What’s All the Buzz Around Apple Silicon

The reason Apple ditched Intel and decided to make its own chips for the Mac

Photo by Tianyi Ma on Unsplash

The Intel Affair

In 2005, in a similar announcement that shook the tech world, Steve Jobs revealed that Macs, after a decade of running on PowerPC processors, will transition to Intel processors. He credited this decision to Intel’s superior product roadmap. And for the better part of the last 15 years, Intel did not disappoint.

Apple A-series chips used on the iPhone and iPad. Since 2010, Apple claims to have achieved a 100-fold increase in performance. Source: WWDC 2020 keynote

What is the “Apple Silicon”?

So far what we’ve been referring to as the Intel processor is technically the Central Processing Unit (CPU), and in some cases, this comes with an in-built graphics processor. Other essential components like memory modules, controllers, and ancillary processors are separate.

The Apple Silicon SoC. Source: WWDC 2020 keynote

What is an ARM-based chip?

You’ve probably read or heard that the Apple Silicon is ARM-based. This classification is arguably the most significant aspect of this chip. But what does it mean?

Why is Apple moving away from high-performance chips?

Well, it’s not.

Apple claims to have found the sweet spot between performance and power consumption. Source: Apple WWDC 2020 Keynote
Autodesk Maya running on Apple Silicon. Source: WWDC 2020 keynote

What other benefits apart from performance and power?

While the low-power of Apple Silicon is undoubtedly a driving factor, the custom chips also give Apple a different kind of power, the power to be in control of its product end-to-end.

Will old software run on the new Mac?

Yes. Although existing software must be adapted for the new ARM-based Macs to offer the best user experience, in the worst-case scenario, old software can run in emulation mode, where the software thinks it’s running on an Intel chip. But this is usually not preferred for performance reasons.

When can you expect these new Macs?

The first ARM-based Macs are expected to ship by the end of 2020, while the complete transition of the entire Mac line-up is expected to take up to two years. In the meantime, Apple is expected to release a few more Intel-based Macs as well. What was Apple thinking? Is it immune to the Osborne effect?

Finally, the question in many of our minds: Will the new Macs be more expensive?

Unlikely. In fact, they might get cheaper because Apple is expected to save about $100 to $150 in Mac component costs by designing its own chips. But it’s unsure if Apple will pass on this benefit to the consumer. After all, R&D costs for these new chips must be factored in.

freelance technology writer | sarveshmathi.com

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