenant Posts: 621member
    this is exciting. I do not doubt that apple will work with the major software companies, like they have in the past. Smaller developers will take longer, but this is still fascinating. though this is one of the l o n g e r running rumours.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 54
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,648member
    Ok, so now I'm not buying a Mac and will have to wait another  year for the ARM Mac!

    If there is no urgency, you can wait. ARM Macs are one thing, but the decider would be if all the software you use is also ported.

    Office probably would, given how Microsoft now seems pretty proactive in that regard. But there definitely will be teething problems with respect to software.

    Not so. Assembly level (binary) software translation can do that. All software will be available from the start.
    edited March 2020 redgeminipabestkeptsecretwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 54
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,648member
    Spot on!!!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 54
    aknabiaknabi Posts: 210member
    This is great news... I bought by 16" loaded MBP assuming it's the last Intel Mac I'll be buying.

    My prediction: It'll be like the PowerPC->Intel switch... when they come out the models with them will see a 2x bump in processor performance.

    (full disclosure my close friend is a processor architect that's ex-Intel and worked with Apple on their ARMs, though he's always been rather tight lipped)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 54
    swat671swat671 Posts: 95member
    If Apple does this, I wonder if they'll license the x86 instruction set from Intel? That would make the most sense for at least the first few years until devs can update software. It will take YEARS for this to play out if they did. Of course, they could use a "Fat Binary" like they did during the PPC-x86 transition... That way, the app bundle will be able to support both platforms. My question would be about performance. No ARM chip will be able to outperform the Xenon chips in the Mac Pro and iMac Pro. What about those systems? Will developers have to keep using Fat Binaries forever because of that? There are just so many questions, that I don't know if it makes sense or not. 
    macpluspluswatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 54
    Can't wait. Bring me this A15X+++
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 54
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,334member
    Super curious about this. I think cost and control over your own eco-system etc is one thing... but to be honest, I expect their Mac ARM processor not to be on par with Intel, but to surpass it substantially.. like ten-fold or something crazy like that. I think they really want to be able to stand there and say "hey, enough of Intel.. This is why.. Boom! 10x performance"

    I can only speculate that for every iPhone/ iPad revision of the cpu, they have probably made a computer processor simultaneously, and getting ready for launching their ARM computers once the ARM processors and operating system has reached a certain point.

    For most casual users only using the internet, Apple's apps, it'll be an easy transfer. For just about 100% of professional users relying on certain apps, it'll be tricky, I imagine. Even moving to 64-bit only apps has been forcing a lot of users away from upgrading to Catalina since they're relying on certain software. Can't help but being super curious about this though! Apple's CPU division has proven to be quite amazing after all.
    CuJoYYCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 54
    xbitxbit Posts: 315member
    swat671 said:
    If Apple does this, I wonder if they'll license the x86 instruction set from Intel? That would make the most sense for at least the first few years until devs can update software. It will take YEARS for this to play out if they did. Of course, they could use a "Fat Binary" like they did during the PPC-x86 transition... That way, the app bundle will be able to support both platforms. My question would be about performance. No ARM chip will be able to outperform the Xenon chips in the Mac Pro and iMac Pro. What about those systems? Will developers have to keep using Fat Binaries forever because of that? There are just so many questions, that I don't know if it makes sense or not. 
    “Fat binaries” aren’t a big deal. Xcode already produces multiple binaries for the different ARM instruction sets on iOS. 

    I guess we’ll see whether these rumours are true at WWDC.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 54
    I don't think people who are chomping at the bit to move to ARM Macs have really thought out the whole process.  :(
    edited March 2020 toysandmemacplusplusdewmelarryarain22commentzilla
  • Reply 14 of 54
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 2,488member
    I would love to see what Apple’s silicon design team could do for the Mac.

    I remember the days of the PPC Macs. There was a period of about five years where PowerMacs were legitimately faster than Intel PCs, although the margin was never really what the marketing claimed. And then PPC fell behind due to lack of investment, which was due to a lack of economies of scale. 

    But now Apple has the money, they have the economies of scale, and they have arguably the best design team in the world. Apple might now actually achieve what 90s era marketing claimed. 

    So... I don’t know if Apple will actually do this, but I firmly believe they are capable of doing it. It’s just a question of whether they’ll choose to do it. 
    CuJoYYCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 54
    d_2d_2 Posts: 100member
    Weren’t Fat Binaries a necessity because major apps were being sold via CD’s back then?  Now that the App Store knows what type of machine / OS you have ...
    chabigCuJoYYCDAalsethcommentzillaMisterKitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 54
    neilmneilm Posts: 917member
    If history is any guide, the very first generation of ARM Macs might not be the one to buy.
    flyingdpdewmelarrya
  • Reply 17 of 54
    mbdrake76 said:
    I don't think people who are chomping at the bit to move to ARM Macs have really thought out the whole process.  :(
    $100 says they don’t even know the differences between ARM and x86 and just want Apple to switch because that’s the architecture that they use for their mobile devices.
  • Reply 18 of 54
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 2,488member
    neilm said:
    If history is any guide, the very first generation of ARM Macs might not be the one to buy.
    How so? Technology always gets better, so the longer you wait to buy a new computer the better your new computer will be. But aside from that issue, I don't recall first generations of new processor Macs from Apple as being somehow problematic. 

    For example, I think the PowerMac 6100, 7100, and 8100 were all good computers. The first x86 Macs were also good. 

    An x86 to ARM transition will be easier than in the past because Apple has a much stronger software foundation to support this kind of a transition. The last vestiges of the classic Mac OS have already been swept away. The Apple empire now rests entirely on software that was written from the ground up to be as hardware agnostic as possible. 
    CuJoYYCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 54
    "and, perhaps, more competitive product prices"

    Yeah, sure.
  • Reply 20 of 54
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,633member
    JonInAtl said:
    The headline is totally misleading. 

    “Apple to debut multiple ARM-powered Mac desktop and laptop models in 2021”. 

    This is written as fact when it’s actually just more speculation and clickbait. I don’t care if his track record is 100% accurate, until Apple announces it, it’s pure speculation and vapor ware. I expect better from the editors of Appleinsider. 

    All Apple tech blogs are rumor mills. Very little hard facts are presented. Rumors, editorials, opinion pieces, reviews, that’s about it. That some people reading those rumors take them as fact is sad. That happens a lot here. On the other hand there’s nothing wrong about daydreaming. I’m still waiting for the real Apple TV  (big screen 4K TV) that Kuo has been predicting around the corner for years now.
    watto_cobra
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