Why the next Mac processor transition won’t be like the last two

“This week’s report from Bloomberg that Apple is planning on moving the Mac to its own chips starting in 2020 is the culmination of years of growing speculation about the future of the Mac,” Jason Snell writes for Macworld.

“If Apple begins a chip transition for the Mac in 2020, it’ll be 14 years since the previous transition, meaning that Apple will have kept the Intel architecture longer than either of the previous ones. But today’s Apple and Mac don’t remotely resemble their equivalents in 1994 and 2006,” Snell writes. “That calls into question whether we’re about to witness another measured, orderly change in Mac processors, or something much weirder.”

“It sure seems to me that Apple is moving forward on many fronts to unify as much of its technology as possible,” Snell writes. “Even if macOS and iOS don’t ever unify, exactly, it’s clear that in the next decade they’re going to converge in all sorts of ways we might not have expected.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Kalamata is renowned for olives and Marzipan is used to make small confections or as icing for larger cakes, so clearly Apple is making an olive cake with almond icing.

As we wrote back in January 2015:

There is no reason why Apple could not offer both A-series-powered Macs and Intel-based Macs. The two are not mutually exclusive…

iOS devices and OS X Macs inevitably are going to grow closer over time, not just in hardware, but in software, too:

Think code convergence (more so than today) with UI modifications per device. A unified underlying codebase for Intel, Apple A-series, and, in Apple’s labs, likely other chips, too (just in case). This would allow for a single App Store for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users that features a mix of apps: Some that are touch-only, some that are Mac-only, and some that are universal (can run on both traditional notebooks and desktops as well as on multi-touch computers like iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and – pretty please, Apple – Apple TV). Don’t be surprised to see Apple A-series-powered Macs, either.MacDailyNews Take, January 9, 2014

SEE ALSO:
Apple’s ‘Kalamata’ project will move Macs from Intel to Apple A-series processors – April 2, 2018
Apple plans on dumping Intel for its own chips in Macs as early as 2020 – April 2, 2018
Apple is working to unite iOS and macOS; will they standardize their chip platform next? – December 21, 2017
Why Apple would want to unify iOS and Mac apps in 2018 – December 20, 2017
Apple to provide tool for developers build cross-platform apps that run on iOS and macOS in 2018 – December 20, 2017
The once and future OS for Apple – December 8, 2017
Apple ships more microprocessors than Intel – October 2, 2017
Apple embarrasses Intel – June 14, 2017
Apple developing new chip for Macintosh in test of Intel independence – February 1, 2017
Apple’s A10 Fusion chip ‘blows away the competition,’ could easily power MacBook Air – Linley Group – October 21, 2016
Ming-Chi Kuo: Apple to unveil new 13-inch MacBook, 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros at ‘hello again’ special event – October 22, 2016
What to expect from Apple’s ‘hello again’ special Mac event – October 21, 2016
What Apple’s new MacBook Pro might have learned from iPhones and iPads – October 21, 2016
It’s official: Apple sends invitations for ‘hello again’ event on October 27th – October 19, 2016
Get ready, Apple’s new Macs are finally set to arrive! – October 19, 2016
All-new MacBook Pro, refreshed MacBook Air and iMac, and more coming at Apple’s October 27th special event – October 19, 2016
Apple plans to launch new Macs at special event on October 27th – October 18, 2016
macOS Sierra code suggests Apple could dump Intel processors in Macs for Apple A-series chips – September 30, 2016
Apple’s A10 Fusion chip miracle – September 20, 2016
The iPhone’s new A10 Fusion chip should worry Intel – September 16, 2016
Apple’s remarkable new A10, S2, W1 chips alter the semiconductor landscape – September 15, 2016

28 Comments

  1. This is yet another example of Apple shamelessly mimicking others: confectionary code-names, pioneered by Android. Yes – all the tech outfits do the same – but Apple is blatant in their disingenuous claims of originality. Another example is their egregious over-the-top dancing adverts, first done, and better, by Microsoft. I guess good artists copy; great artists steal, eh?

  2. Still think assuming they will use A series ARM processors is getting ahead of the facts and possibilities.
    Apple could do it’s own version of an x86 or x86 compatible chipset. They have enough engineering talent- or used to- to do something of that nature.

    1. I think the Mac line get bifurcated. Intel stays in desktop Macs and Macbook Pros (and maybe they get more Pro). ARM goes into the lightweight, non-Pro, Macbooks. No way Apple dumps x86 chips for heavy productivity Macs. Primarily due to legacy software.

  3. If Apple goes A Series with their new generation of Macs’ I’ll wait to see how it affects software before making the jump.

    So far, every application that Apple has made “more compatible” with iOS has ended up weaker as a result.

  4. I also wonder what it could mean for the use of Virtual Machines with other operating systems. If you remember, virtualizing before the move to Intel on the Mac was very slow. If you absolutely must use Windows for some applications, how well will virtualization, like Parallels, make the transition?

    1. To be a true Apple fanboy, you would never ask that question. You would just assume that whatever Apple does must be best for you. Just look at all the overwhelming evidence lately that shows Apple gives a shit about Mac users or the concept of PERSONAL COMPUTING at all. The race to make all software subscription based is plainly obvious, Apple is just running on Tim Cook pace, years behind other software makers.

    2. This is an easy question to answer. Yes, you will have to get new software, but most of it will come in the form of auto-updates of your existing apps through the App Store (well before any hardware switch happens).

