Apple leaker suggests 12-inch MacBook refresh could be first ARM Mac

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 2020
A prolific Apple leaker, has shared some thoughts on how, when, and why Apple will switch its Macs to first-party ARM chips.

A 12-inch MacBook could be the first with an ARM chip.
A 12-inch MacBook could be the first with an ARM chip.


Rumors of an ARM Mac have been ramping up in the past weeks, with the latest information suggesting a possible announcement at Apple's 2020 Worldwide Developers Conference. Apple has also been taking steps to set up its ecosystem for an ARM Mac for years, which include the rollout of T-series chips in 2016 and newer Mac models.

In a post on Reddit, Fudge speculates about what that transition could ultimately look like. For example, Fudge says that the first ARM-equipped Mac could be a refresh of the 12-inch MacBook, based on rumors out of the Apple supply chain.

That 12-inch device would be the first to come equipped with an eight- to 12-core A14X chip "designed specifically for use as the primary processor in a Mac." Fudge added that there are "rumors" that Apple is still working to perfect the bemoaned butterfly keyboard for inclusion in that device.

It isn't clear if there will be any design changes, so the model could look the same as the 2017 12-inch MacBook that Apple killed off in July 2019. The device also could be the first Mac to sport cellular connectivity in the form of 5G support, Fudge says.

As far as the why, there are a number of ways that Apple could benefit from moving away from Intel. Fudge covered some of those reasons in the Reddit post.

Along with better performance and battery life for consumers, the switch could allow Apple to cut costs and execute more control over its hardware and software integration. Similarly, it could free Apple from Intel's release schedule and declining reputation.

That's in addition to the fact that ARM Macs and iOS devices could allow for a "more unified Apple ecosystem," where the only distinction could be "form factor and performance characteristics."

Not that the road to an ARM Mac would be without bumps.

Although apps released through the Mac App Store would likely be unfazed, things would be a bit trickier for independently distributed apps. For example, developers would need to build both ARM and x86 versions of their apps, or take other alternative steps like using emulation for app functionality. Fudge also thinks that Apple could completely abandon Boot Camp as a feature until Windows becomes friendlier to ARM architecture.

Although we could hear the first word about ARM Macs from Apple at WWDC 2020 on June 22, Bloomberg recently reported that the first ARM chip-equipped Mac isn't likely to be released until 2021.

Fudge's entire post is available on Reddit, and is worth a read for anyone interested in the ARM Mac transition.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    I use my 12-inch MacBook for writing, so, though I’m super-interested in an ARM-based replacement, my ability to purchase one is 100% dependent on the availability of Scrivener (ARM) for macOS.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 25
    Eric_WVGGEric_WVGG Posts: 946member
    I was actually thinking along similar lines! It's clear that Apple wanted to keep selling the 12" Macbook, and contrary to forum-nerds opinions, it was a very popular product. Up until the pandemic I was still seeing them all over NYC, mostly in the hands of people I took to be sales, management, or journalists. 

    One strategic way to deploy ARM Macs is to start with models that are used by people who don't install a lot of third-party software, anyone whose life revolves around a web browser, email, messages, and some light word processing and spreadsheet stuff isn't going to care how long it takes Adobe to port Creative Suite. That sounds like the 12" Macbook crowd.

    Last March, I bought one for my girlfriend who was slumming in Europe for the winter (thanks AppleInsider for the w00t link!). I mailed it about a week before "the shutdown," and to the best of my knowledge it's lost forever in a warehouse or the bottom of the ocean. If a 12" ARM Macbook happens, I might buy her another.
    scampercomtmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 25
    thttht Posts: 4,127member
    Reads like a blind person feeling up some tree trunks and bushes, and thinking it is an elephant. I'm skeptical of what he is saying, like the stories on the T1 and T2 read like a retcon to fit his story.

    The 12" rumors are interesting. Was it Digitimes that rumormongering there was going to be a 12" iPad? So, there looks to be a 12" panel in enough quantities among Apple's suppliers to generate rumors of either a 12" iPad or a 12" Mac laptop. It makes more sense to me that the 12" panel if for an iPad Pro, replacing the 11" model. The 10.8" panel for the iPad Air successor is going to be really close to the 11" model and maybe Apple wants to go bigger to further differentiate it with a 10.8" iPad.

