Tim Cook's Apple Silicon transition follows Steve Jobs' Intel shift script

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 2020
Apple's Tim Cook and Steve Jobs brought different presentation styles to their Apple Silicon and Intel Mac transition announcements using the same playbook, and both had to achieve exactly the same results.

Tim Cook (left) and Steve Jobs
Tim Cook (left) and Steve Jobs


We've previously recommended that watching the WWDC 2020 keynote is a good idea, both because it's an excellent roundup of what's happening -- and because it was just so very well done. However, there is one section that is likely to get viewed over and over again, and long after 2020 is behind us.

It's the final segment of the show, starting at one hour and 26 minutes in to the presentation. This is where Tim Cook sells us all on the move away from Intel. It's as deftly done as the rest of the presentation, and it easily replaced the phrase "ARM Mac" with "Apple Silicon."

The reasons it will get rewatched are the same as the ones for why Steve Jobs's 2005 announcement about moving to Intel are.

Both Cook and Jobs had to convey a technically quite complex issue -- compare a processor transition to the launch of new emoji -- and one that is crucial to the company. It's a transition that will see hardware sales drop for a time, but it is also one that could potentially see developers abandoning the Mac.

These presentations have to sell us on the transition, they have to make us think it's essential, that it's for our benefit -- and that it will be easy.

In one corner, Steve Jobs with his famous on-stage presence, his salesman skill that has had books written about it. And in the other corner, Tim Cook, highly respected but not especially known for that same kind of attention-grabbing presentation. It's not as if he's Steve Balmer, but he's not Steve Jobs either.


By the numbers

Steve Jobs was presenting WWDC 2005, on June 6, at the Moscone Center, San Francisco. "Now, let's go to a big topic," he said, after detailing Mac OS X Tiger.

"Let's talk about transitions," he continued. "The Mac in its history has had two major transitions so far, right? The first one: 68k to PowerPC. And that transition happened about ten years ago in the mid 90s. I wasn't there then, but the team did a great job from everything I hear."

It was the last item in the presentation, and Jobs took us through the news of the transition, plus specifics of its timetable, in about 40 minutes. That included bringing four guest presenters on stage, including ones from Microsoft and Adobe.

Flashforward 15 years and Tim Cook was on video at WWDC 2020, on June 22, recorded at an empty Steve Jobs Theater in Apple Park. "Today is going to be a truly historic day for the Mac," he began. "Today we're going to tell you about some really big changes, how we're going to take the Mac to a whole new level."

Cook took us through the news of the transition, the unveiling of the name Apple Silicon, and on through some broad timetable details, in about 22 minutes. That included bringing three other presenters in, though they were all from Apple.

They did also tell us, though, about how Microsoft and Adobe had already made the transition.

The big sell

It's curious how Cook used more hyperbole than Jobs, using phrases like "historic" and "whole new level," where the 2005 presentation was actually a bit lower-key. In 2005, the showman Jobs wanted to show that this was a necessary move, and that Apple was going to easily take it in its stride.

Jobs explained how move was essential for the future of the Mac, then he did the trick of revealing that the Mac he'd been using throughout the presentation was an Intel one. Finally, he demonstrated the Rosetta software that would mean people could use their older apps, and extolled developers to get to work with the new Developer Transition Kit.

Back in 2005, two years before the iPhone launched, the Mac was more important to Apple than it is now. Jobs wanted people to be excited by the move, he wanted to attract users back to the Mac, but overall he wanted this to be seen as close to being business as usual as he could. Apple was doing this because it was necessary, and because it would bring us clear benefits.




In 2020, Cook sounded more like he needed to drum up excitement. Apple can now afford to take a hit in its hardware sales if people stop buying while they wait for the new Macs. But he wants them waiting, he wants them waiting and then eagerly buying. He doesn't want people to drift off to the PC.

So he did make more of a drumroll about it. Although, just the fact that the coronavirus lockdown means that this was all on video instead of on stage did give it an extra urgency, and extra push.

What Cook ultimately had to achieve, though, was precisely -- precisely -- what Jobs had needed do to do.

Cook covered exactly the same ground, talking about the performance benefits, conveying how a major change like this was just business as usual for Apple. He covered why moving to Apple Silicon was essential and he extolled developers to get the new Developer Transition Kit.

And this time it was Craig Federighi who got to pull the stunt of revealing that the Mac we'd seen used for demos earlier in the keynote was an Apple Silicon one.

Is Tim Cook sincere, or praying?
Is Tim Cook sincere, or praying?

