Apple dumping Intel for ARM-powered Macs would be a good thing

ARM-powered Macs. Image: Apple's MacBook
Apple’s MacBook
While it would be a huge task, Apple dumping Intel would be a good thing for ARM-powered Macs, but as with most things, there would be difficulties and downsides.

Still, Apple’s done it before – twice – first from Motorola 68000-series processors to PowerPC and then from PowerPC to Intel.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes for ZDNet:

Apple’s probably in the best position it’s ever been to make the switch… There are a lot of very good, compelling even, reasons why Apple should cast Intel aside and go it alone in the processor world.

Apple would be free of Intel and could set its own pricing and be in total control of its supply chain… Apple’s chips are also powerful and efficient, and iPad Pro silicon will soon outperform the Intel Core chips that is found in the MacBook Pro. Looking at the past few years, iPad Pro silicon has seen benchmark performance improve by almost 50 percent year-on-year, compared to less than 20 percent for the MacBook Pro. Battery performance is also phenomenal, and that too is improving at a tremendous rate…

My guess — and right now it is little more than a guess — is that the MacBook Air would be a good place for Apple to showcase what an ARM processor could do.

MacDailyNews Take: Or, conveniently, the MacBook makes its triumphant return as the first Mac powered by an Apple-designed ARM processor.

We’ve been anticipating ARM-powered Macs for quite a long time now and we can’t for the the process to begin!

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

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. I have a feeling that all Macs will have an ARM processor, and the Pro models would have an intel chip IN ADDTITION. Hence the Pro models can run Windows and x86 apps natively, whereas the non-Pro models cannot run old c86 code, or only in emulation. This way, all developers will have an incentive to always support ARM. Admittedly, the technology to use the x86 as an optional co-processor would be quite challenging…. But if any company is able to pull that of, it’s Apple.

    1. Is anyone still running PC apps on a Mac these days?
      In enterprise these days everything is either a web application, or available natively on the Mac.
      For the few edge cases, you can always buy that person a PC. I don’t see Apple spending resources chasing those few customers. They’re going to build fast, efficient hardware that sells in the tens of millions.

      1. I am part of a weekend RPG group. We all have computers, most of us have Macs. The current GM uses Word and Excel on his MacBook. An annoyance for me, means I have to convert any documents I create. Yes, I CAN convert it, so … just an annoyance.

  2. They’d be better off using it as a coprocessor, or making their own X86 processor. If they drop the hardware’s ability to play Windows games, then they are driving me back to the PC.

    1. Apple won’t be designing Mac hardware with the Windows gamers (or any gamers) in mind.

      They’re going to make killer hardware that’s fast and energy efficient for mainstream computing purposes. The future of Apple gaming is in the console (Apple TV) and in your pocket (iPhones and iPads).

  3. but but… I’m afraid.. I’m afraid of losing the fluidity with which I can swipe between virtual machines running different operating systems. I’m in macOS, swipe right, it’s Windows 10, swipe right again it’s Red Hat Linux, swipe right again it’s UBUNTU. And so on. I love this ability.

    There are type 1 and type 2 hypervisors out there for ARM so I assume people supporting virtualization for Mac will continue to do so after Apple makes any dramatic changes.

    1. Exactly. Swipe once more and it’s Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) which still has Rosetta and still runs PPC apps and 32-bit apps.
      Losing all these capabilities would be an insurmountable loss for Macs.

  4. “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”

    Without some form of binary translator, like Rosetta for the move from PowerPC to Intel, the move to ARM will fail, even if some magical convergence of iOS and macOS were to occur. Sure, native applications will be the goal, better sooner than later. But native applications on ARM for the Mac will necessitate Apple giving some heads up either behind the scenes, or at the next WWDC.

    And an ARM/macOS alpha/beta system is a necessity for development. Are they ready to unveil that? Sure, it appears that Xcode has matured to be the dev platform to lead the transition. But are users ready to “upgrade” to applications using a more iOS interface and feature set? There’s a huge unknown factor in what the environment will actually look like, and what pro applications compiled for ARM on macOS will look like. Anyone who had to struggle with translated apps in Rosetta or system resources an apps in the 68k emulator on PowerPC will understand the potential problems.

    And anybody who paid attention to the PowerPC -> Intel move understands the role that Steve Jobs had in allaying fear. He was a master at describing exactly how the transition would occur, and how the different compatibility layers, and binary translators would work. Who will take on that role now? Cook is disinterested and incapable in this sort of highly technical role. Which Apple employee will rise to the occasion? Or will it be a muddle like Spindler and Amelio’s transition period for the 68k -> PowerPC move?

    Platform transitions -> the best of times, the worst of times…

  5. I think moving forward is best way.Apple believes in one thing “Think Different“ inspired by Steve Jobs.I am using Wintel since 1998 used to love it but now I hate Wintel same old processor with minor improvements and worst Window OS of all times Window 10 with force updates.

  6. As long as virtualization exists that would allow any OS to continue to be used on a Mac, that is fine. BUT Virtualization, NOT EMULATION….lets not go back to the days of Intel vs PPC…that was painful. And today, virtualization plays a MUCH bigger role than in did in those days.

    And if Windows ports over to ARM, that would certainly help.

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