After 15 years, Apple is moving away from Intel processors. Instead, the company announced last week at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), it will be overhauling Mac computers with its own ARM chips.
There have been rumblings of a switch from Intel to ARM chips for more than a decade. On Jun 22, 2020, those rumours became reality.
Why the Disruption?
Macs are a breed all their own. In fact, less than 10% of all computers in use today are Macs. Is that because they come with a hefty price tag? Perhaps. And Apple isn’t oblivious to that.
By introducing its own ARM chip, the company can cut component costs drastically, and pass those savings along to customers. It’s a good strategy to gain market share, especially among budget-conscious shoppers, like students.
“Apple has always been known to drive efficiency by perfectly pairing hardware and software,” said ACT360 Partner, Director of IT Services Jeffrey Bowles.
According to Apple, the company is now in a position to rival Intel in the PC space, claiming its ARM chip uses less power and offers greater control over product plans. It also uses mobile device hardware for improved graphics, artificial intelligence (AI), power management and secure enclaves.
Introducing A12Z Under Rosetta
More powerful than the existing A-series processors, Apple said the A12Z processor will now be used in newer iPad Pros. And just like that, a few short days after the WWDC, Apple’s Developer Transition Kit (which resembles a Mac mini) rolled out to developers, complete with an A12Z iPad Pro chip.
There were some skeptics in the WWDC crowd, however. Moor Insights and Strategy analyst Patrick Moorhead sounded less than impressed when he said, "I am very disappointed Apple didn't provide a lot of technical details [about speed, rollout, battery life and price] to give confidence to users and developers in the ARM-based processor Mac experience."
According to Bowles, “iOS has shown that this works great as the chips in iPhones can be slower than Android alternatives, but in real-world tests they run better and are more energy efficient.”
Apple did say it will produce a variety of ARM chips to suit various types of Macs – from energy efficient models for compact Macs to larger chips (that consume more energy) for bigger Macs. They also said they’ll continue to support Intel-based Macs for years to come.
ARM Benchmarks Quickly Emerge
Sure, it’s illegal, but that hasn’t stopped Apple developers from benchmarking the Transition Kit. Check out Geekbench for specifics.
In short, Apple’s ARM test hardware, running non-natively via Rosetta, is benchmarking in line with a 2020 MacBook Air. Granted, running on Rosetta will hurt performance – we just don’t know exactly how much yet. Some developers are estimating the performance penalty could be about 25-40%.
That said, the Transition Kit is meant strictly for developers to port their apps. The hardware that will ship to customers will perform at a much higher level.
Bowles said, “If Apple is able to bring that hardware and software efficiency to the Mac, it could be a game changer against the strides Microsoft is making with Windows 10.”
According to Apple, the first Apple Silicon Mac will ship by the end of 2020. Will it replace the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro? Time will tell.
If you think Apple’s new ARM chips could have an impact on your network, give us call. We’re happy to answer all your questions.