The Mac’s long-rumored transition from Intel processors to Apple’s own ARM designs could be swifter and more extensive than you might have expected. According to a new research note from analyst Ming-chi Kuo, reported on by MacRumors, Apple is planning to release “several” ARM-based Macs in 2021 in both laptop and desktop form factors.
Kuo believes that switching to ARM will allow Apple to reduce its processor costs by 40 to 60 percent while gaining more flexibility over its hardware lineup. He recently claimed that Apple would launch its first ARM-based laptop in the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of next.
Relative to x86 processors from Intel or AMD, ARM designs are usually associated with mobile devices because of their greater power efficiency, giving products like the iPad long battery life without the need for active cooling. It makes sense, then, that Apple would see its increasingly powerful A-series processors as a good fit for MacBooks.
The notion of ARM desktops is perhaps more intriguing, mainly because no-one’s really tried it yet in consumer computers. Power efficiency is closely related to performance — mobile ARM devices run at low power because they need to preserve battery life and run cool in a thin form factor. What kind of performance could be achieved from, say, something like the new iPad Pro’s A12Z chip in an iMac-style body with active cooling and a permanent power supply from the wall? And what would this mean for the ultra-engineered, ultra-expensive, Xeon-based new Mac Pro?
In any case, it sounds like the ARM transition is going to be big news for the Mac next year. Apple would normally announce this sort of thing at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June, but this year’s in-person event won’t take place due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the WWDC 2020 keynote and other developer sessions will be broadcast online at an as-yet unspecified time.