Apple Reportedly Planning ARM-powered Mac for 2021

Posted on February 24, 2020 by Mehedi Hassan in Apple, Hardware, Mac and macOS with 32 Comments

Apple Updates New MacBook, But Doesn't Address Biggest Issues

Apple has been rumored to be working on an ARM-powered Mac device for a long time. And with the company slowly merging iOS apps with Mac apps, it’s no surprise that we could be getting a new ARM-powered Mac soon.

Well, as it turns out, we may get to see a Mac powered by Apple’s own ARM processor in the first half of 2021.

According to a new report from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via 9to5Mac), Apple is reportedly planning to release its first Mac device with an ARM processor in the first half of next year. The company has reportedly been “more aggressive” with funding for R&D and production of 5nm process chips recently, which could potentially power the first ARM-powered Mac device.

Apple switching to ARM processors for the Mac will be a big deal. The company will obviously have to get developers ready for the new ARM device, which will be an interesting process considering the fact that Microsoft is essentially doing the same nowadays with Windows on ARM.

It will probably be years before we see an ARM-powered MacBook Pro, so maybe Apple will put an ARM processor on the regular MacBook line to test the waters next year. Details are very scarce right now, so I’d take all this with a grain of salt.

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Comments (32)

32 responses to “Apple Reportedly Planning ARM-powered Mac for 2021”

  1. t-b.c

    Would this lower the cost of the Mac? Improve performance? Increase battery life? What is motivating Apple to go this route? OS stability and speed?

  2. nbplopes

    This is gonna flop just like the MacBook.There is Apple interest and Professional/Dev interest.

    1) As one of the later having a common CPU between Windows and macOS it’s a value that you better have a really, really strong value proposition to trade.

    2) MacBook sales aren’t really that strong. Apple as failed to leverage iPhone and iPad sales to boost Mac sales. Meaning the market is not really that interesting. On the other hand check the stale Windows app market.

    3) Considering Apple status at the moment as a predatory business after third party dev business, don’t see devs flocking to a new Apple platform soon helping them move forward.

    On other words. Don’t see the stars aligned for this to be very successful.

    This is. It say that they won’t sell some units of this comes to light.

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to nbplopes:

      1) Similar performance, much longer battery life, and/or thinner and lighter with smaller batteries; that's your value proposition.

      2) MacBooks sales are whatever they are, and they will keep selling enough of them for Apple to justify staying in the laptop market. However, they'll make a lot more money by reducing the bill of materials by $300 for every MacBook they sell by ditching Intel. The CPU in the MacBook Air lists for $281.00 - $393.00 on Intel's site. Who know what Apple actually pays, but switching to a custom SoC will save them a ton of money. They could use that to hit lower price points, or just pocket it.

    • Andi

      In reply to nbplopes:

      What does that say about Apple's PCs if they need Windows for extra validation? Macos, be it ARM, must stand on its own two feet. Also with mobile ios/ipados apps coming you can bet that Apple will lock macos. No more 3rd party installations, no more Steam and other 3rd party app stores.

      I see it as a welcome test. Ios devs will stil need macos and they will be the first purchasers of ARM macs whether they like it or not. People used with Apple's pro apps again will also transition. Plus, history has shown that mac users are willing to sacrifice comfort just for the privilege to use Apple's solutions.

    • wright_is

      In reply to nbplopes:

      This has more to do with Intel's perceived falling star. They are years behind in processor development. They are still on 17nm and 14nm fabs and struggling to get to 10nm production online, whereas the opposition is already producing in volume on 7nm. Intel is also having problems delivering processors in large volumes at the moment, due to the problems getting the 10nm process working properly.

      For PC makers and Microsoft, they are looking more and more at AMD and as a side line ARM, to try and remain competitive, while waiting for Intel to get back in the game.

      Apple already has its own processor design studio, so it makes sense for them to use more ARM where possible - fewer royalties to Intel and less dependence on a third party supplier - and they can tailor the processor to their needs, as opposed to an on-the-shelf product from Intel.

  3. glenn8878

    Apple will show Microsoft how it should be done. (1) No gimped OS. (2) Compatible with all existing software. (3) Adequate app transition. (4) Familiar look and feel. Microsoft only has one more year before it's effort will be considered obsolete and 5 years behind. Then Ballmer laughed.

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to glenn8878:

      (1) Mac OS is "gimped" in all sorts of ways. Only runs on Apple hardware. Like Windows on ARM, it's also not compatible with legacy (Windows) applications. (2) It won't be. It'll be compatible in the same way that iPad is compatible with iPhone apps! But really, it'll be compatible the same was Windows on ARM is compatible with Win32 apps. It'll be Rosetta all over again. (3) Apple software developers are far more devoted to the platform than Windows developers are, for sure. (4) It'll be the exact same OS X that Apple has been incrementally improving for the last 20 years. Nothing new to see at all.

      • glenn8878

        In reply to MikeCerm:

        I disagree with "Only runs on Apple hardware." as if this means it's gimped. We'll have to wait and see how compatible Mac software is to the new ARM hardware. Full compatibility was how Mac made the transition from PowerPC to Intel. I expect Apple to succeed from Intel to ARM even if it requires emulation, which I think it will be. Apple will just make it's own ARM chips powerful enough to handle it, which is why "Only runs on Apple hardware" is actually an advantage. Windows on ARM running on a special Qualcomm chip won't be nearly as competitive and absolutely not even compatible with Win32. They aren't in the same ballpark playing the same game.

