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ARMs Race | Apple to unveil first Apple Silicon Macs in November



Apple has been rumored to ARM a and revive the 12-inch MacBook Air for some time. With the recent announcement of Apple’s plans to move thier entire Mac lineup to their own ARM-based Silicon, the biggest question remains, which device will be first. We are finally getting a possible month that we might the first Apple Silicon-powered Macs.

While Apple already has shipped out a ‘Developer Transition Kit’, which was an Apple Silicon A12Z-based Mac mini and would arguably reach production first, a new rumor suggests what may come at the same time or possibly come next. The rumor suggests Apple’s first Apple Silicon-based Mac will utilize an unannounced processor code named “Tonga”, which would be manufactured by TSMC with a battery life of 15-20 hours, according to The China Times.

According to Apple’s supply chain, Apple is expected to launch a Macbook with a 12-inch Retina Display at the end of this year, using its self-developed and designed A14X processor, with the development code of Tonga, supporting a USB Type-C interface and weighing less than 1 kilogram, because of the low-power advantage of the Arm-based processor. The Macbook battery lasts 15 to 20 hours. The A14X processor will also be used in the new generation iPad Pro tablet.

The China Times

Apple will introduce ARM powered Macs 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. These chips are based on the unreleased Apple A14, that is used in the iPhone 12 series. Jon Prosser is adamant that Apple will announce its first ARM-based Macs on Tuesday November 10th.

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. Apple is said to already be working Apple Silicon with more than 12 cores with the company designing second-generation processors for Macs based on the future unannounced A15 chip.

Wondering what an Apple Silicon-based 12-inch MacBook will look like? An Apple leaker by the name of Fudge with the handle @choco_bit on Twitter said that Apple could revive the now discontinued MacBook with the 12-inch model being the first with an Apple Silicon chip. He said that while the appearance would be the same as the discontinued version, it will not only be powered by Apple Silicon but could have 5G as an optional feature.

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. Now we know exactly when in November this would happen.



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