As early as June 22, at its annual developer conference WWDC, Apple may reveal its plan to replace Intel chipsets with its own internally developed ones, code-named Kalamata. Sources indicate that announcing Kalamata this time of year will give third-party developers time to shift gears before the new Macs debut in 2021. Apple’s new chips will be based on the same technology as those in iPhones and iPads, although Macs will continue to run the macOS operating system rather than iOS software of the mobile devices.
Bloomberg reports that, in response to the news, “Apple shares were up less than 1 percent Tuesday while Intel was down less than 1 percent.”
Apple’s chips rely on “technology licensed from ARM, part of Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank Group … [but] this architecture is different from the underlying technology in Intel chips, so developers will need time to optimize their software for the new components.” Apple only changed chips two other times: from Motorola to PowerPC in the early 1990s and from PowerPC to Intel in 2005.
Apple’s first Intel-based Macs were released in January 2006, and “like it did then, the company plans to eventually transition the entire Mac lineup to its ARM-based processors.”
Microsoft, Samsung Electronics and Lenovo Group have also launched laptops running on ARM-based chips. Apple senior vice president of hardware technologies Johny Srouji decided to change up the chips “after Intel’s annual chip performance gains slowed … [and] Apple engineers worried that sticking to Intel’s road map would delay or derail some future Macs.”
Sources reported that, at Apple, “tests of new Macs with the ARM-based chips have shown sizable improvements over Intel-powered versions, specifically in graphics performance and apps using artificial intelligence.” They are also “more power-efficient than Intel’s, which may mean thinner and lighter Mac laptops in the future.”
Intel has also seen its lead in chip production technology falter, surpassed by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), which now “makes processors for many of Intel’s rivals using a more advanced process.” As a result, “TSMC will build the new Mac processors using a 5-nanometer production technique — the same approach as for the next iPhones and iPad Pros.” TSMC also makes chips for Intel rivals Qualcomm and AMD.