Digital Trends: Apple is building an ARM-based Mac ‘under out noses’

From Alex Blake’s “A revolutionary MacBook is coming, and the clues have been hiding in plain sight” posted Saturday:

Every year, Apple pumps out new iPhones and iPads with complete control of nearly aspect of the devices. That’s not true of Macs. To Apple’s chagrin, they still rely heavily on Intel for its performance capabilities and release schedule.

Building the MacBook around a completely different silicon architecture — chips from ARM — would solve all that. The idea of ARM MacBooks has long been speculated, but outside of the rumors and reports, there was never any factual evidence that Apple had a secret plan to ditch Intel and AMD for good.

But with a careful look at the aims of Mac Catalyst, it seems like Apple has been building toward its ARM-based future right under our noses…

Take Apple Arcade, the company’s new games subscription service. One of the key features of the service is that all of its 100+ games will run on almost any Apple device — your iPhone, your iPad, your Mac, even your Apple TV.

That may not mean much on its own, but combined with Mac Catalyst functioning on the exact same principle, it starts to look an awful lot like Apple is preparing us for this to become the norm…

And when will it come? Well, given the developer-focused nature of such an announcement, WWDC in June 2020 would make a lot of sense.

My take: Still just rumor and speculation. June 2020 sounds premature, though.


  1. David Emery said:
    Actually, WWDC in 2020 sounds about right. I would presume they have full prototype machines running now. It -should be- the case that all you have to do is change a compiler switch in XCode to generate code for the ARM version, and Apple has already demonstrated its ability to engineer multiple platform binaries (remember the transition from PowerPC to Intel?)

    The more interesting question for me is whether Apple will do an immediate hardware transition, i.e. all subsequent Macs are ARM, or whether they’ll build both Intel and ARM machines for a couple of years.

    The big problem with this transition: Absent a translation layer (like they did for PowerPC), all your existing Intel software will be obsolete (and I’m already suffering from some apps that I can’t or won’t upgrade to 64-bit versions).

    December 1, 2019
  2. Fred Stein said:
    Adding an ARM chip to a Mac sounds perfect. Call it MacPad for working title. App developers can code and test the UX on one device. Ordinary users can have SmartPhone / iPad optimized App running native on their Mac.

    Macs without Intel chips is far into the future.

    December 1, 2019
  3. David Baraff said:
    Of course ARM Macs are coming. But I don’t believe that running iPad apps via catalyst on an ARM machine in lieu of a “real” Mac app is going to pan out well or satisfy many. Mouse based interactions with large screen real estate (mac) is too different from touch based apps with small real estate (iPad) to deliver something I would use for more than a few minutes, on my Mac, I.e. by running an iPad app on my Mac.

    Catalyst was clearly out staged by SwiftUI, and I suspect if swiftUI had been further along catalyst would not have been done. I predict catalyst will be short lived. (Among other things, I develop both iPad and Mac apps.)

    December 1, 2019
  4. John Konopka said:
    Maybe a lightweight ARM laptop will debut first. They would ship with iWorks and all other Apple utilities. Third party apps would be relatively easy to recompile. This would be a nice introductory machine or one for simple uses. If it would last 12 or more hours, weighed less than two pounds, and cost less than $1,000 lots of people could live with that. The very last to change, if ever, will be the Mac Pro.

    December 1, 2019
  5. Gregg Thurman said:
    Who cares? Futurists maybe but not me. ARM chips will be just like switching from Motorola 68K to Power PC to Intel. How Apple transitions from one to the other, and on what timetable, is unimportant. What IS important it that the transition is seamless to the user, and that it occurs over a long enough period that recently purchased software can be fully amortized before upgrading to the new paradigm.

    Will this transition be complete in the next year, or two, or three? No, it will happen 5 years after the first emulation mode starts shipping (California law requiring factory support) just as it did with the transition to PowerPC and Intel.

    Speculative products/transitions that far out have no impact on AAPL today. As an investor I want to see a shipping product before I get excited about it.

    December 1, 2019

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