The Mac’s transition to Apple processors will be happening sooner than most think

“Like many other Apple watchers, I’m considering this transition a foregone conclusion,” Dan Moren writes for Macworld. “I’ve already put a stake in the ground that Apple will ship a Mac with custom silicon by 2020 at the absolute latest, and I stand by that.”

“The question is: which Mac goes first? There are, to my mind, two major contenders in this space,” Moren writes. “[The 12-inch MacBook] $100 more than the MacBook Air, and doesn’t pack quite the same bang for its buck. (Granted, if you’re looking for thin and light, it still manages to beat out the Air on both those fronts.) Sure seems like the MacBook is due for a refresh, though…and what if that refresh were to headline a transition to an Apple-designed chip?”

“We know little about Apple’s upcoming resurrection of the Mac Pro [due in 2019],” Moren writes. “What if that forthcoming Mac Pro contains a surprise in the form of an Apple-made processor?”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s simply better than little Intel at chip design. We wish we could get an AX12 MacBook today, but we’ll wait a bit more for whatever goodness Apple has on tap.

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  1. The sooner the better. I have never needed Intel compatibility and I would expect that the Mac applications I regularly use would be re-compiled to run natively on an ARM chip.

    I use my Mac a lot, but with the advances made in iPhones and iPads, I now use them to do many tasks that I used to use Macs for. I scarcely need to use a laptop these days. There is clearly some convergence already and I look forward to more convergence in the near future.

    1. All of this would explain a lot of their delays. I would recommend that nobody buy a Mac for the next year or two if you really don’t have to and wait to see if they dump intel.

      Then, all of the Intel based Macs will plummet in value and be antiquated, so save your money and wait if you can… if this is actually happening.

  2. “What if that forthcoming Mac Pro contains a surprise in the form of an Apple-made processor?”

    Somehow I doubt this. After making the pros wait for years for hardware, why would Apple force them to wait for all the professional software they use to be ported to run natively on the new chips? If it comes, Apple will have to smooth the way with something equivalent to Rosetta and tools for developers to port their software with some level of ease. This hardware change won’t come to the high-end Macs first, IMHO.

    1. Totally agree but clearly some form of emulation would be required for some years as and when this happens and I presume thats why the chips will have to be super fast (getting there) to be able to handle the ‘lag’ of whatever solution Apple use here. At the top end that would make the machine as good as useless to pros but at the bottom end if the solution is decent there would be very little to hold back the new devices. especially by 2020 when the A class will be have an even greater lead over the equivalent Intel chips no doubt. And thats assuming that the Apple silicon is A class rather than an even more capable chip based around it.

      1. Yeah, emulation won’t do it. It’s moving backward to a slower solution. Parallels is so fast now that people don’t notice the difference in speed for general use. If I have to tell people that no, you can’t run that one Windows app you need to run, it will slow down Mac acceptance. And there are lots and lots of those one applications. Everything from accounting systems to document management systems to legal office management, medical office management and so on.

        It then becomes a question of why pay a premium for the Mac just because its a bit easier to use? No one is going to seriously look at iOS. So Windows starts to look better and better. All Windows from top to bottom.

        Virtualization sticks a finger in the dike preventing a flood of Mac abandonment.

        In addition, developers, tech people, network designers, and security people love the Mac because of cleans, easy, fast virtualization. I can boot multiple operating systems individually on my MacBook Pro, or bring up the macOS, plus Windows and LINUX in virtualization.

        It’s so cool. I can have a LINUX/Apache web server running and testing code under Windows, Linux, and MacOS.

        To take all of this away would be SO APPLE. They never, ever, ever think about people who use these machines to get work done. All they seem to think about is who’s watching a stupid car karaoke video.

        Not to mention the few good games that make it over to the Mac.

        And then there’s the high end PRO creative apps that make use of Intel characteristics for performance enhancements and such. It could be years before those apps make it to an A series Mac.

        So I hope you’re right, that it’s about the low end. Though even the low end will be effected. If you can live with Pages, KeyNote, and Numbers, you’re golden.

        I’m going to start looking for lots of Mac based replacement software. Like everyone is saying, the writing appears to be on the wall. Most new vertical market software is going up in the cloud these days anyway.

        1. Few years back, I would have agreed with you. But with today’s processors with multi-cores, I‘m not sure. Some programmers are claiming Java runs faster than C/C++ programs (ok, maybe for programmers who don’t know how to optimize their code). JVM beating native executable was unthinkable in the past. JVM implements JIT compilation, like Rosetta did. Once compiled, the program can run almost as fast as native. With multi-core, one thread can compile and another core can run the program. So for single threaded programs the difference in the speed should be small. Apple has successfully transitioned from one processor to another before. If they do decide to switch, I’m sure they will succeed again.

