Apple-designed ARM-based Macs to be announced at WWDC

Apple is preparing to announce a shift to its own Apple-designed ARM-based main processors in Mac computers, replacing chips from Intel, as early as this month at WWDC 2020 which begins on June 22nd, Bloomberg News reports, citing “people familiar with the plans.”

Apple's Arm-based A13 Bionic SoC
Apple’s ARM-based A13 Bionic SoC is fabricated by TSMC

Mark Gurman for Bloomberg:

Unveiling the initiative, codenamed Kalamata, at the event would give outside developers time to adjust before new Macs roll out in 2021, the people said. Since the hardware transition is still months away, the timing of the announcement could change, they added, while asking not to be identified discussing private plans.

The new processors will be based on the same technology used in Apple-designed iPhone and iPad chips. However, future Macs will still run the macOS operating system rather than the iOS software on mobile devices from the company… This will be the first time in the 36-year history of the Mac that Apple-designed processors will power these machines. It has changed chips only two other times. In the early 1990s, Apple switched from Motorola processors to PowerPC. At WWDC in 2005, Steve Jobs announced a move from PowerPC to Intel, and Apple rolled out those first Intel-based Macs in January 2006. Like it did then, the company plans to eventually transition the entire Mac lineup to its Arm-based processors, including the priciest desktop computers, the people said.

Inside Apple, tests of new Macs with the Arm-based chips have shown sizable improvements over Intel-powered versions, specifically in graphics performance and apps using artificial intelligence, the people said. Apple’s processors are also more power-efficient than Intel’s, which may mean thinner and lighter Mac laptops in the future… The company is working on at least three of its own Mac processors, known as systems-on-a-chip, with the first based on the A14 processor in the next iPhone. In addition to the main central processing unit, there will be a graphics processing unit and a Neural Engine for handling machine learning, a popular and powerful type of AI, the people said.

MacDailyNews Take: Back is February, Apple supply-chain uber-analyst Ming-Chi Kuo wrote that Apple planned to release a Mac with an Apple-designed processor in the first half of next year.

Whenever the first ARM-based Macs arrive, as Mac users, we are well prepared for change. We like to see Apple pushing the envelope whenever and wherever possible. We’ve been anticipating ARM-based Macs for quite a long time now and we can’t for the the process to finally begin!

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

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

25 Comments

    1. Yep. PowerPC was develoed by the AIM alliance…which was an acronym for Apple, IBM and Motorola. Motorola continued to make most of the PowerPCs for Apple computers. So, the switch was a switch in chipmarchitecture rather than manufacturers.

    1. Nope, Apple will support Intel Macs for the usual timeframe. It is unlikely that Intel Macs will disappear in the same way that PPC Macs. ARM offerings may be limited to certain types of Macs, namely laptops like the Airs to take advantage of the better power usage and cost.

      1. Unless they have such fast chips that an Intel emulator can run at an acceptable speed. That has been the only real obstacle to a transition for several years.

        1. Remember: every existing bit of Mac software is Intel-only, and will have to be run in emulation until new versions are released (and some will never be updated). It will be hard to sell the new Macs if they seem slower than the old.

          1. All the developers who followed Apple guidelines/warnings will move forward, those that don’t Quark, Autodesk, and Adobe will be behind like the last time.

  1. The ARM Processors are RISC based like the PPC, and Mac OS already run wonderful and very fast in PCC processors for years. Apple only opted for Intel processor because of the “Performance Per Watt” that Steve Jobs described, and he was absolutely right about it because that change gave Apple the best laptops out there. But now with Apple in full control of the processor design and with the A series kicking benchmarks everywhere, it gives apple a ANOTHER unique advantage over competitors.

  2. Offering good compatibility with older code will be key if Apple moves their mac line to a “new” architecture.
    I hate to mention Micro$oft, but the have an ARM version of Windows 10 that’s able to run intel code at “decent” speed.
    If Apple offers bootcamp for the new chips it will still offer the posibitlity to run Windows applications, both native and emulated ones.

    Switching to ARM-based CPUs would several advantages to Apple

    More control on their hardware design (independence from intel, nVidia, etc.)
    less power consumption
    fanless machines free from dust inside

    Only time will tell if they will succeed

        1. The three big clowns (Quark, Autodesk, and Adobe ) I mention earlier don’t follow any of the Apple developer guide lines and as usual they will bring up the rear they did the last time and they will do so again. This switch is a great opportunity for the mid level and new developers. It is also a buy in opportunity for investors.

          1. Something that is great for developers may not be so great for users. The software that is run through lots and lots of QE to make sure there are no hardware dependencies in the program code or libraries is likely to be sold as AceProgram Plus for full retail, not as a free upgrade to AceProgram.

            The biggest and most expensive programs will take the longest to convert. Those who rely on those programs in their workflow may be using emulation for years until the replacements become available and the user can afford them. Thus the importance of Intel emulation that is acceptable if not snappy.

  3. From a poster that we don’t see around here anymore:
    “This is IMPOSSIBLE, see there’s RISC and then there’s CISC and then, like a WHOLE LOTTA stuff that I really don’t understand… buuut, so, that’s why Apple will NEVER release macOS on ARM. Like never ever.”

    I may have to go find one of those old posts 🙂

    1. As I recall, he said that switching from a Complex Instruction Set to a Reduced Instruction Set would inherently slow down emulation, making the transition untenable for A-series processors until they were much faster than they were at the time. They are faster now. Fast enough? We will see.

      1. I’ll look for those posts. 🙂 However, I do remember at first it was “Never” then shifted to “Its possible but they wouldn’t” and that was the last time they visited to speak about ARM.

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