After years of rumors and speculation that Apple would eventually ditch Intel and start making its own processors for Mac computers, Bloomberg reports that Apple is almost ready to make the move — and could make an official announcement later this month.
Apple has been building its own ARM-based processors for iPhones and iPads for years, and they typically outperform the best chips from Qualcomm, MediaTek, and other key players in the mobile space.
But the company has been using Intel chips based on x86 architecture for its Mac desktop and laptop computers for more than a decade. Switching to its own custom processors could give the company more control over the performance of Mac computers by allowing Apple to optimize the way its hardware and software work together… much the way the company already does with iOS devices.
Switching architectures is a big project that could take years to complete. But Apple has done it before. Prior to using Intel chips in its computers, the company had been using PowerPC processors. Apple announced plans to move to Intel/x86 at its Worldwide Developers Conference in 2005, and the company began shipping Intel-powered Macs the following year.
According to Bloomberg’s sources, Apple plans to take a similar approach this time around by announcing the move at WWDC during the week of June 22, 2020 and then beginning to ship ARM-based Macs in 2021.
That gives app developers time to make sure their software is compatible with the new Macs well ahead of the time they start to hit the streets.
It’s unclear how long it will take Apple to fully transition to ARM-based chips, or if that’s even the company’s endgame. It’s likely that the first chips will be mobile processors optimized for thin and light laptops rather than the kind of energy-hungry, high-performance chips used in systems like the Mac Pro.
An earlier Bloomberg report suggested that the first Mac processor will be a 12-core ARM-based processor featuring 8 high-performance “Firestorm” CPU cores and 4 energy-efficient “Icestorm” cores, and the most recent report indicates that we can also expect some special-purpose cores for graphics and neural processing/artificial intelligence.