          Another thought. If Apple switches to ARMS, maybe Windows running on ARMS may become a viable platform.

    2. And if you think about it if such an ARM chip change is coming it’s a disincentive for pros to even buy a 2019 Mac Pro knowing we’re only a couple years away from an architecture transition (which will have the further disincentive of buying a Mac not being able to run Windows.)

      If anything it signals to pros to buy a PC Workstation now and maybe later, like 4-5 years later, coming back to Mac well after the transition, if ever. I hate to say it but a PC is the more stable future-stable platform for now and into the life of the machine.

      1. I’m still of the opinion that Apple would like those who can migrate to other platforms to do so. I’ve helped a number of folks transition back when Apple was just slowing Mac development. By the time Apple reached their current standstill, all these folks are happy they moved on. This will be another opportunity for pros to see if their future aligns with Apple’s or not.

        I’m still 50/50 on wether the 2019 Mac Pro will be Intel or ARM. Since Mac Pro’s as a whole are a mere sliver, a percent of a percent of the sales of all other products, if the sales crater, it doesn’t hurt their bottom line very much. PLUS, if the performance is there for specific use cases, there will be those that pony up for it…

        Actually, why would an ARM Mac Pro even need to be extremely expensive? If you’re not paying the Intel tax… but you have a system that has raw performance that’s greater than the fastest iMac Pro…

    3. Think of it like this. Apple has been inviting current Apple professionals to their campus to talk about what they do, how they do it, the tools they use to get it done. MOST of the people being invited are from the creative professional fields, Music, Movies, Art…

      So, what Apple’s been hearing (and remember, they have NOT been hearing about folks holding on to cheese graters, they’re talking to folks that are currently using MacBook Pro’s, iMac Pro’s and even MacBooks and iMacs) is not about slots, or CPU/RAM upgrades. They’ve been hearing how adding something to FCPX or making some feature in Logic faster would help them SOO much.

      So, Apple just has to produce a product that has the performance increases and features these Pros want, and they can internally consider their jobs done. For those that haven’t purchased a new professional mac since 2010, they’ve voted with their dollars… which would WORK if all other pros dropped it as well.

      1. Creative Pros are incredible sources of information on how to make a Mac hum, and issues of high performance computing. I hope Apple talks to their other partners as well. Like IBM. IBM has 120,000 Macs now, last I heard. 73% of IBM’s employees opt for a Mac.

        General Electric, is optionally supplying all of its 330,000 employees with Mac devices
        The Oath media group with 15,000 clients.
        SAP, currently using 14,000 Mac devices in its organization.

        Macs ARE business professional machines as well as creative professional machines.

        Most of these people aren’t making beautiful images. A crap load are making spreadsheets, creating, changing, storing, archiving, retrieving, and searching for files. Dealing with massive databases, engineering machine learning apps, running (gasp) QuickBooks Windows, network engineering, software development, and more than I want to think about rely on some virtualization.

        I just hope Apple talks to us low life professionals as well.

        1. “IBM has 120,000 Macs now”
          0% of which are cheese graters. 🙂 General Electric, Oath, SAP… they are ALSO who Apple would be in talks to and, again, the solutions this group (ones with recent macs) needs are in many cases different from the solutions the cheese grater holders are looking for.

          “rely on some virtualization”
          Instead of “some” I’d say “little if any”. Given the funding available to make it happen, it’s always better to have a native solution. If a native solution doesn’t exist, a company like IBM could just say, “You know, it’d be nice if this ran natively on the Mac, but I understand you’re Windows only. We’ll look at another shop that might be able to…” and the decision would be made to port in order to avoid losing the contract 🙂

          1. “…0% of which are cheese graters. 🙂 General Electric, Oath, SAP… they are ALSO who Apple would be in talks to and, again, the solutions this group (ones with recent macs) needs are in many cases different from the solutions the cheese grater holders are looking for…”

            Yes you’re right (if I understand this). The solutions needed by businesses are very different than the ones needed by the cheese grater people, but Apple often seems bound and determined to yank the rug out from under the business people, let alone just not pay attention to them.

            We finally got the MacMini back. It long ago proved to be a better server than the X-Serves and became relied upon for just that.

