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Apple Announces It’s Official Switch to ARM-Based Silicon

July 04, 2020 by Luke James

Apple is now bringing ARM-based processor technology to its Mac products, and its first ARM-based Mac will be available later this year.

Apple has relied on Intel processors since 2006. Now, in a move that has been alluded to and rumored for years, the technology giant brings its ARM-based processor technology to its flagship desktop Mac products. The ARM chip, A12Z, is Apple’s first ARM-based chips for desktops. 

Calling it a “historic day for the Mac,” Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted that it is a big move to see macOS supporting native iOS apps and macOS apps side-by-side on Mac machines of the future. Apple will release the first Mac with Apple ARM-based silicon in Q4 2020, likely right at the end of the year, and expects the whole transition to take around two years.

At this moment in time, new Intel-powered Mac desktops are still in the product pipeline, so Apple is not yet moving exclusively to their ARM-based silicon. However, this big shift signifies that this is almost certainly a possibility in the years to come. 


Establishing a Common Architecture

The transition from Intel to Apple’s ARM-based silicon will see the company establish a common architecture across all Apple products, which will make it easier for developers to write and optimize their apps for the entire ecosystem. 

Developers are already able to get started with the transition to Apple silicon by converting their existing apps, enabling them to get ahead by taking advantage of the advanced capabilities that Apple silicon offers. And for the first time, developers can make their iOS and iPadOS apps available on the Mac without any modifications. “Most apps will just work,” says Apple. 

To support developers and help them get started with Apple silicon, the company is launching the Universal App Quick Start Program. The program will provide access to documentation; forums support, beta versions of macOS Big Sur and Xcode 12, and the limited use of a Developer Transition Kit (DTK), a Mac development system based on Apple’s A12Z Bionic System on a Chip (SoC).


Graph measuring power consumption of MacBooks developed with Apple silicon.

A graph by Apple measuring the power consumption and performance of Macbooks and Desktops developed with Apple silicon.


New Levels of Performance

With its ARM-based silicon, Apple promises whole new levels of performance and far less power consumption. The company is developing its range of SoCs for Macs with features that are unique to Mac. By making the switch from Intel to its in-house silicon, Apple will be able to concentrate on developing a unique architecture that will provide better support for current and future product lines. 

According to Apple, their new chips will build on ten generations of mobile processors, which have improved 100-fold since the first iPhone. Apple also promises to provide better performance while using less power than existing desktop processors, enabling better leverage of the limited thermals available on laptop products like the MacBook while also allowing exceptional performance on desktop Macs. 

The move to Apple silicon comes after recent reports that suggested that it was prompted by Intel’s slowing down of performance gains. Apple has allegedly been testing ARM-based chips in Macs and saw substantial performance increases over Intel alternatives. 

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