      The question that tickles me is: For apps that you already have the iOS version of, do you automatically get this universal version that runs on Mac, and vise versa? Some apps are currently available on both platforms (look at Omni apps, Office, Pixelmator, …) at different price points.

      1. It’s important to note that developers could end up charging for the required new version of their apps in the app store.

        Conversely, many apps, especially large expensive suites from Adobe and Microsoft are now subscription based (or mixed). For anyone who is renting their software, as much as we may hate that, the one benefit is that updates won’t cost anything.

        1. The updates will cost you something, the very next month.

          Seriously, the main thing I hate about subscription software is that the moment you stop paying for it, you can’t use your data anymore.

          That’s why I’m stuck (happily) at PS CS 6, Framemaker 9, and Eagle 1.7. Refuse to give up on all the data I’ve created with these programs in the off chance I don’t want to subscribe anymore.

          1. The point is that under a subscription model, the updates won’t cost you anything extra above what you’re already paying.

            Look, I much prefer purchasing rather than renting software as well, but instead of going full jihad about it, it’s worth noting that there are some benefits to subscription models, and required updates for compatibility are one area where there’s a benefit.

            In this specific context, look at what may happen if Apple moves to architecture requiring major compatibility updates like what we experienced with previous major transitions. Back then, anyone owning Adobe Creative (equivalent) or Microsoft Office would’ve have to pay to upgrade if they wanted native apps on the newer OS/architecture.

            This was a huge issue during the transition because it meant both development delays, and hundreds/thousands of dollars in upgrade costs per user.

            As much as we hate subscriptions, the fact remains that many of us have been forced to switch over to them or at least strongly incentivized for the larger applications.

            As a result, the issue of a major transition is much less impacted by individual costs of software upgrades.

            “That’s why I’m stuck (happily) at PS CS 6, Framemaker 9, and Eagle 1.7.”

            Yeah, I hold off as much as possible as well. The bigger issue for me is that while I need Photoshop, I don’t need the more recent crap they’ve added in the past decade or so. So the math really doesn’t work in my favor in terms of buying versus renting. Unfortunately, compatibility issues are likely going to result in needing to transition soon (as in this year).

  5. I seem to remember it being said and probably including MDN that they could produce both Power PC and Intel Macs, that didn’t last long. There will be a transition period and probably a long one for the Pro Macs but I suspect transition it will be just the time span is in question. One question will be if Apple starts to abandon Intel what sort of deals they will get on Chips both numbers and Intel’s impetus to Give them any priority will come into play.

  6. The Mac is dead. The PC as we know it is dead in general. Apple’s shift to ARM is just another harbinger. Apple knows that it doesn’t matter in terms of their products if they go to ARM but they could save $500 million dollars per year if they do.

    If you take the ongoing shift to cloud based computing, the myriad of clues that Apple has been tossing out there, the shift from Windows to mobile OS dominance in the world, Apple’s shift to ARM instead of Intel, Apple’s push of iOS over the MacOS, the coming blending of iOS and Mac OS and ever smaller and thinner devices, you’ll see it.

    Computing is shifting to the Internet. The model will be powerful local display devices that excel at presentation, while the bulk of actual computing will take place in the cloud, or as the saying goes, on someone else’s computer.

    Yes, there will continue to be small apps built to run natively on local devices, but again, most of those will just be front-end user interfaces to web services.

    Even large enterprise IT is shifting to software as a service. The IT professional won’t be rebuilding operating systems, writing the scripts and apps that glue their organization together, or swapping out system boards in the back room anymore, they will be acting as a concierge between their enterprise users and cloud services.

    And this is what Apple is preparing for and has been heading toward forever.

    And where does that leave us? It leaves us with Fischer-Price like devices that do previously unimaginable things all in the palms of our hands.

    We’ve been headed here since Apple published the first Knowledge Navigator concept video. We’ve been headed here since Tim Berners-Lee sat down at his NeXT computer and created the Web.

    “The Network Is the Computer.”
    – Scott McNealy

    • I’ve always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do.
    — Steve Jobs, October 12, 2004

    • In order to build the best products, you have to own the primary technologies. Steve felt that if Apple could do that — make great products and great tools for people — they, in turn, would do great things. He felt strongly that this would be his contribution to the world at large. We still very much believe that. That’s still the core of this company.
    — Apple CEO Tim Cook, March 18, 2015

    “I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore? No really, why would you buy one?”
    – Tim Cook

    “What’s A Computer?”
    – Apple iPad Ad, 2018

    1. Yawn.. The first of the myriad clues appeared in 1983: the original Macintosh, a sealed unit marketed as the computer “for the rest of us.” The computer world’s despised Minimalism and Hipsterism were born then: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Steve Jobs openly talked about the appeal of appliances — machines with dead-simple user controls masking their inner complexity. Funny, nobody bitches about the invention of the integrated circuit, or of VLSI, or of the microprocessor, all steps on the slippery slope to a dumbed-down, spoilt population of tech consumers and a hoarding of arcane electrical knowledge by a tiny cabal of elitist engineers.

    2. “What’s A Computer?”
      – Apple iPad Ad, 2018

      So the iPad is NOT a computer?

      That will be the day I create in the cloud on a computer out in cyberspace and rent my software. No thanks, our IT dept. would never allow it. So, the resistance has begun …

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