Apple transition to own ARM chips in Macs rumored to start at WWDC

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited June 2020
Apple may announce its long-rumored shift to ARM for the Mac as soon as its WWDC at the end of June, if a new report is accurate.

Apple's MacBook, the most likely platform to get an ARM processor first
Apple's MacBook, the most likely platform to get an ARM processor first


The report on Tuesday morning, by Bloomberg, is only the latest in a long line of reports leading to ARM Macs. However, it does allege new information.

Primarily, the report notes that availability of hardware isn't expected until 2021. Additionally, the ARM Mac is said to be based on TSMC's 5nm chip fabrication process. Also in the report, Bloomberg claims that Apple is working on at least three of its own processors for the Mac, with the first based on the A14, but not identical to it.

Tuesday's report is the culmination of six months of escalating rumors about the ARM Mac. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in February that the the ARM Mac would start shipping in 2021. A follow-up report in March had the analyst move that up a bit to the end of 2020.

In doing so, Apple would "own the stack," meaning that the Cupertino tech giant will be able to customize its processors to define Mac's unique hardware and software capabilities. Ultimately, the processor could migrate to the MacBook Pro or iMac Pro on the higher end, but will most likely debut on consumer-oriented product such as the now-discontinued MacBook.

While the shift to ARM has benefits, there are also disadvantages to the migration. At present, it isn't clear what, if anything, Apple has in mind for interoperability with other operating systems that rely heavily on x86 processors like Windows. Starting at the low end of the product line mitigates that somewhat, with greater adoption of Boot Camp at the higher end of the product line, versus the lower.

There is a ARM version of Windows, but it isn't clear if Apple will allow installation, or if Microsoft will make it available for ARM Macs.

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 the iPhone 4 A4 chip in 2010.

However, not all of the details are carved in stone. "Since the hardware transition is still months away, the timing of the announcement could change," Bloomberg notes.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 82
    h4y3sh4y3s Posts: 61member
    A new era!
    dt17SpamSandwichjony0digitolmtrivisowatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 82
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,035member
    Bloomberg, say no more for accuracy in reporting.
    lkruppSpamSandwichStrangeDaysentropysjony0mtrivisowatto_cobraDancingMonkeys
  • Reply 3 of 82
    kpomkpom Posts: 656member
    Nice. Hopefully they bring back the 12” MacBook. 
    lkruppraoulduke42mtrivisowatto_cobratoysandme
  • Reply 4 of 82
    longpathlongpath Posts: 382member
    kpom said:
    Nice. Hopefully they bring back the 12” MacBook. 
    If it gains thunderbolt 3, I’d be all for it.
    mtrivisowatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 82
    tmaytmay Posts: 5,716member
    longpath said:
    kpom said:
    Nice. Hopefully they bring back the 12” MacBook. 
    If it gains thunderbolt 3, I’d be all for it.
    By the time the ARM Mac's appear, Thunderbolt 3 will be integral with USB 4.0, and that's what I would expect. Curious if we will see either PCIe 5 or 6 incorporated into the architecture.
    ghstmarscaladanianraoulduke42superklotonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 82
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,587member
    I’m thinking about getting a MacBook for someone - but really not sure about switching to ARM with all the incompatibility (again) and lack of Windows. My apprehension is how long will it be before Photoshop/MS word will be native, and whilst they aren’t, whether there will be some form of emulation such as Rosetta as there was for PPC apps. It’s relatively efficient for a CISC CPU (such as Intel’s) to emulate A RISC (PPC/ARM) CPU, but emulating a CISC CPU on a RISC CPU is very slow - as anyone who ran VirtualPC on a PPC will know.

    That said, anything from the App Store will be native because Xcode produces object code that App Store compiles onto the correct architecture for the machine, so a reasonable number of apps will be native from day 1. Not that that helps me much, I have a grand total of 0 non Apple apps from the MAS, and about 25 I use regularly from other sources. I prefer the non-MAS apps because they don't have the "all our customers are thick" sandboxing that the MAS apps do.