It worked

Apple's move from PowerPC to Intel worked. That's undeniable on any level from technological to straight marketing. Apple made that giant move -- which Microsoft has never managed -- and made it so smoothly that we think it was easy.

We can't know yet whether Tim Cook, or the Apple of 2020, can make the ARM move so successfully. But crucial to both transitions was the need to get developers and customers on board.

In 2005, Jobs did that by laying out the plan, the road map, and sticking to it. Apple actually completed its transition far faster than expected, but faster is fine, slower is not. Apple was clear and Apple delivered.

Right now, we can only know that Apple was clear. We might wish that Cook had told us which Mac was going to get Apple Silicon first, but Jobs didn't tell us that with Intel either.

And just look at that name. No one leaked it, no one expected it, but now everyone uses the phrase "Apple Silicon." Tim Cook announced it and we've all instantly embraced it.

Apple has made the transition sound necessary, and obvious, and even painless. We'll find out just how painless it is eventually, but both Cook and Jobs needed to sell this idea.

And the two very different CEOs did it in remarkably similar ways.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,055member
    The photo of Tim Cook and Steve Jobs appears as if they are brothers. 
    razorpitRayz2016lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 11
    If Apple is following the Intel switchover playbook then that puts the screws to any recent or planned Intel-based Mac purchase. Apple stopped compiling MacOS for PowerPC after just two years of producing the first Intel based Macs. Keep in mind this is during the period when a two year span would have signaled a fairly significant increase in power/capabilities.
    But if this timeframe is applied today, wow, it really will screw recent hardware purchases. Rather than being able to keep on current OSes for 5-7 years (keeping very capable hardware, by any metric, relevant) some may get as few as 2 years.
    I would really appreciate a public commitment by Apple to fully support Intel Macs as the hardware allows (ie fallback gracefully if certain capabilities aren’t possible) for a minimum of 5 years.
  • Reply 3 of 11
    kpomkpom Posts: 653member
    If Apple is following the Intel switchover playbook then that puts the screws to any recent or planned Intel-based Mac purchase. Apple stopped compiling MacOS for PowerPC after just two years of producing the first Intel based Macs. Keep in mind this is during the period when a two year span would have signaled a fairly significant increase in power/capabilities.
    But if this timeframe is applied today, wow, it really will screw recent hardware purchases. Rather than being able to keep on current OSes for 5-7 years (keeping very capable hardware, by any metric, relevant) some may get as few as 2 years.
    I would really appreciate a public commitment by Apple to fully support Intel Macs as the hardware allows (ie fallback gracefully if certain capabilities aren’t possible) for a minimum of 5 years.
    Tim Cook said that they have Intel Macs in the pipeline and that they are “excited about them,” but Jobs said the same thing about PowerPC Macs in 2005. I’m guessing that Tim Cook realizes he’s “Osbourning” Mac sales somewhat, but Apple isn’t as dependent on Macs and can afford a blip. That said, since Intel Macs can always be converted to Windows PCs (or be used to run native x64 Windows) some people might buy the last versions for just that reason. That was not the case with PowerPC Macs, since no other commercially viable OS ran on them.

    Given that Apple has annual OS updates now, I’m guessing that the next 3, and possibly 4 new OS releases will support Intel. The last “new” Intel Mac will probably ship in 2021 (it may just be a Tiger Lake Mac Mini or 16” Pro), and will get at least 2 upgrades.
    mattinozspock1234aderutter
  • Reply 4 of 11
    jdb8167jdb8167 Posts: 621member
    What I’d like to see is Apple extend their macOS schedule to at least 18 months to really nail down the improved quality that is already evident in the first beta of Big Sur. That allows Apple to do less major updates to keep costs down while extending support for Intel Macs for a few extra years. The next macOS version would come at the end of the Intel to Apple Silicon transition. Two more macOS releases after Big Sur would put the Intel end of major update window out to 2025 with the last Intel compatible release around late 2023. Unfortunately this conflicts with things like WWDC. 
  • Reply 5 of 11
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    Tim Cook, highly respected but not especially known for that same kind of attention-grabbing presentation. It's not as if he's Steve Balmer, but he's not Steve Jobs either.
    Sorry, are you saying that Steve Ballmer didn’t deliver attention-grabbing presentations?


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmja_g5h4Fg

    Though he might have been grabbing attention for all the wrong reasons. 

    edited June 2020 spock1234lollivermacplusplusurahara
  • Reply 6 of 11
    I was hell-bent on getting a new 16" MBP the moment they announced a new one. Now I am wondering whether to wait for the machines with Apple Silicon in them. 

