Updated: Sep 30, 2020
In July 2020, Apple announced that they would be transitioning away from Intel processors and make the move toward their own Apple Silicon chips. If you think it doesn't matter, think again.
Why Apple Silicon matters
Short version - it matters because Apple gets to create and control its own destiny.
Longer version - it matters because it means that Apple is no longer bound to Intel for processors, and Apple is no longer bound to AMD for graphics.
Apple gets to create and control its own destiny.
It doesn't need to wait for Intel to design, manufacture, and release processors, with incremental performance increases.
It doesn't need to wait for AMD to design, manufacture, and release graphics components.
With the iPhone and iPad, Apple has been creating and deploying their own chips for a long time. These chips are based on the ARM architecture, and contain a lot of customisations made directly by Apple. The Apple chips integrate processor and graphics on to one chip, which has benefits in efficiency, power management, load times, cycles, and more.
Most importantly, Apple gets to control the design and manufacture of its own chips, and insert them into its supply chain on its own schedule. I can't think of a bigger "control freak" than Apple.
Why the Intel relationship still matters
Apple has said publicly that the transition to Apple Silicon will take place over the next two years (2021-2022). During this time they will maintain hardware and software support for all Intel Mac devices. At the end of the two years, we don't yet know what will happen. Of course, those Intel machines will continue to work, but will they get software updates?
The biggest challenge here is for customers who recently purchased a Mac Pro workstation - a machine running on Intel processors, and a machine which costs upwards of $10,000. I don't want my $10,000 or $30,000 Mac Pro to be obsolete within just two years.
Why the AMD relationship still matters
AMD provide the graphics components for Macs such as the iMac, iMac Pro, Mac Pro, Mac mini, MacBooks and MacBook Pro. These machines will continue to get software updates for the next two years, but beyond that remains unclear at this time.
The original Mac Pro "trashcan" design, which contained two AMD graphics cards, became impossible to upgrade, and now sits all but obsolete, with the introduction of the new Mac Pro tower and its Pro Display XDR monitor.
We don't yet know whether Apple plans to continue to rely on AMD for graphics in the long term, or whether Apple will transition away from AMD along the same timeline as it transitions away from Intel.
I would predict that Apple will be developing its Apple Silicon to take care of both the processing tasks and graphics tasks, as it already does for current iPhones and iPads. This leaves both Intel and AMD without Apple as a customer.
Six months from now
Six months from now, we will know a lot more about Apple's plans, as they unveil their roadmap. We are expecting Apple events in October 2020 and March 2021/April 2021, and again in September 2021.
The October 2020 event will be focused on the iPhone 12 and new generation iPads. We are also likely to see other Apple accessories updated at the same time, such as AirPods, AirPods Pro, the rumoured AirPod Studio headphones, and the refreshed HomePod.
The exciting part will be at the end of the keynote, during the "one more thing" announcement. We anticipate that Apple will use the "one more thing" session to reveal the new Apple Silicon Macs. The line-up is expected to start with a new 13-inch MacBook to replace the current MacBook Air 12" and 13", and also the MacBook Pro 13".
Next, we expect to see announcements (but not the imminent release) of new 16-inch MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon, and perhaps a sneak peek at the new iMacs with Apple Silicon. We reported on the new iMacs here.
Apple in charge
Without needing to be beholden to Intel's timeline, Apple will be free to set up its own release cycle for various products. This yearly cycle typically refreshes MacBooks, iMacs, iPhones, and iPads.
How far can Apple go on its own?
With the Developer Transition kit, Apple has already shown its Final Cut and Logic professional software running on Apple Silicon, as well as apps like Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office. This tells us that the majority of the work has been done already, to get desktop apps running on the new desktop hardware.
It also gives Apple a clear path to cross-pollinate and bring iPhone/iPad App Store apps to the Mac.
With Apple now also in charge of its Mac hardware, the yearly updates to the Mac line will likely be astonishing.
Will Apple "steal" market share from Intel and Microsoft? Should Microsoft be worried? Will Microsoft even care?
All we can say for certain at this point is,
don't go comparing Apples with oranges.
Until next time,
Who is Xavier Zymantas?
Xavier Zymantas started out as the boy genius and piano player who completed 12 years of schooling by age 15, started university at age 15, finished two IT degrees by age 19, worked as a computer programmer for 9 years, then became self employed as a technology consultant. Xavier moved into general consulting and now offers insights, tips, tricks and techniques across a range of business areas.
Xavier's mind works differently, and he often uses techniques from speech, music, travel, business, and life to generate outcomes specific to each business. While each problem may be different, shockingly the solutions are remarkably similar.