    I basically think a 12" laptop is doomed to failure because it's too small of a display for modern WIMP UI workflows. OEMs keep trying, but there isn't any staying power for small screened laptop models. Eventually, all Chromebooks will be 13" laptops too. Just waiting on component prices to go down enough.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 25
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,193member
    Will it have at least two ports though?
  • Reply 5 of 25
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,193member
    tht said:
    Reads like a blind person feeling up some tree trunks and bushes, and thinking it is an elephant. I'm skeptical of what he is saying, like the stories on the T1 and T2 read like a retcon to fit his story.

    The 12" rumors are interesting. Was it Digitimes that rumormongering there was going to be a 12" iPad? So, there looks to be a 12" panel in enough quantities among Apple's suppliers to generate rumors of either a 12" iPad or a 12" Mac laptop. It makes more sense to me that the 12" panel if for an iPad Pro, replacing the 11" model. The 10.8" panel for the iPad Air successor is going to be really close to the 11" model and maybe Apple wants to go bigger to further differentiate it with a 10.8" iPad.

    I basically think a 12" laptop is doomed to failure because it's too small of a display for modern WIMP UI workflows. OEMs keep trying, but there isn't any staying power for small screened laptop models. Eventually, all Chromebooks will be 13" laptops too. Just waiting on component prices to go down enough.
    Not sure about that. The 11 inch MBA was a great little device and quite popular and completely outclassed the wildly popular netbooks of the time, but no doubt was surpassed by the iconic 13 inch MBA. I think what caused the 12 inch rMB to be a market failure was a bad combination of only one port and a high price so it was outsold by the ageing MBA. Maybe an internal ARM chip would at least help the price problem.
    edited June 2020 williamlondonraoulduke42watto_cobraaegean
  • Reply 6 of 25
    I use my 12-inch MacBook for writing, so, though I’m super-interested in an ARM-based replacement, my ability to purchase one is 100% dependent on the availability of Scrivener (ARM) for macOS.
    I don't know anything about Scrivener, but I happened to notice there is an iPad (ARM) version. Wouldn't an iPad Pro with the new Magic Keyboard work, or is there a feature difference with the macOS version that makes it a problem?
    svanstromraoulduke42watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 25
    ne1ne1 Posts: 66member
    Of course it’s going to be the 12 inch MacBook first. People have been speculating on that for awhile and it makes total sense. Nothing new here. 
    williamlondonaderutterwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 25
    jdwjdw Posts: 1,002member
    LOL.  Apple discontinued the 12" MacBook.  So to refresh that and make that resurrected model the ONLY ARM Mac wouldn't do much.  It could be that most Mac users would just shun the machine, ultimately leading Apple to return to Intel again.  To truly make the switch to ARM would need to be done across the entire Mac line in a way that was done in the past when Apple switched from 68K to PPC, or when they switched from PPC to Intel.  A one-machine stepping stone switch would probably be a lot lot that TouchBar, which isn't on every Mac and where many Mac users are saying, "do we really need this?"

    Another consideration is the Mac Pro.  Even 3 years from now, would Apple's ARM chip really be powerful enough to transition the Mac Pro to ARM?  If not, would you end up with the iMac, MBP, MB Air, MB, and Mac Mini being ARM while the Mac Pro remains Intel?  How strange and odd that would be!  It would seem to make a whole lot more sense to switch from Intel to Ryzen.
    macpluspluswilliamlondonentropyswatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 25
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 2,557member
    jdw said:
    LOL.  Apple discontinued the 12" MacBook.  So to refresh that and make that resurrected model the ONLY ARM Mac wouldn't do much.  It could be that most Mac users would just shun the machine, ultimately leading Apple to return to Intel again.  To truly make the switch to ARM would need to be done across the entire Mac line in a way that was done in the past when Apple switched from 68K to PPC, or when they switched from PPC to Intel.  A one-machine stepping stone switch would probably be a lot lot that TouchBar, which isn't on every Mac and where many Mac users are saying, "do we really need this?"