    This may be the final push I need to not think about Windows. All these years, I felt secure with the fact that the Mac could boot into Windows if necessary, but it's been at least 3 years since I actually booted into Windows on any of my Macs. 

    If Apple Silicon cannot run Windows in any shape or form, I'll finally let go of the Windows crutch. 
    lollivercat52watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 11
    Rayz2016 said:
    Tim Cook, highly respected but not especially known for that same kind of attention-grabbing presentation. It's not as if he's Steve Balmer, but he's not Steve Jobs either.
    Sorry, are you saying that Steve Balmer didn’t deliver attention-grabbing presentations?


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmja_g5h4Fg

    Though he might have been grabbing attention for all the wrong reasons. 


    It is the Tim Presentation Sandwich - a slice of Tim between 2 Steves!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 11
    rossgggrossggg Posts: 11member
    One HUGE difference that I see with this transition, is that before we were moving from the more obscure PowerPC architecture to the mainstream x86 architecture.  It was opening the Mac platform up to broad and experienced development community, and it made new Macs more versatile in that they could run additional x86 operating systems such as Windows and allowed users to get the best of both worlds: they could own a Mac while still having the ability to use the software they would otherwise miss out on with that platform choice.  That transition shifted it so that buying a Mac came with an additional safety net that allowed it to expand its potential user base.

    This time, however, Apple is moving the platform away from a mainstream architecture and diverging from mainstream personal computing.  Users will likely be more inconvenienced this time around.  Granted, the landscape is a bit different because many Mac developers have been working with Xcode, iOS, and the A-Series chips for quite a bit of time, but not in the ways that desktop and laptop computing stand apart from mobile device computing.  The bottom line is that users will also be loosing the option to boot to another OS and run a lot of applications.  Buying a Mac will simply take a lot more options off of the table with this transition and there won't be a safety net.  The user base is going to shrink.  I already haven't been able to upgrade to the latest macOS on my daily machine because of the dropped 32-bit support.  Loosing Boot Camp and x86 virtualization will make a new Mac purchase pretty much a non-starter for me.
    edited June 2020
  • Reply 9 of 11
    hammeroftruthhammeroftruth Posts: 1,087member
    I can see Microsoft copying Apple and recompiling a full version of Windows to run on non-x86 architecture. 
    They had Windows for PPC ready to go back in the 90’s and suddenly it was abandoned. I don’t know if Intel had any hand in this, but it was fishy for sure. 
    Don’t be surprised if you end up seeing Windows running on Apple silicon courtesy of Microsoft. Especially, if Apple licenses the chip designs. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 11
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,759member
    I can see Microsoft copying Apple and recompiling a full version of Windows to run on non-x86 architecture. 
    They had Windows for PPC ready to go back in the 90’s and suddenly it was abandoned. I don’t know if Intel had any hand in this, but it was fishy for sure. 
    Don’t be surprised if you end up seeing Windows running on Apple silicon courtesy of Microsoft. Especially, if Apple licenses the chip designs. 
    Windows for ARM already exists.  Whether it can be installed on Apple Silicon and how well it would run remain to be seen.
  • Reply 11 of 11
    thttht Posts: 4,041member
    rossggg said:
    This time, however, Apple is moving the platform away from a mainstream architecture and diverging from mainstream personal computing.  Users will likely be more inconvenienced this time around.  Granted, the landscape is a bit different because many Mac developers have been working with Xcode, iOS, and the A-Series chips for quite a bit of time, but not in the ways that desktop and laptop computing stand apart from mobile device computing.  The bottom line is that users will also be loosing the option to boot to another OS and run a lot of applications.  Buying a Mac will simply take a lot more options off of the table with this transition and there won't be a safety net.  The user base is going to shrink.  I already haven't been able to upgrade to the latest macOS on my daily machine because of the dropped 32-bit support.  Loosing Boot Camp and x86 virtualization will make a new Mac purchase pretty much a non-starter for me.
    Yes, Apple Silicon Macs will not run MS Windows, be it in a VM or natively. They will lose buyers who want this functionality, at least in the near term. Apple or someone can provide an x86 PC emulator, but near term, if you need to run MS Windows, getting a PC is the right answer. It was likely the right answer prior to this too.

    It's quite doubtful that this will hurt them whatsoever. It really has no bearing on the success Apple Silicon Macs. The biggest driving factor for its success will be how much more performance and benefits it will provide to buyers. If they pull it off, the potential is taking a bigger chunk of the premium PC market, like the iPhone's chunk of the phone market. If they pull that off, it's going to be a huge payoff for them. It's a fairly modest gain in unit sales though. Something like 10m Macs per quarter.
    watto_cobra
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