Apple Mac computers make jump to its own chips

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Apple has confirmed it will transition its Mac laptop and desktop computers to its own ARM-based processors.

The move means that Macs will run on the same type of chips as the firm’s iPhones and iPads, rather than Intel’s.

Intel had faced problems manufacturing its own designs, leading it to issue a public apology to computer-makers.

Apple’s challenge will be to carry off the transition smoothly and convince third-party developers to update their apps accordingly.

“We expect to ship our first Mac with Apple silicon by the end of the year,” said chief executive Tim Cook, adding that it would likely be two years before its full product line had made the jump.

The firm said the move would allow it to offer new features and improved performance as well as making it easier for developers to “write and optimise software for the entire Apple ecosystem”.

The announcement was made at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

“Apple’s motivations for doing this include reducing its dependence on Intel, maximizing its silicon investment, boosting performance and giving itself more flexibility and agility when it comes to future products,” commented Geoff Blaber from the consultancy CCS Insight.

“Embracing ARM and making its hardware more consistent across the iPhone, iPad and Mac ranges is a strategic necessity, but there will be inevitable bumps along the road.”

Apple said it had already developed native versions of several of its own apps, including Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro. iPhone and iPad apps will also be able to be run on the computers.

Apple said that Microsoft was working on an optimised version of Office, and Adobe was developing a version of Photoshop.

Other developers should be able to recompile their apps to get a version running “in just a matter of days,” said the company’s software chief Craig Federighi. He added that old apps would automatically be translated at point of installation to run, although they would not work as well.

To mark the significance of the move, MacOS will move to version 11. Since 2001, it had only moved from 10.0 to 10.15.

Apple silicon

Apple successfully made the switch from IBM-Motorola’s PowerPC processors to Intel’s x86 family in 2006.

However, some software was never updated and cannot easily be run on today’s Mac computers. Apple dropped support for running older software under emulation in the 2011 release of its Mac operating system.

Microsoft already allows Windows 10 to be run on both Intel and ARM-based processors and looks set to continue supporting both chip architectures.

Apple has not stated how long it will do the same.

As a result, some people considering buying one of its laptop or desktop computers may decide to postpone a purchase until its first ARM-based computers go on sale.

This could hit sales both at Apple and the development studios that make software for the platform.

ARM-based chips are based on the designs of the UK-based company, which is headquartered in Cambridge. Other companies then adapt these to add capabilities of their own.

Samsung, Qualcomm and Huawei are among the many other companies to do so.

Apple is the fourth-largest PC vendor, according to market research firm Gartner, coming behind Lenovo, HP, and Dell.

The company has said that it has more than 100 million active Mac users. Back in June 2005, when it first announced the move to Intel chips, the figure was about 12.5 million.

“Apple is approximately 4.5% of the laptop market and 2.6% of the desktop market, so the financial impact to Intel will not be significant,” commented Gartner’s Jon Erensen.

“However, this transition… could give momentum to Microsoft’s current efforts to run Windows on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors.” – bbc.com

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