Apple has finally announced that it will be transitioning from Intel processors to its own custom in-house ARM processors. From now on, all newly announced Mac laptops and computers will leverage Apple’s own chips, dubbed as “Apple Silicon”.
Head of Chip Design at Apple, Johny Srouji claims that Apple’s own ARM CPUs tend to be more powerful than laptop processors. Srouji expects the new ARM-based Apple CPUs to not only be faster but also more power efficient than competing x86 parts.
The first Apple Silicon on Mac will be the macOS 10.16, Big Sur. To support the transition, all Apple apps have been natively re-written for the new ARM chips. Similarly, developers will have to recompile their apps in xCode Universal 2, a new platform that supports Intel Macs as well. The newer ARM-Apple based chips can use this new platform to optimize apps for newer devices.
Apple’s devices make up for up to 5-7% of Intel’s Client Computing Business. The continued use of the dated 14nm node seems to have cost Big Blue multiple times, and this will likely hit hard.
This move will certainly cause complications for many users and many apps won’t be ported to the newer platform, at least not immediately. It should also make Mac-based devices even less suitable for PC gaming as all modern games are designed for x86 based CPUs. Still, that’s a very small niche market for Apple, and the benefits will outweigh the drawbacks in the long run.
Designing in-house chips will allow Apple to reduce its dependence on other competitors and chipmakers alike, and regulate the revenue margins more favorably. Whether this will actually improve performance and battery standby times, in the long run, remains to be seen though, as the x86 market itself is heading for a revolution of sorts. AMD’s chiplet architecture, the Intel Lakefield SoCs and the introduction of ray-tracing on nearly all GPU platforms leaves a lot of unpredictable variables on the table