Mac Goes ARM
I didn’t stay up to watch the 2020 WWDC because I was too tired from indulging in all those durians that kept coming. Good god, I still remember the days when I would stay up for Apple Keynotes and Google I/O. But those days are over for me now. I realized it doesn’t make much sense for me to keep up in real-time. I can always catch up later, just as I’m doing now.
Let’s forget about MacOS Big Sur and iOS 14 for a moment because there’s one thing that truly excites me—the transition from Intel x86 to Apple’s custom silicon ARM-based SoC. Many people could see this coming years ago when Apple introduced the first A9X chip that powered the first-generation iPad Pro. And now, it’s great to see it finally making its way to the Mac.
Universal binary, anyone?
I have nothing against Intel; they make fantastic chips, and I’ve used their processors in many custom servers and workstations that I’ve built. However, I can understand why Apple needs to move away from Intel. The most expensive and powerful Apple product, the Mac Pro, is powered by the Xeon W processor, which has been outperformed by the more affordable Ryzen Threadripper. I’ve read numerous opinions and arguments about why Apple didn’t choose Ryzen for the Mac, and it’s not something I want to delve into here. But the point is, as long as it’s x86, the competition remains between Intel and AMD, and Apple needs to break free from that.
If there’s one company that can shake up the market, it’s Apple. They have the reach and influence, whether you like it or not. Remember when they removed the 3.5mm audio jack from the iPhone four years ago? Many high-end smartphones followed suit. Bluetooth earphones/headphones have improved and become more affordable since then. And let’s not forget when they embraced a flat UI with iOS 7—suddenly, skeuomorphism was a thing of the past. We’re likely to see a similar pattern play out with this transition, and it’s even smoother compared to the switch from PowerPC to x86 architecture 15 years ago.
I know many developers are thrilled about this change. Dockers and Linux can run on ARM-based Macs.
ARM is already prevalent in the market today—Linux runs on almost anything. And let’s not forget that Windows 10 is compatible with ARM architecture and capable of running 32-bit x86 apps. So, there’s no doubt that Windows can run on ARM-based Macs when they’re released. Bootcamp will still be available, alongside virtualization software like VMWare Fusion. Apple has even stated that you can run a Linux virtual machine on an ARM-based Mac. With the introduction of ARM-based Macs, we’ll likely see an increase in ARM-based Windows laptops and native apps that don’t require x86-to-ARM translation. This doesn’t mean x86 will disappear anytime soon—it will still have a presence, but it won’t dominate as it does now. Unless Microsoft decides to exclusively support x86 and restrict Windows to Intel/AMD, as they did in the past. But let’s not digress too much.
And who knows, maybe we’ll finally see MacBooks with built-in cellular capabilities. I wouldn’t count on it, but with Apple’s custom silicon, a cellular modem wouldn’t drain the battery life as much.
Well, it looks like I need to start saving up for a brand new MacBook in 2022.
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