At its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this week, Apple revealed that after years of development, it’s ready to replace Intel’s chips with its own custom-made ARM processors. Apple will be able to customize its circuitry for AI, 3D image rendering and other specific uses, with a focus on powerful, energy-efficient processors. The company expects its migration to silicon to take about two years, with its first ARM-based Macs shipping later this year. It will continue to ship Intel-based Macs in the short term and says it plans years of support for Macs with Intel processors.
“The Apple silicon project is all about creating powerful, energy-efficient processors, which should mean that future MacBooks have far superior battery life than we’re accustomed to these days,” reports Engadget. “The chips will have deep integration with macOS Big Sur,” while iPhone and iPad apps will also “be able to run natively on Apple silicon Macs.”
“All of the company’s own software can already run as native apps on Apple silicon-based Macs, including demanding tools like Final Cut Pro,” notes Engadget. “Microsoft has also gotten the Office suite to work natively on Apple silicon, and Adobe is doing the same for Creative Cloud apps.”
The New York Times points out that, “Apple’s move is an indication of the growing power of the biggest tech companies to expand their abilities and reduce their dependence on major partners that have provided them with services for years.” Amazon and Google, for instance, “already design some of their own chips, both for performance and potential cost reasons.”
Apple also has experience, having always designed its own chips for iPhones and iPad, “adding features to customize designs licensed by ARM, a semiconductor firm owned by the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank.” The upcoming Apple chips will “rely on ARM technology, improving compatibility with its mobile devices.”
Apple’s chip design team is made up of staff acquired in the 2008 purchase of startup PA Semi, including former Intel employee Johny Srouji. Apple’s move is a blow for Intel, which “has long been a U.S. standard-bearer in the semiconductor business” and, over the last 15 years, said Evercore analyst C.J. Muse, sold Apple “about $3.4 billion in chips for Macs each year.”
Intel has not kept up with the “industry-wide race to miniaturize.” According to International Business Strategies chief executive Handel Jones, Intel has fallen behind by 12 months, maybe 18 months,” which allowed Taiwan Semiconductor and Samsung Electronics to take a stronger technology lead.
Apple to Sell Developers on Building New Apps Amid Pushback, Bloomberg, 6/20/20
Apple Approves Hey Email App, but the Fight’s Not Over, The Verge, 6/22/20
Apple Announces Mac Transition to Apple Silicon, Apple Release, 6/22/20
Apple Is Switching Macs to Its Own Processors Starting Later This Year, The Verge, 6/22/20