Macs move from Intel to ARM: who loses us, who gains us


Rumors have been around for years and now there is almost certainty. Apple will announce the transition of Macs to ARM processors at the WWDC 2020 developer conference which will be held in virtual format starting June 22 this year.

The rumor that Apple will announce the move to ARM-based chips for Mac this time is confirmed by Mark Gurman, the Bloomberg editor who has repeatedly shown he has excellent connections with the Cupertino house or with suppliers very close to the House of Cupertino.

It is not the first time that Apple has “switched” to different architecture. It has already done so in the 90s with the transition of Motorola CPUs to PowerPC, and the scheme that will follow the company, will probably be the same seen in June 2005 when Steve Jobs announced a new “switch” with the transition from PowerPC processors. to Intel, with the first iMac and MacBook Pro with Intel Core Duo CPU available in January of the following year, followed in the following months by all the others.

Who loses us

Intel will certainly get lost over time. Apple has a market share of roughly 10% globally. They are not small numbers and losing such a customer for Intel is not a good advertisement. On the other hand, it is not only Apple that is tired of the dependence of Intel and companies such as Microsoft, Samsung, Lenovo and others, have created or are about to market their ARM-based CPU products too. It has been rumored for some time that Qualcomm also wants to try to enter the PC sector with its proposals that will take advantage of ARM based CPUs and various companies in the server sector are increasingly pondering solutions with ARM architecture.

Who earns it

Apple would have the advantage of having greater freedom, would have the opportunity to take advantage of a closer integration between hardware and software, reduce costs, create its GPUs, not depend on the Intel roadmap, offer devices with greater autonomy, lower consumption, create products that can hardware differentiation with Windows PCs. Of course, TSMC, the largest independent semiconductor factory in the world, well known for the production of Ax series SoCs on behalf of Apple, a foundry that boasts production plants with very advanced production processes for the creation of chips with a density that Intel still failed to match.

The transition from PowerPC to Intel was announced on June 6, 2005 and officially ended in 2007

What we know and can speculate

– Apple will use its processors, codenamed Kalamata, which are expected to be released on June 22nd

– Developers will have time to prepare applications: Macs with ARM-based CPUs should arrive in 2021 and software houses such as Adobe (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.) and Microsoft (Office), will be able to optimize and compile their software for the new architecture.

– For some developers, exploiting the new architecture will be relatively simple: the road will probably be downhill for those who already develop apps for iPad and iPhone; Apple will most likely offer tools to further simplify the transition to the new architecture and optimize speed by taking into account GPUs and NPUs (AI accelerators integrated in the new generation SoC Ax).

– Compatibility with current software could be offered transparently with an emulator, like Rosetta, a software emulator that allowed machines equipped with Intel x86 processors to use the software compiled for PowerPC.

The transition from PowerPC to Intel took approximately two years to complete. It will probably take just as long to refine the various technologies for developers, to have optimized software that works without emulation. Various elements remain to be clarified (what will happen, for example, with Thunderbolt peripherals?) And we must wait for WWDC to find out more …

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