Why Apple can now dump Intel x86 from Macs

In 2005, Steve Jobs announced that Apple would transition Macs from PowerPC to Intel x86 processors. A decade and a half later, Apple looks ready to make another CPU shift that could prove to be far more significant in the future of technology.

Daniel Eran Dilger for AppleInsider:

We are now approaching the ideal conditions for Apple to introduce new Macs without x86 chips. It could be that Apple intends to release an entry level notebook with a beefy version of the A14X chips headed to future iPad Pros, potentially with a similarly scaled up Apple GPU.

It’s also possible that Apple could make an even bolder transition a new CPU chip architecture capable of delivering a bigger jump in processing power. We’ve already seen Apple’s efforts to build its own custom GPU—effectively a massively parallel processor tuned to doing the repetitive tasks common in rendering graphics—as well as deliver the new Neural Engine first introduced in the A12 Bionic, specifically tuned for AI processing.

Apple also just introduced a new Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA), a custom chip that can be optimized for specific tasks. It will ship this on the Afterburner card for new Mac Pros, enabling its super fast Intel hardware with powerful GPUs to run dedicated software on yet another type of custom processing hardware.

These developments indicate that rather than just dropping out the Intel CPU for an ARM CPU, Apple could instead increasingly shift modern Macs into a mesh of custom silicon engines that each specialize in certain types of tasks.. If Apple were to develop its own significantly different new CPU architecture, that’s a move that could also be extended to iOS devices, resulting in a proprietary processor family running all of Apple’s devices. That could prove to be a major competitive advantage, and its a move we’ve already seen in Apple’s GPU and other custom silicon work.

MacDailyNews Take: Bring on the new Apple-powered Macs! The sooner, the better!

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… 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.MacDailyNews, June 19, 2019


  1. Oh, please! At least wait until the new Mac Pro is being used by professionals before saying how Apple doesn’t need Intel chips anymore. It’s OK if some MacBook Air starts the transition to some A-series ARM processor but let’s not go overboard by putting ARM processors into the entire Mac lineup. I’m in no hurry to make the change unless there is proof of significant gains in processing speed or significant reductions in the cost of Macs. I’m sure the average consumer won’t care what processor is being used as long as everything goes smooth for them. However, the rest of the computer industry and all the pundits aren’t going to be happy about it, seeing how they’re already unhappy with whatever changes Apple makes. They will all be looking for reasons as to why an ARM transition isn’t a good thing for users.

    I’m sure the enterprise isn’t in any hurry to make an Intel to ARM transition. I’ve got quite a few applications I’m comfortable with and I see no reason to have to start replacing them just for some minor gains in speed. It wouldn’t be a major disruption for me but I’ll just as soon wait until I’m good and ready to change over.

    I don’t see an ARM transition making Macs any cheaper. If anything, Apple will try to charge more for Macs with ARM processors using some Bizarro-world marketing techniques. Apple is too greedy to disrupt the industry with low cost Macs. Apple likes to think Apple-branded computers should cost more for consumers even if it costs them less to build it. I’m not certain but those A-series processors probably aren’t cheap to produce considering what Apple charges for products using them. However, that could just be Apple’s greed for profit.

    Anyway, I’m not against an ARM transition as I realize things do change over time, but I’m just not in a grand rush for it to happen. I won’t be cursing any change until I’ve had a chance to test it for myself. I’ve been using personal computers since the early 1980s and have seen many changes and none were enough to make me give up computing. Computers just kept getting better and will likely continue to do so.

    1. An ARM transition on the cusp of finally releasing an Intel Mac Pro this year instead of 2 years ago shows how clueless Apple is and how much they like to shoot themselves in the foot in terms of the marketing timing. A new 2019 Mac Pro will cost at least $8,000 realistically and should last 5-7 years (or longer) but will it become obsolete way before that?

      I’ve been threatening to switch to a PC Workstation and architecture transition is a good reason not to buy into any new pro workstation from Apple. We know PC’s aren’t changing architecture anytime soon. But believe me I would much rather stay with OS X.

    2. Oh, please! At least wait until the new Mac Pro is being used …

      Indeed (even though this is at best just a rumor piece).

      I’m sure the enterprise isn’t in any hurry to make an Intel to ARM transition…

      Its not. The current rush is into Machine Learning / AI, for which ARM isn’t the path forward.

      I don’t see an ARM transition making Macs any cheaper…

      Its not. This is merely a business case that Apple’s (obviously) been studying to determine if the engineering performance can be made ‘good enough’ (note that this isn’t ‘vastly superior’) while capturing the CPU profits that Apple’s currently paying to Intel. That’s it.

      However, that could just be Apple’s greed for profit.

      Yes, that is 100% exactly it. If ARM proves itself to be dramatically cheaper for the customer & clearly faster, it would be very quickly embraced — but we’ve not seen either metric satisfied yet.

      And the reality is that in the near term, the emphasis is going to be on optimization for ML/AI (which this isn’t) and in the long term, going to Quantum (which this isn’t).

      1. To distinguish them from the Intel based counterparts, if nothing else.

        But I’m also holding out on the possibility that they will be curated and thus justify new names even more.

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