    Another consideration is the Mac Pro.  Even 3 years from now, would Apple's ARM chip really be powerful enough to transition the Mac Pro to ARM?  If not, would you end up with the iMac, MBP, MB Air, MB, and Mac Mini being ARM while the Mac Pro remains Intel?  How strange and odd that would be!  It would seem to make a whole lot more sense to switch from Intel to Ryzen.
    100% This.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 10 of 25
    svanstromsvanstrom Posts: 702member
    jdw said:
    LOL.  Apple discontinued the 12" MacBook.  So to refresh that and make that resurrected model the ONLY ARM Mac wouldn't do much.
    It actually makes sense to do it that way.

    If Apple went straight to replacing all computers it'd be a Catch-22 situation, with the users ending up with the hardware before the developers have had a first batch of hardware to actually port/develop software for the users to use; and if Apple replaced a current product line it'd make the current users/fans of that product upset… so… By going with a new/revived line it'd be the closest thing they could get to a fresh start, where the early adopters actually know that they are in for a type of limited preview of the future.

    (Then again, depending on where they actually intend to take things with MacOS/ARM they could also just release MacOS/ARM as an iPad Pro-app for developers.)
    tmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 25
    TRAGTRAG Posts: 33member
    entropys said:
    Will it have at least two ports though?
    This is my question too. I am not a power user and like small, thin and light technology that is well designed. I am an iPad Air user for instance. I would be all over a 12 inch arm MacBook but I frequently have 2 to 4 peripherals plugged into my current MacBook Pro during the working day. Just one more port would allow me to use an external monitor and one peripheral/the laptop charger without cluttering my desk with a dock or hub, which would be enough. Totally personal use case of course but I expect it would affect a few people.

    I also agree with your statement about the small screens being popular and the price being the issue for the intel 12 inch MacBook. In London I saw plenty of 11 inch MacBook Airs back in the day and plenty of 12 inch MacBooks still. I posit that they would have been more popular if they had not started with a 256 GB SSD (which I think is the correct starting amount of storage but increased the price a lot back then) and so been priced above the old Air.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 25
    kpomkpom Posts: 655member
    The 12” MacBook was and is my favorite Mac of all time. I still use my 2017 12” daily even though I also have a 2020 MacBook Pro. If they make the 12” a little thicker to accommodate a “magic keyboard” and a 2nd USB-C port (hopefully USB-4), I think it would be a success this time around. Apple is missing a true ultraportable from their current lineup, and the more efficient ARM designs should let them bring one back without all the compromises of the Intel Y-series chip.
    williamlondonentropysMisterKitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 25
    henrybayhenrybay Posts: 144member
    No, no, no! Please don’t bring back the butterfly keyboard again - even in a 12 inch MacBook. The thought of it is just too horrible to contemplate. 
  • Reply 14 of 25
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,580member
    First ARM MacBook should be 14” screen MBA. If MBP carries ARM than even better. Now a days, not sure people care to use laptop with smaller screen like 12”, not a good fit for productivity. 
  • Reply 15 of 25
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 858member
    With absolute certainty I'd guarantee every developer with iPad apps will be looking to add support for an ARM Mac. 

    I can't imagine that Apple would create a system that wouldn't make the transition from iPadOS to an ArmOS particularly difficult. 

    But, particularly difficult for Apple is how to fit an ARM Mac within its constellation of products. It has to have the power and feature set of an Intel Mac, without unduly cannibalizing its iPad line. That's the issue I will be focusing on if this comes to pass.

    Will the Arm MAC compete with Chrome? This seems to be a market Apple is missing. 
    edited June 2020 entropyswatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 25
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,826member
    larryjw said:
    With absolute certainty I'd guarantee every developer with iPad apps will be looking to add support for an ARM Mac. 

    I can't imagine that Apple would create a system that wouldn't make the transition from iPadOS to an ArmOS particularly difficult. 

    But, particularly difficult for Apple is how to fit an ARM Mac within its constellation of products. It has to have the power and feature set of an Intel Mac, without unduly cannibalizing its iPad line. That's the issue I will be focusing on if this comes to pass.

