Skip to main content

Apple announces monumental transition to custom processors for Mac

Apple revealed it will switch from Intel processors to its own ARM-based chips in its Macs starting from late 2020, with the transition expected to take around two years. The largest shakeup of the Mac in 15 years, the announcement was made by Apple CEO Tim Cook during the keynote address at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

Apple announced the new processor family will be known simply as Apple Silicon. The new chips will allow Macs to maximize their performance while maintaining low power consumption levels, according to Senior Vice President Craig Federighi.

Federighi said several apps will be ready to go as soon as the first Apple Silicon Mac launches in 2020. These include Adobe and Microsoft apps, as well as Apple’s own in-house apps like Final Cut Pro. As well as that, iPhone and iPad apps will work natively on the new Macs, without any additional coding or changes required.

Several other Apple devices already use ARM processors. Ever since their inception, both the iPhone and the iPad have used A-series chips that are based on ARM designs. These processors are some of the best-performing chips on the mobile market, regularly outstripping their competition in terms of performance. If Apple’s claims prove correct, a similar performance improvement could soon be seen on the Mac.

The switch had long been rumored, with numerous sources claiming the changeover was well underway over the past months and years. Apple has reportedly been dissatisfied with Intel, both for missing deadlines and for its slowing rate of innovation, leading Apple to seek greater control over its Mac processors.

The switch may not be without its problems, however. Microsoft attempted a similar move (albeit a more limited one) when it gave the Surface Pro X an ARM processor, but the company warned potential customers that many apps would not be compatible with the new chips. Mac developers and users may be experiencing similar anxieties about Apple’s latest move.

However, Apple said it would make the switch as painless as possible. It has readied an app called Rosetta 2 that can translate apps built for Intel systems so that they work on new ARM Macs. In fact, it can translate apps as they are installed, so they will be ready to run right away. Moreover, the first ARM Mac will not be sold until 2021, with Apple hoping the delay will give most developers enough time to rework their apps for the new architecture.

Apple last announced a Mac processor switch in 2005, when it moved from PowerPC to Intel. We will put the new ARM Macs through their paces as soon as they become available to see if Apple’s performance claims stand up to scrutiny.

Editors' Recommendations

Alex Blake
In ancient times, people like Alex would have been shunned for their nerdy ways and strange opinions on cheese. Today, he…
The easy way to decide between the MacBook Air 15 and MacBook Pro 14

Picking out a new MacBook isn't as easy as it used to be. While Apple finally dropped the 13-inch MacBook Pro that didn't match the line's modern design, it introduced a new 14-inch MacBook Pro with an entry-level M3 processor. If you prefer a larger screen or more performance, you might be left considering two compelling options: the 15-inch MacBook Air and the 14-inch MacBook Pro.

Having reviewed and used both laptops extensively, I'm here to lay it all out for you. Here's the difference between the two machines and how to easily determine which is right for you.
The easy way to know which to buy

Read more
A major era in MacBook history is finally over
A MacBook Pro 13-inch on a table.

We're living in a golden age for MacBooks.

The MacBook Airs are faster, thinner, and more accessible laptops than ever, while the Pro models have the best display, speakers, keyboard, trackpad, and battery life of any competitive laptop. They're on their A game.

Read more
Here’s why people are raising concerns about the M3 Pro MacBook Pro
The 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Max chip seen from behind.

I published my review of the M3 Max MacBook Pro earlier this week, and suffice it to say, I was pretty impressed. I'm fond of the Space Black color, and the GPU performance in particular blew me away.

But one configuration of the new MacBook Pro went a bit more under the radar -- the M3 Pro model. Apple wasn't keen on sending this exact unit out to reviewers, instead leading with its much stronger foot, the M3 Max. And while the M3 Max and Pro were a bit closer in performance in the M2 generation, this time around, it seems as if there's more of a disparity.

Read more