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ARMs Race | Apple is ARMing Macs in 2021

Apple is rumored to not only ARM its MacBook Air next year but also push through much of the lineup in the next five years. Recently we reported Apple to release ARM based Mac as per info from Ming-Chi Kuo.

Apple will introduce an ARM powered Mac in 2021, according to Bloomberg. Apple is said to have at least three ARM Mac processors in development currently as part of a project called Kalamata. This chips are based on the unreleased Apple A14, that will be used in the iPhone 12 series.

Bloomberg goes on to say that the first of the three processors will be a 12-core processor with a unique mix of eight high performance cores called “Firestorm” cores and four energy efficient core called “Icestorm” cores. There is a clear Fire & Ice reference here that also relates to the cores that will be hotter and cooler.

In our recent reporting we noted that Apple could introduce its first ARM powered Macbook Air according to Ming-Chi Kuo.

In Bloomberg’s report, they provide details about chips themselves:

  • Three Mac System-on-Chip (SoC) designs based on the A14 processor are currently in development, and work has also started on a Mac SoC based on next year’s iPhone processor. Bloomberg speculates that Apple is planning to keep both its laptop and mobile chips on the same development cycle.
  • The Mac chips will reportedly be manufactured by TSMC based on a 5nm fabrication process.
  • The first of these chips will feature eight high-performance CPU cores and at least four energy-efficient cores, for 12 cores in total. The A12Z chip used in the current iPad Pro has eight cores: four high performance and four energy efficient.
  • As well as a CPU, the SoC will also include a GPU.
  • ARM Mac computers will continue to run macOS rather than switching to iOS, similar to the approach taken with existing Windows laptops that use Qualcomm ARM processors.
  • Bloomberg speculates that Apple’s first ARM-based machines will be lower-powered MacBooks because its own chips won’t be able to match Intel’s performance in its higher-end MacBook Pros, iMacs, and Mac Pro computers.
  • Back in 2018, Apple reportedly developed a prototype Mac chip based on that year’s iPad Pro A12X processor. The success of this prototype is thought to have given the company the confidence to target a transition as early as 2020.

As with Microsoft, simply just getting your desktop OS to run on ARM is not enough to make it a success. App compatibility is a very important factor. It is possible that because of the proliferation of PWA’s and Apple own efforts with iOS app code based apps on Macs could be a good foundation that could lead to future success.

With this move Apple will no longer be held back by a company like Intel, but instead “Apple in control of chip design and manufacturing, the company will be able to introduce new Mac models at peak market demand, Kuo says.

“Apple in control of chip design and manufacturing, the company will be able to introduce new Mac models at peak market demand”

Ming-Chi Kuo

Switching to in-house designs will “reduce processor costs by about 40% to 60%”, Kuo estimates.

Apple has been rumored to move its Mac platform to ARM for almost a decade. Iinitial rumors coming after Apple debuted its first A-series chip with iPhone 4’s A4 in 2010.

New rumors of an ARM-powered Mac arrived in February, when Kuo said hardware was to debut in early 2021. Now he has moved up that timeline, with an A-Series powered Mac would reach market by the end of 2020.

Source: Ming-Chi Kuo, Bloomberg