    Will the Arm MAC compete with Chrome? This seems to be a market Apple is missing. 
    Most iOS/iPadOS developers already can develop for the Mac from the same project. Only those with a heavy investment in 3rd-party ARM libraries currently have an issue and most of those aren’t writing real native Apps (which shouldn’t be approved).
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 25
    larryjw said:
    With absolute certainty I'd guarantee every developer with iPad apps will be looking to add support for an ARM Mac. 

    I can't imagine that Apple would create a system that wouldn't make the transition from iPadOS to an ArmOS particularly difficult. 

    But, particularly difficult for Apple is how to fit an ARM Mac within its constellation of products. It has to have the power and feature set of an Intel Mac, without unduly cannibalizing its iPad line. That's the issue I will be focusing on if this comes to pass.

    Will the Arm MAC compete with Chrome? This seems to be a market Apple is missing. 
    ArmOS? The iPad is Arm. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 25
    anomeanome Posts: 1,465member
    I remember when the 12" MacBook came out, it was rumoured then that it was going to eventually be converted to an ARM based device. They were just getting the basic design and feature set out there, and in a couple of generations, they'd announce it was running an ARM processor rather than Intel.

    This rumour seems like a continuation of that idea. It's not a bad idea, but I'd have thought they'd keep the Intel based ones available until the ARM ones were ready.

    My personal opinion, which, as usual, no-one has asked for, in keeping with my Pro-as-a-Services ideas is that the new Mac announced at WWDC will be a variant of the iMac, iMac Pro, or Mac Pro with a much beefier ARM based chip in place of the T-series, that not only does the system management and security roles of the T-series, but also allows for emulation of a fully ARM based Mac, even if only as part of the XCode environment. The reason is to get developers working with an ARM based environment now, so when the consumer hardware ships, they are ready.


    And, as I have said before, I expect the new ARM processor will become the standard across the line, with some machines losing the x86 processor all together, and others (the "Pro" machines) keeping it for certain processes - like the add-in GPUs are now. (Low end Macs rely on the Intel graphics, higher end have the add-ins.)

    As usual, I have no inside information, no contacts at Apple or in their supply chain, and will probably be proven wrong.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 25
    anome said:

    And, as I have said before, I expect the new ARM processor will become the standard across the line, with some machines losing the x86 processor all together, and others (the "Pro" machines) keeping it for certain processes - like the add-in GPUs are now. (Low end Macs rely on the Intel graphics, higher end have the add-ins.)

    x86 is what's holding the Mac back. It's the reason too many developers don't develop native apps for the Mac platform. This has become less of an issue over the years now that Apple commands a lions share of the profit in the mobile space. Developers can of course stick with Windows as the Mac moves to ARM but I suspect Apple may be able to produce compelling platform that will become increasingly difficult to ignore once it's tied in with 100 of million of iPhone and iPads, which are computers.

    If Apple choose to stick with INTEL in any way it's difficult to see how the relationship would be mutually beneficial.\ after Apple moves to ARM. One thing that not going to happen is two competing CPUs in the same products unless it's just an add-on component (daughter card) in the MacPro.

    I suspect we're in for a doozy of a surprise and it won't be some half-ass move or they would have just gone with AMD until INTEL got its shit together.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 25
    uffenmanuffenman Posts: 41member
    There is without any doubt a definite market for the 12" MacBook. This market is highly mobile, application non-intensive, and primarily does most work on email/web. That could be an executive, mid-manager, student or ex-tech exec turned landlord like me. Regardless....the quest for a small sexy laptop has always been Jobs' desire and Cook won't let that die. I adore my 12" MacBook, sans keyboard issues. If they fix that I'll buy the replacement; however, I will not buy a 13" MBA. ARM chips would allow Apple to make a simple lightweight laptop for students and CRUSH the ChromeBook competition. Think about it. With Email, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, & Safari.....what else would a K-12 student need? I'm not saying that is the 12" MacBook, but clearly there is a market and that will be a sweet spot for the ARM chip to be aimed at.
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