Mac Moving To ARM?

There’s a fresh rumor about Apple selling Macs that use custom ARM CPUs instead of Intel silicon as early as 2020. I wrote a breezy 1600 words about it for Fast Company.

Here are some highlights, to entice you to read the whole thing:

  • I like this rumor a lot. Apple making custom CPUs for Macs makes perfect sense.
  • The timing is interesting, too. WWDC is two months away. If Apple has committed to this kind of move and planned to announce it on June 4, they would have recently expanded the group of “people who need to know” to include “possible blabbermouths.”
  • I don’t think Apple would drop Intel completely. It’s easier for me to imagine them using custom CPUs for their consumer-grade Macs and sticking with Intel for the high-horsepower Pro desktops and notebooks. At least for starters.
  • Remember that iOS and MacOS are built on the same foundation. During my very first briefing on the iPhone, Apple told me that the iPhone’s OS is OS X with none of the stuff the Mac needs and all of the things a phone needs.
  • ARM is such a huge move — and presents such a big opportunity for change — that I would expect it to accompany a whole new historical age for the Mac. Either Apple would do radical (and long-overdue) modern rethink, akin to what Microsoft did with Windows 10…or they would effectively transform MacOS into an enhanced version of iOS, in function if not in name.

As much as I like this rumor, I’m still cautious. Apple tries lots of ideas and builds lots of ready-for-market hardware before they commit to anything big. I’ve no doubts whatsoever that there are a whole bunch of ARM-based Mac laptops inside the Apple campus, and that an ARM version of MacOS is done and dusted and has been for some time. But even if someone leaked Apple’s entire WWDC keynote slide deck to me a week before, I refuse to believe any rumor until Apple formally announces.

Do read my whole Fast Company piece.

5 thoughts on “Mac Moving To ARM?

  1. Pingback: Michael Tsai - Blog - Apple Plans to Use Its Own Chips in Macs From 2020, Replacing Intel

  2. Mitchell Smith


    A few thoughts:

    iPad revenues have been slowly falling for years, and represented 7% of Apple’s revenue last quarter, while the Mac represented 8%. If the Mac division were spun off, it would rank number 76 on the Fortune 500, which is higher than Alcoa, Best Buy, and FedEx.

    Apple is desperately trying to keep its fingers in the dike, but it isn’t working. Customers recognize that an iPad + keyboard doesn’t beat a Chromebook or a MacBook: you have to hold tablets, and if they are attached to a keyboard, they are rarely stable on your lap, the software for them is rarely as powerful as the version available for a desktop OS, and that’s partly due to the touch targets having to be large enough to touch with a finger, rather than clicking with a cursor. And lacking telepathy, a keyboard is still the most efficient input paradigm.

    No, the notion of Apple abandoning a stable business like the Mac for a failing business like the iPad is nothing but an Apple executive’s dream. For getting work done, iPads are at best a poor replacement for a laptop or desktop, and most people only use them to create when they don’t have the superior tool available, just as I only use my iPhone to get work done when I don’t have my iPad available.

    Apple has said over and over again that they will not merge the two platforms, and they won’t. Crippling the Mac would sacrifice a whole lot of revenue. Apple should spend $10B to put MacBook Airs in every classroom, because kids need to TYPE their work in school, not use a pencil for cute little drawings. Sure, Apple would lose money, but their goodwill would create customers for years to come.

    Do you remember how Apple burned Los Angeles with the iPad fiasco, promising content and education software that never materialized, while the district paid several times what it would have paid had it just purchased Chromebooks?

    When you described how encouraged you were that Apple was focusing on education, I remembered how Apple said it was creating a server, and was committed to it. And then they canceled it. And then they created the Xserve, assuring us all that they were committed. And they canceled that too. And then they starved OS X Server to death by all but ignoring it.

    I’ll believe that Apple is serious about education if they’re still in it come 2038. But they won’t be.

  3. Robert Pearson

    Dear Mr Ihnatko,
    Thank you for this well-thought out, insightful analysis. It is certainly worthy of a man of your stature and experience.

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