Apple Confirms ARM Chips for Mac – WWDC 2020

We have covered leaks and rumors surrounding Apple’s move to custom chips from Intel. Now they have confirmed the same with the announcement of “Apple silicon” during this year’s WWDC. These are basically custom ARM SoCs akin to their A-series of chips used in iPhones and iPads.

Tim Cook Dev kit

Apple has made this shift citing the requirement of higher performance at lower power which is currently lacking with Intel. This is also done in an attempt to bring all the devices in the Apple ecosystem under a unified architecture, which will now be possible with ARM-based chips.

As mentioned in the press conference the last time Apple made a major shift was when they moved from PowerPC to Intel. Now the transition to ARM would be the biggest change seen to date. And it will bring in a whole new world or possibilities with it.

Apple Custom chip

This transition was inspired from the decision to use separate SoCs for iPads starting with the A5X. But the reason for that was to push more pixels to fulfil ‘Retina’ display requirement on the iPad. With the A12Z which is the very first custom ARM SoC to feature on Macs, it was an efficiency requirement.

‘Big Sur’ Plays a Big Role

Mac OS 11 dubbed ‘Big Sur’ plays an important role in developing and translating the apps to run natively on the Apple silicon. It has all the tools required available on Xcode to write native apps. It is delivered by ‘Universal 2’ which is a binary that can understand both Intel’s and Apple silicon’s code. The apps from Intel can be recompiled and used on the A12Z in a few days which is great.

Universal 2

We all know that Apple is known for their user experience and they couldn’t afford to compromise on that front. So that’s why they introduced ‘Rosetta 2’ which is Apple’s emulation layer for x86 based apps. Rosetta was initially used when Macs transitioned from PowerPC to Intel back in the day. This is their new and improved version of the software to take care of intel based apps.

Rosetta 2

Another great news is the ability to run all the apps from IPhone and iPad natively on the new chips. This opens up a barrage of possibilities including but not limited to cross-buy, on the fly testing of new apps and cross-play between different platforms. This is possible due to the similar underlying architecture on which all of Apple devices run.

Apple silicon custom dev kit

In summary, this brings Apple’s dream of a coherent ecosystem one step closer to perfection. But we will have to wait until the new custom chips completely take over as Apple mentioned a 2-year period over which the transition will occur. They also promised new intel powered hardware and features for them. We can expect the first ‘Apple Silicon’ powered device to arrive later this year.

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