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Apple announces two year x86 to Arm Mac CPU transition period

by Mark Tyson on 22 June 2020, 21:01

Tags: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), ARM, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaemiz

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Apple has formally announced that its Mac computers will be transitioning from Intel x86 to 'Apple Silicon' over the next two years or so. Such an announcement was widely tipped for its WWDC 2020 developer conference - industry watchers, and people who aren't Intel investors, won't be disappointed with the news. The transition rumours haven't just been bubbling up this year, rumours about a potential switch have been in the HEXUS headlines since 2010 and 2011.

Today is "a historic day for Mac," wrote Apple in its news release. Bigging-up the announcement it described the change as a move that will "deliver industry-leading performance and powerful new technologies". There will be various benefits for Apple, not only the claimed ones for customers. First of all it will benefit from vertical integration of the Mac business, cuttings its update cycle timing from a third party. Secondly, the transition will "establish a common architecture across all Apple products, making it far easier for developers to write and optimize their apps for the entire ecosystem," a very worthy piece of news for its developers virtually attending today's conference.

Developers might need a helping hand to get started with Apple silicon. So, alongside the MacOS Big Sur OS update there will be conversion tools and technologies provided to smooth the transition. Apple is launching the Universal App Quick Start Program, which provides access to documentation, forums support, beta versions of MacOS Big Sur and Xcode 12, and the limited use of a Developer Transition Kit (DTK), a Mac development system based on Apple's A12Z Bionic System on a Chip (SoC). Apple's DTK is a Mac Mini form factor system with an A12Z Bionic SoC, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD and various Mac I/O ports. It costs $500 for developers as part of the kit but it must be returned to Apple at the end of the Universal App Quick Start Program.

While developers can get their hands on the first Apple Arm powered Macs (DTKs) shortly, end users / consumers will have to wait until nearer the end of the year before Macs powered by 'Apple silicon' become available. Apple says that the whole Mac line will have transitioned away from Intel CPUs by the end of the following two year period. When that time comes Apple is confident that its SoCs will "give the Mac industry-leading performance per watt and higher performance GPUs — enabling app developers to write even more powerful pro apps and high-end games". Other technologies we see in iPhones and iPads, like the Neural Engine and so on, will also be used by Apple's Mac computer systems.

Those familiar with the previous big transition for Apple Macs will recognise some of the developer terms Apple mentioned today. Apple says developers will be able to create Universal 2 application binaries for Intel/Apple silicon. Meanwhile, older apps, plugins and so-on will work thanks to Rosetta 2 translation tech. Another bonus is that developers can also make their iOS and iPadOS apps available on the Mac without any modifications. Apple's last big Mac transition was from OS9 to OS X, and PowerPC to Intel x86, started in 2006. It continued to support PowerPC hardware until 2013.

Intel shares haven't been impacted by the news today, Wall Street is open at the time of writing and the share price is pretty flat. One might expect this news to be 'priced in' already after the extensive pre-news leaks. Apple Macs account for approx three per cent of Intel consumer CPU sales.

Incidentally, Apple calls Big Sur the "biggest update in more than a decade," (since the introduction of OS X), and you can read more about the new OS in a dedicated blog post from Apple here.



HEXUS Forums :: 45 Comments

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They can convert their Macbooks to ARM,and make them even less repairable(just look at YouTube channel such as Louis Rossman's channel),since existing tools can't be used. Then they will control integration even more,meaning unlike older MacBooks which could last years,which were upgradeable,and repairable,these will be essentially tablets with keyboards,so within 5 years updates will disappear,and new software won't work on the old OS. Also after seeing the Power PC to X86 transition,you are going to have fun if you want backwards compatibility,and have a joint Windows/Linux/MacOS environment. So if you had licenses which covered X86/Windows,instead of using a dual boot on your Mac,you will have to buy additional Mac specific licenses. You could try running a VM,but hard to say whether Apple will invest effort into it. At least they will look OK and have better battery life - maybe they will overheat less now? :P
Some ‘mac fans’ had been essentially laughing at anyone who suggested that iOS would eventually be the ‘OS of choice’ for the ‘professional hardware’…. the transition is basically now starting imo, OS11 can run iOS/iPad OS apps natively on arm, it's just had a refresh on the UI so it's more like that of iOS/iPad OS.. given enough time they'll gradually take out the ‘pro features’ along with a gradual lockdown of the OS meaning you can only run/buy software from their store, just like on iOS.

Apple is basically all about control these days (kind of ironic considering the advert from 1984) and removing anything ‘non apple’ such as the processor means the only people that can actually repair said hardware are apple (as said by cat), throw in the control over software side of it as well and you might as well just hand your bank details over at purchase…oh wait they'll probably expect you to have the apple credit card too….
LSG501
Some ‘mac fans’ had been essentially laughing at anyone who suggested that iOS would eventually be the ‘OS of choice’ for the ‘professional hardware’…. the transition is basically now starting imo, OS11 can run iOS/iPad OS apps natively on arm, it's just had a refresh on the UI so it's more like that of iOS/iPad OS.. given enough time they'll gradually take out the ‘pro features’ along with a gradual lockdown of the OS meaning you can only run/buy software from their store, just like on iOS.

Apple is basically all about control these days (kind of ironic considering the advert from 1984) and removing anything ‘non apple’ such as the processor means the only people that can actually repair said hardware are apple (as said by cat), throw in the control over software side of it as well and you might as well just hand your bank details over at purchase…oh wait they'll probably expect you to have the apple credit card too….

The worst thing they will make more money doing this,and all the “investors” will force PC makers to do the same. So if this succeeds,expect less and less upgradeable laptops/desktops which are harder to repair. OS updates which will last less than 5 years,etc. I really hope the various initiatives worldwide on right to repair work. Companies such as Apple,and many phone and tablet makers,are creating huge amounts of E-Waste,which is being dumped in poorer countries.

Edit!!

One example,is that there is one poorly cooled voltage regulation chip in newer MacBooks which can actually easily overheat and burn out,causing a voltage spike to the CPU,hence destroying it.

The problem is they now solder the SSDs directly to the motherboard,and in past models,they had an additional data port onboard. However,they restricted sale of the tool for that port,but if you had the tool you could pull any user data off the non-functional motherboard. Now,they removed the data port on the latest MacBooks to save a bit of money. So if the motherboard goes kaput,then you have lost all your data.
LSG501
Apple is basically all about control these days (kind of ironic considering the advert from 1984)

It was nothing more than marketing that's all.

Nearly all(if not all) corporations follow such a phase. They are quite open and accepting when small, but as they get bigger they are filled with a strong desire to control.
DavidC1
It was nothing more than marketing that's all.

Nearly all(if not all) corporations follow such a phase. They are quite open and accepting when small, but as they get bigger they are filled with a strong desire to control.

Apple tried doing it too much last time. They became a patent troll,using the hard work of Xerox PARC,and they patented some parts of desktop GUIs. Then sued tons of companies and eventually got those GUI patents invalidated by judges,as the US government got fed up.

But Apple's investor calls are about it being a “services company” now.