Apple’s Mac no longer needs compatibility to thrive

Jason Snell for Macworld:

Compatibility and interoperability are concepts Apple has ignored or embraced, depending on its situation. To me, it seems that the Mac is about to enter a new era of incompatibility – and I’m okay with it…

The Intel Mac era has been pretty great, but it’s probably coming to an end—at least in part. I think the Mac is going to be okay, because this era is very different than the ones that have come before it…

When the first rumors that Apple was considering a switch to its own ARM-based processor designs for future versions of the Mac hit, my reaction was pretty skeptical… Three years later, it feels like the situation has changed completely. The iPad Pros introduced in the fall of 2018 are faster than most of the PC laptops in the market… It probably won’t happen all at once, because at the high end of Apple’s product line there are pro users who probably have needs that Apple’s hardware can’t meet. But it seems inevitable that it will happen.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple has been, for years, building strength in the enterprise via BYOD and the rise of mobile which Apple ushered in with iPhone and iPad. “Compatibility with Windows” is not nearly as important today as it was even a few years ago. As Snell writes, “There are definitely still users out there for whom Windows compatibility, either via Boot Camp or a virtualization app, is vital. If Apple completely abandons Intel, they will suffer. But with each passing day, there’s less software that’s only available via Windows.”

We expect to see Apple begin the ARM-based Mac transition with products like the MacBook and work their way up from there as the apps are brought over to ARM via Xcode and as the rest of the world continues to throw off the Microsoft Windows shackles into which they stupidly climbed so many years ago, lured, wrongly, solely by Windows PC sticker prices.

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


  1. Hmm – the introduction of the Intel Macs certainly helped me since I could install windows via parallels and have access to the work windows network from home.
    For others, I bet compatibility helped them run virtual machines and program for many operating systems.

    Clearly there is a case for ARM driven Macs. It makes most sense that this is introduced to low end mobile units first like an entry level MacBook or MBA. The low relative cost of an ARM chip vs. Intel could allow Apple to have a high margin low cost laptop that could really disrupt the PC business.

    1. My guess once convergence is complete, they will kill off the Mac name (a man’s name? Aw hell nah!) and Finder logo and call it Brenda with a pink-haired, gender non-binary, differently-abled, m2f stunning and brave Somalian icon for the Finder. then I will FINALLY(!) be able to get some god damned work done on this thing.

    2. doggonetoo, the benefit of Intel-based Macs is that you can install Windows as the native boot OS (or in a separate partition) and run Intel apps natively. You could always install Parallels or other emulator software on non-Intel Macs (e.g., G4, G5) to run Windows apps. One advantage of the emulator approach is that you can copy-and-paste between apps. But emulation is slower than native execution.

      At any rate, there is every reason to believe that Parallels will evolve to handle A-series based Macs when Apple decides to release them. Emulation worked with PowerPC processor and it can be updated to work with ARM architecture processors, as well.

      The only people who need to worry about A-series based Macs are the ones who want to run Windows and Windows apps natively.

      1. You could always install Parallels or other emulator software …

        True, emulation worked …

        But emulation is slower than native execution.

        That’s putting it very very mildly. The performance drop was painful & profound.

        I’d not pay for an Emulator app in the non-Intel Mac future … instead, the worst dregs of an old PC that’s the cost of the Emulator software would probably still run faster.

          1. Fortunately, Apple went to Intel, so I didn’t need to (then). Of course, with the hole in Apple’s product lineup between the iMac (Pro) and 2019/2020 Mac Pro, I am pricing PCs again to replace our cheese graters.

        1. Windows on ARM runs 32-bit x86 software through emulation. The speed on a Dragon 850 processor isn’t worth writing home about, but it is acceptable for most users. Native ARM Windows software isn’t enormously faster. An emulator fine-tuned specifically for the much faster Apple A14 (or whatever it’s called) might close much of the performance gap to Intel mobile chips.

