That Apple will, at some point in the next few years, kick Intel and make the transition to own ARM chips we Macs… Well, everyone knows that. What is not known, so far, is when exactly this process will start – or where: some bet that it will be in the entry-level machines, while others argue that it would be more intelligent to introduce own chips in the most powerful computers.
Today, the leaker Fudge (known as @choco_bit on Twitter) went to Reddit to add his two cents to the story – or rather, much more than two cents: he wrote a real treatise, combining information he obtained from trusted sources and his own experience, detailing how he believes that Apple will make this transition.
According Fudge, the process would be divided into four stages – and we would already be right in the middle of it. The first would have come with the security chip T1, which debuted in the 2016 MacBooks Pro, while the second would be its successor, the T2.
Coprocessors would represent Apple’s first attempts to place its own ARM chips on Macs, with positive results: T1, for example, took on a series of tasks from the System Management Controller (SMC), such as fan speed, thermal data, access camera and microphone, and communication with the NAND memory. T2 embraced even more functions, such as full control of the audio system and management of the machine’s boot process.
In other words: the idea is that, with each generation, the own Apple chip will have more and more responsibilities. And that would culminate in the third phase of the process, which would be the introduction of the first Mac with a “complete” ARM processor, with no signals from Intel.
This is where things get even more interesting: Fudge, this launch (sometime between 2021 and 22) will take the form of the old (and deceased) 12-inch MacBook. According to leaker, the model is perfect for introducing Apple’s ARM chips, as it is incredibly thin, light and focused on casual users; there is information, according to him, that the company would be working on a processor based on the “A14X”, with 8 or 12 cores, to be used on the future machine.
Fudge does not know if the future computer will have a different design from the previous model, but bet on the return of the controversial butterfly keyboard: According to him, there are rumors that Apple is working to improve the component, which would allow the company’s engineers to maintain the ultra-thin design of the MacBook. There is also the possibility that the computer comes with 5G integrated, although this is still not certain.
The fourth and final phase of the process, of course, would be the end of the transition, with the entire line of Macs already duly equipped with Apple’s ARM chips. Fudge does not set a deadline for this, but bets on a scenario in which other manufacturers will take similar paths and the developers will have already adapted completely, with issues related to support, performance and battery fully resolved. By the way…
Applications and Boot Camp
…The leaker dedicates a few paragraphs of his prediction to address two of the most discussed topics when talking about “Macs with ARM chips”: support for apps already existing and Boot Camp (utility that allows Windows to be installed on a secondary Mac partition).
Second Fudge, applications distributed by Mac App Store will have a smooth transition: as they are sent in the form of Bitcode, the system will be able to download versions of the apps adapted for ARM automatically, ensuring that the user does not suffer from any type of obstacle.
In the case of apps distributed outside the store, things can be a little more complicated. In the worst case, developers will need to create two versions of their apps (something done to exhaustion at the time of the last PowerPC transition); other options include creating applications that work independently of the chip architecture or apps that are transpiled (that is, compiled and translated in real time) by a remote server while running.
Boot Camp is the most complicated aspect of the transition, as you recognize Fudge: there are already Windows versions adapted for ARM (like the Surface Pro X), but the consensus is that they suffer from serious performance and compatibility problems. According to the leaker, the most likely is that Boot Camp will simply be abandoned at the first moment of the transition, returning only when Microsoft builds an ARM version of Windows, say, acceptable.
So the prospects are these. Oh, and a final tip: don’t forget to listen, even today, to the next episode of MacMagazine On Air – where these issues were discussed, among other several cool things.
And you, what do you think?