Apple is all geared up to launch ARM-based MacBooks and desktops in 2021, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In an earlier investor’s note, he had written that Apple will release MacBook laptops using the ARM chips by 2019 end or the latest by Q1 of 2020.
Apple is weaning away from its dependence on other companies for its components and adopting an “aggressive processor replacement strategy”. Kuo says Apple is keen to develop its own processor so that it can control the pricing of the product, and manufacturing one’s own components is more cost -effective for the company.
By ending its dependence on Intel processors and chips, Apple can save on almost 40 to 60 per cent of the manufacturing cost. Hopefully, this will bring the prices of Apple products, especially of the lower end laptops and make them more affordable. In-house manufacturing also brings with it a higher degree of quality control.
Apple to use ARM chips
Another reason for the switch is that the ARM chips’ performance is excellent. It is largely used in mobile devices as it gives long battery life and does not heat up fast. Users also say that the 2018 iPad Pro gives better performance with its A12X chipset than the latest Intel x86 MacBook.
Why are ARM chipsets better in performance. Simply put, they use fewer transistors and have overall slower clock speeds. They have a simpler manufacture mode.
Intel’s’ x86 is the industry standard for all desktops and laptops. But rumours of Apple using own manufactured ARM chips for its laptops and desktops has encouraged some manufacturers to market their own ARMS chips. Intel has been the industry leader in processors for a long time. Along with laptops and desktops, data centres are also widely reliant on Intel architecture to run the show. Intel hogs the market share with AMD x86-based chips.
ARM chips in Laptops and MacBook Desktops
Apple’s decision to use the ARM processors for desktops seems to be more interesting as to date, no one has tried that for computers. The whole notion of adapting a low power using chip like the A 12Z that is currently being used in the latest iPad Pro is intriguing. Moreover, desktops have a constant source of power and do not need any battery preservation or low cooling, so how will this translate into actual usage needs to be seen. Apple has recently introduced the ultra-engineered, ultra-expensive, Xeon-based Mac Pro—so where would the new desktop stand in comparison?
ARM-based laptops aren’t exactly new. Qualcomm’s chipsets have earlier been used in laptops in the past. ASUS’ NovaGo was the first Snapdragon-powered laptop; it used the low power Snapdragon 835 chip. The 835 is used in advanced Android phones and tablets. Microsoft and Snapdragon worked together to bring Windows 10 S, especially for these laptops, which is a more streamlined and optimised version of Windows 10.
Apple ideally would have announced its transition to ARM in June during the Worldwide Developers Conference, which now has been turned into a virtual event with no fixed timeline as yet. Another factor to consider is app compatibility. Apps created for ARM-based devices might not work on Intel/AMD CPU apps.
With handheld devices becoming extremely efficient and high performing, the lines are being blurred between stationary and mobile devices. Even data centres heavily reliant on large power-consuming processors are looking at cost-efficient and high performing options. Apple’s bid to move into ARM-based chips might just be the start of the transitions.