It's happening, Macs will say goodbye to Intel and transition to Apple's own processors
Note: This article was first published on 23 June 2020.
The rumours were true. It's finally happening. Apple has just announced at WWDC 2020 that Macs will be transitioning to its own custom silicon.
The reason is simple: Apple believes it own silicon can provide more performance per watt than existing solutions.
To be clear, this isn't the first time Apple is swapping processor architectures. They did it in 1994 when they moved from Motorola 68k processors to PowerPC, and then again in 2005 when they moved from PowerPC to Intel.
Apple's own processors have made tremendous leaps in performance ever since they were launched. They claimed CPU performance has improved 100 times since the first A series chips, while GPU performance has been improved by a whopping 1,000 times.
And in using their own silicon in Apple Watches, they have shown that the technology is highly scalable and efficient.
Another benefit of using its own processors is that iOS and iPadOS apps will run great on macOS.
To ensure Apple makes the best that it can possibly make, it will therefore transition to its own silicon. And there won't be just one processor. Oh no, Apple announced that Macs will soon have its family of SoCs.
But what does it all mean to the consumer?
According to Apple, the transition will be seamless.
For a start, Apple's latest macOS, macOS Big Sur, has been built to run on Apple's own processors.
Additionally, they also shared that all of Apple's own apps have been programmed to run natively on Apple's own processors without the need for any emulation software.
Apple is also working with partners to get their apps to run natively on Apple's processors.
In the keynote, they demoed Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint – all running natively. They also showed off Lightroom and Photoshop running natively on Apple's own processors.
For apps that have yet to be ported or optimised for Apple's processors, Apple has Rosetta 2, an emulation software that will help "translate" existing apps to run properly.
Longtime Mac users will know Rosetta. It was used when Apple made the transition to Intel processors.
Apple says this all takes place automatically and says that performance will be good. To prove the point, it ran Maya, the pro animation app, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a game.
In other words, if you buy a new Mac with Apple's own processor, everything should just work.
Speaking of which, Apple says the first Mac to use its own processor will be released by the end of the year. It also expects to take up to two years to fully transition all of its Macs to its own custom chips.
However, this piece of news doesn't mean the end of Intel-based Macs just yet because Apple also said that they have Intel-based Macs in the pipeline.
Additionally, Apple also confirmed that future version of macOS will continue to support Intel-based Macs.
What does it mean for developers?
As for developers, Apple is trying to make the transition as pain-free as possible. To that end, Apple says everything that developers need will be built into xCode and that it will take "a matter of days" for developers to open projects and recompile.
There will be a Universal 2 binary that works on both new Macs with Apple's own chips and Intel-based Macs.
Finally, Apple will have a development platform for developers that runs on an A12Z Bionic processor (seen in the latest iPad Pro) with 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD.
Read some of our other WWDC 2020 coverage:
Read our announcements on iOS 14here.
Read the updates to watchOS7here.
Read about the new iPadOS 14 here.
Read about macOS Big Sur here.
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