Apple was an early investor in ARM, a company which designs chips that work well in mobile devices because they don’t use as much power as Intel Inside. Apple went with ARM in the original iPhone and now designs ARM-based CPUs which are more powerful than most PC notebooks. What’s coming? My bet is on an ARM-based Mac.
What’s wrong with Intel chips? Actually, not much, except that competitors– especially those that use ARM-based CPUs– have been able to deliver an upgrade path that improves performance while reducing power consumption. Apple leads the pack of ARM users with its own A-series CPUs and TSMC in Taiwan has been able to keep up with the iPhone maker’s requirements to increase performance and reduce power consumption with each new iteration.
That explains why Apple’s executives tout iPad Pro (and, by extension, new iPhone models) as more powerful than about 90-percent of all Intel-based notebooks that run Windows 10 or Chromebooks.
See how clearly the handwriting on the wall has become?
Apple designs chips that are smaller, more powerful, and less expensive than Intel Inside for typical PC notebook use. 80-percent of all Macs sold are notebooks.
Is an ARM-based, Apple-designed CPU headed for the Mac and capable of kicking Intel Outside?
Yes. That capability exists already. Intel’s product roadmap is years behind schedule. TSMC already has the capability of manufacturing Apple’s chips in sufficient supply to take over some of Intel Inside the Mac.
So, what is Apple waiting for?
One important key to product marketing is differentiation. What differentiation would an ARM-based, Apple-designed CPU bring to a Mac notebook? Lower price? Higher performance? Improved battery life? Those already are weaknesses in the relationship with Intel, and unfortunately, Intel Inside means competitors get the same performance as Apple.
Intel sells bullets to both sides of the PC wars, and Apple needs greater differentiation. ARM-based, Apple-designed CPUs already provide that for iPhones and iPads and Apple could do the same for the Mac.
No. Apple will start with entry-level Mac models with a price tag under $1,000 and tout them as powerful notebooks with long battery life, but not necessarily competitive with the higher end models in the MacBook Pro line.
Soon. Perhaps this year, but almost certainly within the next two macOS versions. This year’s macOS Catalina gets Catalyst support which moves iPad apps onto the Mac. Next year looks like a good bet. But it will come. Apple wants to control its own differentiation and chip designs that outrun competitors– ARM-based, Qualcomm-based, or Intel Inside– is a major point toward greater differentiation.