Apple may ditch Intel for an Arm-based MacBook within the next 18 months

Reports about an Arm-based MacBook have been in the works for years. But according to a new prediction from noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the timetable for these new products is being pushed forward.

Kuo states that a Mac with an Apple-branded processor will be released within the next 12 to 18 months. According to 9to5 Mac, Kuo cited a “more aggressive” pursuit of 5nm process processors as a reason for this push, especially since the outbreak of the coronavirus. These 5nm processors are supposed to be an important part of Apple’s platform for 2021 devices, including the Mac.

This doesn’t mean necessarily that Apple would move its entire Mac lineup to Arm. Apple could lead with an entry-level device like the MacBook Air and keep its Pro-level devices with Intel. The Air would be a good contender for the A-series treatment as it currently uses a slower dual-core Intel processor.

MacBooks have been running on Intel processors since 2005, marking this change as a serious departure from the previous era of Apple laptops.

An Arm-based MacBook faces some challenges in terms of user experience. Because these Arm chips aren’t based on the x86 instruction set, they can’t install many of the traditional Mac apps you might be used to. That’s likely we Apple is using its Catalyst development program to help developers port their apps over to the Mac App Store from iOS or iPad. The first of these apps came from Apple itself, which ditched the legacy iTunes application for a trio of Catalyst apps.

We expect to get some kind of update to Catalyst in June at Apple’s annual developers conference.

There have also been reports that Apple is considering a switch to AMD in MacBooks this year. AMD launched new Ryzen laptop processors that feature an astonishing eight cores in as little as 15 watts. These could make dramatically increase the content creation capabilities of the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple usually saves its biggest MacBook updates for later in the year, such as 2019’s late launch of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. That said, a March 31 event has been rumored, which could bring a keyboard and processor update to the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Other rumored products at the event include the iPhone SE 2 and the AirTags.

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