          Most of this discussion is ignoring the fact that the early A-series Macs will have to be Intel-compatible because all the existing Mac software is Intel-only. So are the libraries that developers link into their programs. Recompiled libraries and programs will require extensive QC to identify hardware dependencies. That will happen fairly quickly for simple Mac apps, but the big software packages that people use to make money will take longer.

          Mac users are not going to buy a new computer that only runs their existing apps at a fraction of the speed of their old computer. Developers are not going to expend much effort on new apps until there is a substantial user base. So Apple has had to devote considerable effort to guaranteeing that Intel emulation works.

          That effort will make some degree of Windows compatibility possible for several years after the transition.

  2. As someone who spends their own money on their computers, compatability is paramount.

    Apple doesn’t have to agree, i got in with Intel, but with so much non-serviceability and hardware lock down, no Macs are being replaced.

    1. Every so often, I go to and search for “virtualization” and “emulation”. These used to get several results related to running Windows on Mac. My guess was that, over time, they would provide search results for those topics less and less such that new buyer’s aren’t even aware of such a thing.

      Virtualization currently brings up a lot of topics, none having to do with virtualization OS’s. And Emulation only brings up… Logic Pro. You have to actually already know about Boot Camp in order to get relevant results. And, you have to actually know about Parallels and search for it to come up in a result.

  3. Why limit users and possibly alienate? Oh yes, because the Mac isn’t a big deal anymore with Apple. Only the iPhone is (or isn’t concerning latest sales or lack thereof)…..that’s cool Apple, go your own way….got it…ya

  4. The trend, except for some highly specialized software with tons of legacy code, is to move away from a desktop experience and towards a web/cloud-based experience. So much today happens in the cloud that compatibility is less than an issue.

    As long as I could get Microsoft apps on an ARM based Mac and a Chrome-based browser, I would be golden. As would most office workers. Think about users of the MacBook Air – they aren’t typically running VMWare or Parallels. They use Office, Chrome and the built-in apps. That and collaboration tools such as WebEx, Zoom or GotoMeeting.

    Windows compatibility isn’t the issue for most users anymore. It’s whether or not software devs have the tools to easily support both processor platforms during a transition without maintaining large code forks.

  5. I’m sorry I have to say this but there is nothing that comes even close to Subtitle Workshop on MacOS. Its OCR capabilities have proven their worth time and time again. Turning hard-coded subs into soft-subs is like magic to me. I have never seen any MacOS subtitle program with OCR support. Subtitle Workshop can do it all and if I have to use WindowsOS then so be it.

    I will keep my VMWare Fusion software and Windows 7/10 virtual disks just to use that wonderful and free subtitle software on my Mac computers. Another program would be Space Engine. There are similar alternative programs for MacOS but Space Engine is just so cool to use although I could live without it.

    I don’t believe in anyone being forced to stick with just one OS out of pride or vanity. Although I prefer to use MacOS, I have nothing against using Windows if I need to and I think Windows 10 is a pretty decent OS. It’s good to be able to use whatever you need to get things done.

    I’ve tried to use Crossover, but it’s very hit and miss when it comes to .exe installs. Even the latest version doesn’t support a lot of Windows apps I’ve tried. It does seem to support Subtitle Workshop, but I’ve already got that setup in VMWare Fusion, so what’s the point.

  6. If Apple wants to test compatibility need among their customers, offer an option between Intel Macs and ARM Macs. No one will buy the ARM Macs. Steve Jobs would have told anyone suggesting this to take a hike. He was smarter than this. Wake up.

    1. There is no professional tax software that runs on Mac OS. ATX is good professional tax software, but requires WIndows. With Parallels, Windows can be run on a Mac. Will Apple and Parallels work things out so Windows can run on a Mac after Apple drops Intel and goes with its own processor. I have owned more than 20 Macs. I have said I will never spend another penny on a straight Windows computer. Will Apple force next to change and go back and buy a straight Windows computer?

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.