  4. jimchamplin

    New thought. What would the branding be? Personally I don’t care for “MacBook,” though I doubt at this point they’ll change it.

    Let’s have some fun though. Sorry, not sorry, I’m going for Powerbook!

  5. bnyklue

    If Apple succeeds with this, it will just further embarrass Microsoft and the the pathetic Windows on ARM experiment.

  6. wright_is

    Apple has the advantage that they already did this in reverse, going from PowerPC to Intel, they re-defined executables to have 2 resource branches, one for PowerPC and one for Intel in the same file. That meant that the code for both were included automatically. You could manually strip out the resource forks you didn't need (PowerPC, French, Spanish, whatever) to save space.

    Using this technique, it should be easy enough to get new software dual-compiled for ARM and Intel. Legacy software, like the move from PowerPC to Intel, will be the problem, although they solved that with Rosetta.

    I suspect sprawling packages, like Adobe's Creative Suite, which probably still has a lot of code that pre-dates Xcode would be hard, if nigh on impossible to do this way. Either only newer applications would be available in ARM or none. They would probably have to look at re-writing the core of many of their applications from scratch.

    The same would be true of a lot of high end software, that crawls on a MacBook and needs either a MacBook Pro or a Mac Pro to really shine, there would be little point in making cross-compiled versions available, at least in the beginning.

    The question will be just how good the ARM chips are at real multi-tasking, once they get on a Mac, as opposed to the restricted execution on iOS. The Raspberry Pi has shown that a basic desktop with limited multi-media needs can run on ARM, but it isn't something for power users. But that is a very low end chip, on a platform designed to teach kids about computing, as opposed to grown-ups using as a desktop replacement. The Apple chips are several orders of magnitude more powerful, but how well they compare to laptop and desktop chips from Intel and AMD remains to be seen. Will they be like the Qualcomm 8CX or the Microsoft/Qualcomm hybrid, which are fast enough for the basics, as long as you are running native software, or will they be a real competitor to the Intel Core chips?

    I think, if Apple do release such a device, it will have to at least provide the level of performance of a MacBook Core i3, otherwise it won't be worth the effort - this is possibly why the "release" never quite happens, the ARM is "almost, but not quite" up to the performance of existing Intel chips and the Intel chips are an annually moving goalpost as well...

  7. PeterC

    This will sell bucket loads and drive a shed load of iCloud app based service revenues too.

    The big question for me will be where the device gets manufactured. My hunch is in India.

  8. red.radar

    So this would be an iPad Pro with a fixed keyboard?

    I am assuming it will run iOS apps... and that will be pitched as the way to gap fill lack of functionality..

    will this be a gateway device to say consumers should run iOS and prosumers run macOS ?

    would be an exciting product to spill ink over

  9. Jhambi

    The A series chips have performed better than snapdragon so this should be interesting. A series also means no bootcamp for windows on arm.

  10. j_c

    Copy and paste. How many more years are we going to see this prediction until it actually happens?

  11. lvthunder

    I'll wait for a product announcement before I care one way or the other.

  12. jimchamplin

    Not looking forward to yet another damn architectural transition.

    Maybe I’ll just go back to PowerPC :)

    • BigM72

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      I have a feeling you'll barely notice it with Apple.

      Apple first-party apps, Adobe, Microsoft will all be on board no doubt and all the iPad apps coming too.

      This will likely also be slow transition - starting with the thinnest and lightest laptop, the performance PCs will still be Intel for a while.

      • jimchamplin

        In reply to BigM72:

        I've been through the 68K to PPC transition, the OS 9 to OS X transition, and the PPC to Intel transition. The last of those was the most annoying to me. I expect it to be at least as annoying. It's not annoying to those who can afford to replace their hardware, of course. But it is for those who can't. :)

        The other side of this is that I don't expect Apple to transition the pro systems to ARM. The Macbook Air, sure. Nobody will take an ARM Mac Pro seriously, and therefore x64 builds of macOS will continue to be released and I can use tools to install new versions after my system becomes "unsupported."

        Or they could decide to roll with AMD and all of this handwringing is for nothing :D

        Any way it goes, it's time for a newer Power Macintosh. What's the newest one that can boot Mac OS 9.2.2... Hmmm...

        • wright_is

          In reply to jimchamplin:
          Macbook Air, sure. Nobody will take an ARM Mac Pro seriously

          At first, sure. ARM will have to prove itself in the mobile arena first. But if it does put on a good show (probably generation 3 or 4), it might be viable. But certainly on day-1, it won't be taken seriously. The Xeons are orders of magnitude more powerful than ARM currently.

          • jimchamplin

            In reply to wright_is:

            You have a point. I thought not long after posting about how the current phone silicon is whipping notebook CPUs from Intel.

            Then I considered what it would mean if you took away the thermal and energy conservation constraints.

            What would a 24-core “M3” with a 125W TDP be capable of?

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