Like Han Solo said in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, “It’s true. All of it.” As expected, Apple announced today during its WWDC 2020 keynote that it is ending its fifteen-year relationship with Intel to switch to its own ARM-braced processors. Apple CEO Tim Cook called today an “history day for the Mac” in the announcement.
Apple says its putting “relentless focus on performance per watt,” noting that the iPhone performance has increased over 100 times since its original launch and 1000-times performance on the iPad GPU versus the same phone. The company plans to release a whole family of SoCs (System-on-a-Chip) called Mac SoCs to support the change, including GPUs, SSD controllers, and more. The change will encompass Macbooks and desktop systems alike. The first ARM-based Mac is coming this year; Apple expects to complete the transition to ARM within two years.
Apps will need updating
Apple’s upcoming update, macOS Big Sur, will feature Apple applications already updated to support the upcoming chips–including Final Cut Pro. The company is also taking measures to ensure they don’t leave developers and longtime users in the cold. Apple will offer fast, transparent emulation of legacy apps through its Rosetta 2 emulation platform, upon which Apple says that “most apps will just work.” To show off Rosetta 2, Apple gave us a look at Shadow of the Tomb Raider running on its ARM chip at 1080p in real-time.
Apple is also creating an Apple Developers’ Transition Kit, for which registered developers can apply through its developer website. The system is a Mac Mini enclosure that includes Apple’s A12 SoC, 16 GB RAM, a 512 GB SSD, and a pre-release version of macOS Big Sur. This could be the first ARM Mac that Apple plans to release, too, though Apple was quiet about the specifics on its 2020 ARM system aside from this potential candidate.
This is a huge change for Apple that could yield huge performance and battery-life benefits for Mac and iOS users. There’s also the risk that, with so much control over the system, Apple could isolate itself, price itself out of the market, or start to lag behind. The next couple of years should be very interesting after this announcement.