Mac will go through another large CPU switch. At the end of 2020, Apple will release a Mac that includes “Apple Silicon,” as well as the iPad and iPhone. This is the final meaning of Intel CPUs for the future of Mac.
The new MacOS 11.0 Big Sur, which is expected in the fall of 2020, will be the first version of macOS to support this new architecture.
Why Apple Changed, and What It Means For You
Apple insisted that this switch would “give Mac a whole new level of performance.” Apple’s own silicon, found in devices like the iPad and iPhone, offers far better performance per amount of power used than Intel CPUs.
Intel CPUs require more power and produce more heat. In devices like the MacBook, this means performance is limited by battery power and the need to keep the internal cool.
Apple’s own SoCs (a system on a chip), which calls “Apple Silicon,” is technically an ARM CPU. ARM is just an architecture – Apple designs and manufactures its own CPUs. With Intel, Apple is totally dependent on other companies to develop and produce CPUs for its Macs. With ARM, Apple can design and make its own custom silicone. Apple has been doing it for years, and now that expertise comes to Mac.
Make no mistake – Apple won’t slap an iPhone or iPad CPU to a Mac. Apple makes chips only for Mac, and they should be stronger than silicon in the iPad Pro. Apple has a big advantage over its competitors here – Microsoft makes ARM laptops that run Windows 10, but Microsoft doesn’t design ARM CPUs that are made specifically and made specifically for Windows PCs.
Ultimately, the new architecture means better battery life, reduced power consumption, and that Apple can control its own destiny and design the internal Mac to be integrated with its software. Apple said the new architecture would let it “maximize performance and better battery life than before.
IPhone and iPad applications on Mac
In switching to the same chip architecture that supports the iPhone and iPad, Apple gets increased compatibility with iPhone and iPad applications.
You can open the App Store on an ARM-supported Mac and install the iPhone or iPad application that you like. The application will run in a window on your Mac desktop. Developers don’t need to do anything special.
Developers Can Easily Port Their Mac Applications
Existing Mac applications are not left behind. Apple handles compatibility in two ways: By making it easier for developers to port their applications to the new architecture, and by letting Mac users run applications that have not yet been ported.
Developers will be able to open Intel Mac applications that are in Xcode and recompile for ARM. Apple says most developers need only a few days to run their applications on ARM.
All Apple applications that come with MacOS 11.0 Big Sur will run natively on Apple’s own architecture. Other companies are also working on porting their applications – Apple is also showing off Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop CC which runs natively on ARM. Developers can create universal binaries that run on Intel and ARM Mac systems.
Developers can rent the “Developer Transition Kit” from Apple to start porting their applications.
You Can Run Intel Mac Applications with Rosetta 2
But what about applications that aren’t ported? Apple announced Rosetta 2 for the use case. Rosetta 2 is a compatibility layer that translates existing Intel applications into ARM, allowing you to run the same applications on the new Mac ARM that you can run on your old Intel Mac.
Translation occurs when you install the application, if possible. If the application uses just-in-time codes, Rosetta 2 can also translate code quickly.
Apple is showing off the Tomb Raider game that runs with exceptional performance under Rosetta 2. It looks much faster than Microsoft’s compatibility layer on Windows 10 on ARM, which is famous for its poor performance.
In other words, Mac applications that have not been ported will “function”. You will still get the best performance with applications that run on ARM, of course.
Full Hardware Virtualization Support
ARM-based Macs also provide full support for hardware virtualization. Apple showed off running a Parallels virtual machine on a new ARM-based Mac, making it possible for developers to run Linux as well as on Intel-based Macs.
What Happened to the Intel Mac?
The slide shows the many hardware features included in Apple Silicon.
Apple said that you will be able to buy a Mac with an ARM CPU in it by the end of 2020.
But the transition from Intel did not happen overnight. Apple said it would be a two-year transition, and a new Mac with an Intel CPU was already on Apple’s production line.
Your existing Mac with an Intel CPU will still be supported. Apple said it would continue to support Intel Macs with macOS updates for years to come.
At some point, Apple will likely stop supporting Intel Macs, as well as stop supporting PowerPC Macs after the transition to Intel. But that point is still years away.