            Bought 10 Monday. The Apple “Business” specialist asked why not buy iMacs. I said I’m running them headless as a cluster of servers and I have racks specifically for them and they’re cheaper. He replied, “Headless?”

            I said, yes, one of them has Microsoft Exchange running on it and and Apache based intranet.

            It’s no big deal though. Just kinda sad. We can always go to Windows.

            1. Correct, I leaned too far into the “creatives” part at the start, but both the creatives AND the current business people have different needs from the cheese graters. Someone posted a story about the 2019 Mac Pro being all about “workflows” which is where business people, creative and non-creative alike, need strides to be taken. That, plus the fact that it’s been described as “modular” (and specifically NOT upgradable) informs me that those holding out for Apple Cheese Grater ][ are going to be disappointed.

    4. In addition to everything mentioned, the cost to generate a “Mac” CPU in ARM for volumes of computers that are literally miniscule compared to iOS means that Apple would have to be very very aggressive to actually want to do that transition.

      I can’t outguess Apple on this. But in terms of internal engineering commitment, Apple is ahead to stick with Intel.

    1. Let’s not forget that Apple is competing with PCs. Today, Apple doesn’t have any model that handily outperforms PCs that cost 20% less (or more). Should Apple choose to abandon x86 compatibility then with the necessary emulation to run current macOS programs, it wouldn’t outperform PCs either.

      Unless of course Apple suddenly makes its products nice and thick, with generous cooling and battery capacity, while simultaneously releasing multithreaded professional level programs that are more efficient. Cook has shown that he can’t chew bubble gum and walk at the same time. It’s highly unlikely that Apple would slit its throat and invent a tourniquet of fashionable milanese woven alooooooominyum at the same time. Priorities, you see.

  3. I’ve been saying this for years. The Mac Pro will be a supercomputer based on a computing cluster design. Many, many nano-blades crammed into a 1/3 sized cheese grater. Only explanation for the inordinately looooong delay in releasing the Mac Pro. If the new Mac Pro is going to be based on Intel then the next generation Mac Pro could have been released three years ago.

      1. Cray’s new model:

        “We listened closely to our customers and dug into the future needs of AI and HPC applications as we designed Shasta,” said Steve Scott, senior vice president and CTO of Cray. “Customers wanted leading-edge, scalable performance, but with lots of flexibility and easy upgradeability over time. I’m happy to say we’ve nailed this with Shasta.”

        One area that Shasta customers will certainly have plenty of options is in the area of processors and coprocessors. For HPC more broadly, chip options have expanded significantly over the last few years as a result of the acceptance of Arm as an alternative to x86 silicon, plus the return of AMD CPUs to the HPC space. At the same time, GPU coprocessors for traditional computing and deep learning acceleration have become a mainstream offering on HPC systems, thanks largely to NVIDIA. FPGAs also seem to be poised for a comeback, courtesy of improved FPGA-based SoC offerings from Intel and Xilinx and the more mature software componentry now available for reconfigurable computing.

        Shasta will be capable of supporting all these processor types (and possibly even more specialized chips at some point) in a mix-and- match fashion. Supposedly, chips that dissipate as much as 500 watts can be accommodated by the design, which should offer plenty of thermal headroom for anything on the drawing boards at Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, or any Arm chipmaker. (The hottest datacenter GPUs from NVIDIA currently top out at about 300 watts.) Customers will be able to configure the number of processors and coprocessors per node based on their specific application needs, enabling a more customized approach for building these systems.

  4. Anyone who uses a Mac for serious work needs access to Windows programs. I run Windows 10 Pro under Parallels 14 Pro on my iMac. If the Mac changed to there own processor and wrecked the ability to run Windows programs, I would have to drop them. I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen.

    1. Depends on what you call “serious work”. If serious work is REQUIRES Windows, a think lot of macOS users would beg to differ.

      Do a bunch of people need virtualization? Sure. Does Apple think it’s important? Well, go to now and search for “virtualization”. There used to be full pages related to it, now it’s just reduced to “virtual machines” in a few descriptions. If I didn’t know about Boot Camp already, I wouldn’t even know it exists.

      Apple MAY be able to come up with some ingenious solution, but it’s clear that they don’t see “running non-macOS applications” as an important part of their future strategy.

  5. I’m not sure I like the idea of Apple switching to a different processor because when you by a Mac with an Intel chip, you are also getting a PC for free that can run virtually any windows software on it as well (after you load Windows on it).’

    I know there is virtualization software but then there will be performance hits and other issues that can be a pain…

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