Apple Drops Intel, Announces Custom Silicon
Michael Alba posted on June 23, 2020 |
Within two years, new Macs will be running Apple’s custom ARM-based processors.
(Image courtesy of Apple.)
(Image courtesy of Apple.)

At Apple’s worldwide developer conference (WWDC), which kicked off virtually yesterday, the tech behemoth confirmed rumors that have been swirling about its hardware (no, it didn’t unveil Apple Glass—give that one another year or two). Apple announced that it will be transitioning its line of Mac computers away from Intel processors in favor of custom ARM-based silicon.

Apple already designs the chips running in its iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches, so the move to take control of the processors in its Macs is hardly a surprise. Custom silicon will allow Apple to have more control over its development cycle and allow for a more cohesive ecosystem, already one of the company’s biggest selling points. The company claims the new chips will provide “industry-leading performance per watt and higher performance GPUs.”

With the unified architecture, iOS and iPadOS apps will run natively on Mac with no modifications necessary. Apple has launched the Universal App Quick Start Program to help Mac developers transition to the new architecture, which provides documentation, betas of the newly announced macOS Big Sur and Xcode 12, and a Mac Mini development system equipped with Apple’s A12Z Bionic SoC.

(Image courtesy of Apple.)
(Image courtesy of Apple.)

Apple has taken steps to ensure its new custom silicon will not create a schism in its ecosystem, introducing the Universal 2 binary that will allow developers to compile apps that support both Apple silicon and Intel. Apple’s new Rosetta 2 translation technology will allow Intel-based Mac apps to run on the new chipset.

According to Apple, the first Macs with Apple silicon will be shipping by the end of 2020, with the transition expected to take two years. The company promises to continue supporting Intel-based Macs “for years to come” and claims to have “exciting new Intel-based Macs in development.”

It’s unclear whether this means that Apple plans to sell Intel-based Macs alongside ARM-based Macs, but that seems an unlikely strategy. An Intel spokesperson commented that “Apple is a customer across several areas of business, and we will continue to support them,” according to Tom’s Hardware.

With his characteristic enthusiasm, Apple CEO Tim Cook proclaimed the announcement as marking a historic day for the Mac. “With its powerful features and industry-leading performance, Apple silicon will make the Mac stronger and more capable than ever. I’ve never been more excited about the future of the Mac,” he said.

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