    It’ll be interesting to see whether Apple reduces the price of the Macs to correspond to the much cheaper ARM CPUs, I bet they won’t. 
    edited June 2020 caladanianmtriviso
  • Reply 7 of 82
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,911member
    Time to think different, leaving the bloatware you mentioned. Look at replacement software using Apple’s Core-“everything” api’s and you might be surprised at how much they offer at a fraction of the price. As for Office software, It probably doesn’t matter as much on low end hardware. As for incompatibility with existing macOS software, let’s see what’s introduced at WWDC before taking the easy way out and saying things won’t work. The times aren’t the same when Apple changed from PPC to x86.
    razorpitSpamSandwichlollivermtrivisorundhvidwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 82
    Microsoft released the ARM-based Surface Pro X last years to tepid reviews. It does come with a (sluggish) emulation layer a la Rosetta, but it only supports 32 bit apps.
    caladanianjony0mtrivisotoysandme
  • Reply 9 of 82
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    elijahg said:

    It’ll be interesting to see whether Apple reduces the price of the Macs to correspond to the much cheaper ARM CPUs, I bet they won’t. 

    Wouldn't have thought so. 

    With Intel, Apple didn't have the R&D costs associated with building its own processor. Now that they're doing the processor themselves, this won't make things necessarily cheaper. Bear in mind that these ARM chips aren't actually ARM. They're  custom-designed silicon from the ground-up that just happens to run the ARM instruction set, and have been crafted to bleed the last iota of performance out of MacOS/iOS. Apple will use every trick in the book to surpass what they had with Intel.
    tmayrazorpitjony0lollivermtrivisobestkeptsecretwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 82
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,897member
    Microsoft released the ARM-based Surface Pro X last years to tepid reviews. It does come with a (sluggish) emulation layer a la Rosetta, but it only supports 32 bit apps.
    And that’s MSFT for ya. 

    This will be nothing like that.
    razorpitsuperklotonmtrivisowatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 82
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    elijahg said:
    I’m thinking about getting a MacBook for someone - but really not sure about switching to ARM with all the incompatibility (again) and lack of Windows. My apprehension is how long will it be before Photoshop/MS word will be native, and whilst they aren’t, whether there will be some form of emulation such as Rosetta as there was for PPC apps. It’s relatively efficient for a CISC CPU (such as Intel’s) to emulate A RISC (PPC/ARM) CPU, but emulating a CISC CPU on a RISC CPU is very slow - as anyone who ran VirtualPC on a PPC will know.

    That said, anything from the App Store will be native because Xcode produces object code that App Store compiles onto the correct architecture for the machine, so a reasonable number of apps will be native from day 1. Not that that helps me much, I have a grand total of 0 non Apple apps from the MAS, and about 25 I use regularly from other sources. I prefer the non-MAS apps because they don't have the "all our customers are thick" sandboxing that the MAS apps do.

    It’ll be interesting to see whether Apple reduces the price of the Macs to correspond to the much cheaper ARM CPUs, I bet they won’t. 

    Most likely, at least for the initial models, ARM processors will be used mostly in the consumer grade models whose customers have little need for expensive high-end video processing or CAD software.   They just want to browse the web, type their paper, do some Zooming, get their email and play some music while they do it.

    At least for some period of time the there will still be a need for the power of I7, I9 & Xeon type processors with external GPUs beyond simple compatibility.
    edited June 2020 caladanianStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 82
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,740member
    rob53 said:
    Time to think different, leaving the bloatware you mentioned. Look at replacement software using Apple’s Core-“everything” api’s and you might be surprised at how much they offer at a fraction of the price. As for Office software, It probably doesn’t matter as much on low end hardware. As for incompatibility with existing macOS software, let’s see what’s introduced at WWDC before taking the easy way out and saying things won’t work. The times aren’t the same when Apple changed from PPC to x86.
    The thesis for my PhD in physics required principally four applications, Pages, Mathematica, a Pages compatible math editor and one I ported from Linux to run my experimental systems. I use them still and would need any system I purchase to support them. No doubt, my example is one of a countless number of similar examples. I'm looking forward to Apple being in control of the processors but I hope that developers are (will be) on board. As you wrote though, this is a great opportunity to think different.
    rundhvidwatto_cobraWarrenBuffduckh
  • Reply 13 of 82
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    This is great!
    But it raises the question of how much better a low-end ARM based MacBook would be over an iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard and mouse for the average, non-power user consumer?

