Apple recently announced that they’d be transitioning their entire line of Mac computers away from the Intel processors that currently power every Mac, to Apple’s own custom ARM chipset. This was a decision that many people expected to happen, but not everyone knows why Apple’s doing it. And that’s exactly what I’m going to explain.
Alright so why is Apple ditching Intel processors and moving to their own custom chipsets. Well, there are quite a few reasons that I’llcover, but probably the most important is that Apple hates being at the mercy of othercompanies.
They like the freedom of being as independentas possible
It’s why Apple created their own operating system alongside the original Macintosh, instead of licensing Windows and relying on Microsoft to optimize and modernize the operating system.
When creating the iPhone, they didn’t want to be beholden to mobile phone carriers, which is why they only worked with Motorola, who promised to give Apple full control over the iPhone’s hardware and software. Something that was unprecedented at the time. And even then, that wasn’t good enough.
Because initially the iPhone ran on Samsung’sARM chipset, which wasn’t fully optimized with the iPhone’s hardware or operatingsystem, and therefore held back the device’s potential when it came to performance andbattery life.
So in order to create a smartphone that couldlive up to its fullest potential, Apple established their own in-house silicon design team, incharge of creating a custom chipset specifically tailored for the iPhone. And the company’s effort paid off in 2010when they introduced the iPhone 4, featuring Apple’s first custom-made A4 chipset.
And the benefits of the iPhone’s transitionto custom-made silicon, will also be enjoyed by the Mac. Have you ever wondered why iPhones, iPads,and Apple Watches are updated on a regular basis, while MacBooks don’t have a predictablerelease schedule? That’s because Apple has to wait on Intelto release their new generation of processors.
And for the last five years, Intel has missedvirtually every release deadline that it’s set. Which not only disappoints customers, butalso frustrates computer manufacturers like Apple who have to delay their own productroadmaps.
So breaking their dependency on Intel is agreat reason for Apple to switch to ARM. But that’s only the beginning. Just like with the iPhone, Macs can finallyenjoy the benefits of being powered by a truly optimized chipset.
That means no more thermal issues, no moreprocessor throttling, and some of the best performance of any computer in the industry. Because remember, the iPad Pro featuring Apple’sA12Z chip, is faster than ninety-two percent of PC notebooks on the market today.
And although Apple has yet to announce a newcustom-made chip for the Mac, we can only assume that it’s performance will be evenbetter than the iPad Pro. Now although macOS is an advanced operatingsystem, it does require regular maintenance to keep it running smoothly.
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Now while we’re on the topic of performance,it’s also important to understand that by using their own chipset, Apple can achievebetter processing and graphics performance, while actually lowering power consumption.
It’s why iPads easily reach their advertised10-hour battery life, while MacBooks rarely do. In fact, if you read the fine print, Applesays you’ll only achieve 10 hours of battery life on your MacBook Pro if all you’re doingis browsing the web with the screen brightness set at seventy-five percent. But I think most MacBook Pro users are doingmore intense tasks like photo or video editing, which burns through the battery much quicker.
But even if you’re doing similar tasks onan iPad Pro, you’ll notice that battery life isn’t effected nearly as much. And it’s because of Apple’s custom chipsetdesigned to optimize performance without sacrificing battery life. Now, it’s also worth considering how Apple’sown chipset could influence the design of their Macs.
If there isn’t any thermal issues, Applecould possibly release a MacBook with smaller fans, or even no fans at all. Which would be a big deal considering howmuch valuable internal space they occupy. But the biggest space hog inside of any MacBookis its battery.
And if Apple could optimize power consumptionlike they have on iPads and iPhones, we could potential see a reduction in the MacBooksbattery size, while still providing 10 hours of use.
So in the best case scenario, a new ARM MacBookcould feature a fan-less design with a smaller battery. Which would enable Apple to create dramaticallythinner, lighter, and quieter notebooks, something they’ve been trying to achieve for years.
Now another really important benefit of switchingto ARM is app compatibility. When the iPad was released in 2010, it sharedthe iPhone’s A4 chipset. Which meant that every app created for theiPhone, could also run on the newly released iPad. That was a huge advantage the device had overcompeting tablets, who suffered from a sparse app ecosystem. And now, Apple wants the Mac to enjoy thatsame advantage.
We already received a hint of Apple’s interestin creating universal apps last year with the release of macOS Catalina. It included a feature called Mac Catalystwhich made it much easier for developers to bring their iPad apps over to the Mac.
But once Apple transitions all of their computersto ARM chipsets, developers won’t have to do a thing. iPad and iPhone apps will be able to run seamlesslyon the Mac.
Now this transition won’t happen overnight,Apple said it’ll take two years to get all of their Macs running on their own customchipsets, but it may happen even sooner.
Because this isn’t the first time Applehas switched from one chip to another. Back in 2005 Steve Jobs announced the transitionfrom PowerPC to Intel processors, and estimated every Mac would be switched over in abouteighteen months.
But it actually happened much quicker thanthat, taking Apple only ten months to transition their entire Mac lineup to Intel. So while something similar may play out thistime around, the switch from Intel to ARM is a bit more complicated and likely to takemore time.