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- 26 Mar 2021
Apple made a valiant move to reduce the dependency on Intel chips, as it announced its own "Apple Silicon" chips for future Macs at the Worldwide Developer Conference 2020 (WWDC20) keynote event. Apple is very limpid about its own processor. It assures that Mac will have a "whole new level of performance" with lower power consumption and better battery life.
The company will now build its chipsets to deploy across its family for products, similar to what's already available for its iPhone and iPad. These products are based on Arm Design.
What is Arm?
Arm architecture is one of the most popular processor architectures in the world today. The arm processors are extensively used in smartphones, tablets, etc.
For instance, all of the Apple chips use arm architecture (Advanced RISC Machine) which is designed by Arm Holdings. Arm holdings is a British company that designs and creates its own set of CPUs and other chips. The developed chips are then licensed out to other companies such as Apple, Qualcomm, etc., who design their own products and incorporate one of those architectures.
Intel and Apple's relationship was good going from the past 15 years. But Apple had to apply the brakes and switch to ARM-based processors under its own stewardship for future Mac hardware. Apple says, "It will allow the company to better optimize macOS and it will also make it easier for developers to write apps for the entire ecosystem".
Image source: Apple
The first Mac with apple silicon is expected to be launched by the end of the year. Apple can't dump Intel Chips and turn onto arm based chips immediately as the entire lineup of transition is not an overnight process.
“We plan to continue to support and release new versions of Mac OS for Intel-based Macs for years to come," said Apple CEO Tim Cook.
However, Intel based Chips will be used for around two years until the full transition.
While the switch to ARM will be a major shift for developers, it’s not the first time Apple has made such a transition. As Tim cook notes “every time we’ve done this, the Mac has come out stronger and more capable.” Allowing developers to work more seamlessly on both mobile and desktop apps will hopefully lead to a better software experience.
Moving from one hardware platform to another isn’t easy; it can affect the entire viability of the platform.
After 11 years of using Power PC. In 2006, Apple switched its Mac computers and the software from PowerPc to Intel X86 processor. This transition was announced publicly at the worldwide developer’s conference (WWDC) in June 2005.
This wasn't the first ever transition of Apple. In 1994, Apple switched from Mac's original Motorola 68000 series to the then new PowerPc processor.
How will the new chips impact performance or battery life?
“The main motive for Apple is to infuse a higher level of performance in computers while consuming less power”, said Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies, during a virtual keynote Monday. He also pointed out that the new Apple processor will share the same foundation of A- series processors which have powered the iPhone and iPad since 2010.
Can I use old apps on the new silicon processor?
Once the Mac’s with apple silicon is ready. It will be able to run the iOS apps natively on Mac OS without any modification. Apple has built a new universal engine to make sure apps work on any device running an apple chip. For the apps that don't work on new silicon, Apple announced Rosetta 2, which automatically makes existing apps work with the new processor architecture. Mr.Craig Federighi Senior Vice President, of Software Engineering said “Rosetta 2 will be able to port over pro apps and plug-ins. They’re translated right away as you install the apps”.
According to Wall Street Journal, Intel may lose about $2 billion in laptop chip sales annually, or 2% to 4% of total revenue, due to Apple’s move.
Watch Worldwide Developer Conference 2020 (WWDC20) keynote event.