    Let's see:
    The ARM based MacBook has:
    -- A really nice clamshell design that is sturdy, portable and works well on a lap.
    -- Multiple external ports
    -- Versatile and powerful MacOS (or some semblance of it)
    -- Bigger screen and bigger battery

    The iPad Pro with Magic keyboard has:
    --  LTE go-anywhere connectivity
    --  Ability to convert to high quality tablet mode as needed
    --  I simple, easy to learn and use OS that iPhone users can easily and readily adapt to without taking a course.
    --  Compatibility with a plethora of apps
    --  Ability to use the Apple Pencil
    --  Touch screen

    For many, the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard will be the better buy and the best fit for their needs.
    That's not to trash the ARM based MacBook, but to point out that it will have a very high bar to clear.
    raoulduke42macplusplusjony0watto_cobratoysandmeraybo
  • Reply 14 of 82
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,989member
    I don't know if this report has anything to do with it but AAPL has hitched a ride on a Falcon Heavy to the stars this morning, up over $5 and head toward $1.5T it seems.
    kurai_kageSpamSandwichandrewj5790jasenj1jony0lolliverwatto_cobratoysandme
  • Reply 15 of 82
    jharnerjharner Posts: 4member
    If macOS for ARM does not support the UNIX side, then the Mac in STEM will be dead. If macOS for ARM does not support a hypervisor for Docker, etc., then the Mac in STEM will be on life support. The data sciences are moving to containerization with Docker, Singularity, etc. and support of these technologies will be critical. Now, lack of support for CUDA is a big problem. In principal, Docker on ARM is supported, but it will be tricky even if Apple supports it. I would hate to think of moving to Windows Subsystem for Linux.
    jasenj1entropysrundhvidtoysandme
  • Reply 16 of 82
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 2,573member
    elijahg said:
    I’m thinking about getting a MacBook for someone - but really not sure about switching to ARM with all the incompatibility (again) and lack of Windows. My apprehension is how long will it be before Photoshop/MS word will be native, and whilst they aren’t, whether there will be some form of emulation such as Rosetta as there was for PPC apps. It’s relatively efficient for a CISC CPU (such as Intel’s) to emulate A RISC (PPC/ARM) CPU, but emulating a CISC CPU on a RISC CPU is very slow - as anyone who ran VirtualPC on a PPC will know.

    That said, anything from the App Store will be native because Xcode produces object code that App Store compiles onto the correct architecture for the machine, so a reasonable number of apps will be native from day 1. Not that that helps me much, I have a grand total of 0 non Apple apps from the MAS, and about 25 I use regularly from other sources. I prefer the non-MAS apps because they don't have the "all our customers are thick" sandboxing that the MAS apps do.

    It’ll be interesting to see whether Apple reduces the price of the Macs to correspond to the much cheaper ARM CPUs, I bet they won’t. 

    Most likely, at least for the initial models, ARM processors will be used mostly in the consumer grade models whose customers have little need for expensive high-end video processing or CAD software.   They just want to browse the web, type their paper, do some Zooming, get their email and play some music while they do it.

    At least for some period of time the there will still be a need for the power of I7, I9 & Xeon type processors with external GPUs beyond simple compatibility.

    edited June 2020
  • Reply 17 of 82
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    lkrupp said:
    I don't know if this report has anything to do with it but AAPL has hitched a ride on a Falcon Heavy to the stars this morning, up over $5 and head toward $1.5T it seems.
    Up almost $8 as of this post. Holy cow.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 82
    thttht Posts: 4,344member
    This is great!
    But it raises the question of how much better a low-end ARM based MacBook would be over an iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard and mouse for the average, non-power user consumer?
    ...
    For many, the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard will be the better buy and the best fit for their needs.
    That's not to trash the ARM based MacBook, but to point out that it will have a very high bar to clear.
    We all hope that Apple realizes that their product line is not like Highlander. There can be more than one product, with significant overlap in features and customers, at a certain price tier for a certain market, but also have significant differences that drive sales to other customers.

    The essential driving feature difference is tablet versus laptop. People won't have problem figuring it out and Apple should be happy to offer both products as their respective markets are huge.
    raoulduke42lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 82
    hypoluxahypoluxa Posts: 676member
    Doesn't Apple have licensing issues with Intel & USB that it has to sort out? Will that affect future Macs with ARM? Or is it all a moot point now?
  • Reply 20 of 82
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    I'm looking forward to watching WWDC this year!

    Bring it on!

    2020 is looking real nice for Apple.
    watto_cobra
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