Let’s face it. The Mac has hit a wall. Sales are as good as ever but unit marketshare remains mostly anemic. Worse, Apple doesn’t seem to care about Mac engineering anymore, despite talk of a new iMac Pro and a modular Mac Pro.
What’s the problem? This list is long. In general, and despite the slow growth Mac business, traditional PCs are in sales freefall. The mobile era is the post-PC era. The chip industry has changed. These days, Apple manufactures more CPUs than Intel. Apple needs to go around Intel and put their ARM-based A-series CPUs into the Mac.
There are many reasons why Apple should not design an ARM-based A-whatever CPU for the Mac. Robin Harris lists many but each one has a gaping hole and seems to ignore the obvious reasons to make a change.
Push-Pull – this is convoluted reasoning. Apple went with Intel because the PowerPC could not keep up, and by using Intel Inside Apple leveled the playing field and owns the premium end of the traditional PC industry. Now, it’s Intel which is holding Apple back as its own ARM-based Apple designed CPUs already are more powerful than Intel’s entry-level premium CPUs in the MacBook and MacBook Pro.
Intel Tax – Is there little doubt that Apple gets a good deal from Intel? Would Apple save money and improve performance with a Mac that used an Apple designed and manufactured CPU? Yes. Money is an object. So is performance vs. power usage. 80-percent of all Macs sold are notebooks. Intel’s CPUs do not manage power the way Apple already does with its own CPUs.
iOS vs. macOS – This should not be a contest. macOS improves each year, but maintains traditional usage that can, and should, far exceed that in iPhone and iPad. Remember, a Mac can run Windows and various flavors of Linux inside macOS High Sierra. At the same time. Macs perform functions at the professional level that simply cannot be match– yet– by iOS. An ARM-based Apple designed CPU in a Mac likely would erase some of that flexibility and enhanced functionality but could also bring millions more customers to help pad Apple’s coffers.
Cost vs. Price – Harris writes about the iOS device cost advantage whereby an iPad Pro with keyboard vs a MacBook or MacBook Pro is priced substantially less. Almost. But not quite an argument. Cost and price are not the same. A fully loaded 12.9-inch iPad Pro is priced over $1,100 while a MacBook is $1,299 but comes with 8GB of RAM. No, it’s not Apples to apples but that’s not the point. An ARM-based Apple designed CPU in an entry-level Mac– a Mac that was not Intel Inside and would not run Windows or Linux– would be attractive to more customers, therefore, bring more into the ecosystem.
Software – this is where Apple could do what Google did with Chromebooks. At the lowest level, Chromebooks are little more than inexpensive notebooks running Linux with a browser wrapper, but Google’s latest version lets Android apps run inside Chrome OS. That means a million applications are available on an inexpensive touchscreen notebook. Apple must respond to this threat. Nearly a million iOS applications run on iPads; far more than the Mac.
Solution – All Apple needs to do is make a Mac Pad; a notebook which runs macOS Half Moon Bay or whatever is next, and have it run an Apple-designed, ARM-based CPU; something along A12 Gemini would seem appropriate, but only as an entry-level Mac notebook with a touchscreen– a Mac that would not run Windows inside but would run iOS apps inside.
It could happen. It should happen.
Apple just needs to get over its bias for Intel Inside and touchscreen PCs. Those are the only ones selling in increasing numbers these days.