Tuesday, February 25th 2020

Apple to Launch Arm-Powered MacBook in the next 18 Months

Apple is currently designing a custom series of CPUs, for its Macbook laptop lineup, based on the Arm Instruction Set Architecture. Having designed some of the most powerful mobile processors that are inside the iPhone series of devices, Apple is preparing to make a jump to an even more powerful device lineup by bringing custom CPUs for MacBook. Tired of the speed by which Intel replaces and upgrades its Core lineup of CPUs, Apple decided to take the matter in its own hands and rumors about the switch to a custom solution have been going on for a while. However, we now have some information about when to expect the first wave of Arm-powered Macs.

According to the analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who is a well-known insider in the Apple industry, we can expect the first wave of the Arm-powered Macbook in the next 18 months, precisely in the first half of 2021. Supposedly, the first chips for these new Macs are going to be manufactured on a 5 nm manufacturing process, possibly over at TSMC since Apple had a long-lasting history of manufacturing its chips at TSMC foundries. In the meantime, we can expect to see Apple providing developers with tools to transition their x86-64 software to the new Arm ISA. Without a software ecosystem, the hardware platform is essentially worthless. And Apple knows this. We will see how they plan to play it and will report as soon as there is more information.
Source: 9to5Mac
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34 Comments on Apple to Launch Arm-Powered MacBook in the next 18 Months

#1
medi01
Just by incident, "arm" means "poor" in German.
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#3
JAB Creations
I think it'd make a lot of sense for Apple to team up with AMD. Having mixed CPU support (ARM and x86) would make a lot of sense and only AMD can provide both.
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#4
Cheeseball
Not a Potato
I'm interested on how Apple can implement their own x86-emulation with this. I know they've got Metal for former OpenCL-code on the GPU, but how about for native apps that rely on x86 instructions? If they can make it better than what Qualcomm+Microsoft currently got with the Surface Pro X and implement proper AMD64-emulation, they can see big success with this.
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#5
GoldenX
So... 1000 USD ARM notebooks now?
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#6
john_
Cheeseball
I'm interested on how Apple can implement their own x86-emulation with this. I know they've got Metal for former OpenCL-code on the GPU, but how about for native apps that rely on x86 instructions? If they can make it better than what Qualcomm+Microsoft currently got with the Surface Pro X and implement proper AMD64-emulation, they can see big success with this.
I guess they will just cut any support for X86 applications. They can start with a couple ARM models in the beginning, offer some major productivity suites for those ARM based models and at the same time open up all the library of software for iPhones and iPads to those ARM based models to make customers feel that they have plenty of software to play. Apple has shown in the past that it doesn't stop at cutting ties with technologies it wishes to throw out the window. So if X86 is the next technology they wish to abandon, I believe they will just do it.
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#7
windwhirl
JAB Creations
I think it'd make a lot of sense for Apple to team up with AMD. Having mixed CPU support (ARM and x86) would make a lot of sense and only AMD can provide both.
You mean something like a hybrid CPU capable of executing both ARM and x86 code at the same time? That'd be interesting, to say the least, specially if it can be done in a way that feels relatively seamless.

But I get the feeling that it would be really complicated to make.
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#8
R0H1T
john_
Apple has shown in the past that it doesn't stop at cutting ties with technologies it wishes to throw out the window. So if X86 is the next technology they wish to abandon, I believe they will just do it.
Or MS could throw them a bone & do the first few hard yards themselves. It's MS that will lose more if Apple switches completely over to ARM (eventually) & so they need to do what they're doing currently with Windows on ARM.
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#9
notb
Sandbo
By numbers only, the new ARM CPUs designed for MAC is likely outperforming the Intel CPUs Macbook Pros are using:
iOS: https://browser.geekbench.com/ios-benchmarks/
Mac: https://browser.geekbench.com/mac-benchmarks/

This is going to be interesting, though being successful or not depends a lot on the software side.
It would be interesting to see people on PC enthusiast forums learn how benchmarking suites work.
These results are not comparable. Stop doing it!
JAB Creations
I think it'd make a lot of sense for Apple to team up with AMD. Having mixed CPU support (ARM and x86) would make a lot of sense and only AMD can provide both.
Why would it make sense to team up with AMD?

I may be wrong but AFAIK the only ARM-based CPU AMD makes is a sole Opteron from 2016 (A1100)

Intel, on the other hand, sells quite a few modern ARM products in their FPGA lineup. And there's really no reason why they wouldn't make ARM-based SoCs.
GoldenX
So... 1000 USD ARM notebooks now?
12.9 iPad Pro with 1TB and their keyboard case costs $1700. There's almost no reason why a similarly equipped ARM MacBook would be any cheaper.
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#10
R0H1T
notb
And there's really no reason why they wouldn't make ARM-based SoCs
Anything that can compete with Apple's very own Axx ~ not this decade IMO, Apple is already so much ahead of the competition in the low power space it's not even funny.
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#11
Chrispy_
If they can't get an emulation layer to work with x86 and AMD-64 for bootcamp, there are going to be a lot of disappointing conversations between employees and their company sysadmins across dozens of major industries.

There's a reason WindowsRT was an unmitigated disaster, yo.
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#12
illli
This rumor has been going on for the past 5+ years. Then it dies, only to keep being brought back as something imminent.
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#13
windwhirl
Chrispy_
If they can't get an emulation layer to work with x86 and AMD-64 for bootcamp, there are going to be a lot of disappointing conversations between employees and their company sysadmins across dozens of major industries.

There's a reason WindowsRT was an unmitigated disaster, yo.
I don't think Apple will be that foolish. Whether the performance and limitations of such emulation layer are acceptable enough is a completely different matter altogether. I think it will be like Rosetta, no rebooting necessary.

It does come to my mind that Adobe users will probably not worry a lot, since Creative Cloud is always running the latest version. Hence, Adobe will probably work on an ARM version of their software suite, which could easily get switched from x86 to ARM during a software update.

For bootcamp, though... Is it really that common to use a non-Apple OS on Macs?

illli
This rumor has been going on for the past 5+ years. Then it dies, only to keep being brought back as something imminent.
Just like it happened when Macs ran on PowerPC.
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#14
Octavean
Actually Apple has been putting ARM chips in their Mac Book line IIRC since the T2 SoC security chip is ARM based. It would be interesting to see if Apple can make use of the T2 to allow native ARM support for some ARM apps on current x86/x64 Macs. T2 has been around for a couple of years now (2017???).

Generally though one would think Apple would simply start to encourage software developers for their current hardware platform to support ARM. They have already done so with Adobe Photoshop. If Adobe can do it then other developers can as well.
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#15
R0H1T
windwhirl
For bootcamp, though... Is it really that common to use a non-Apple OS on Macs?
It is but I've never really found the justification for it, I mean sure if you "need" to have a Mac but then why not buy a "PC" as well?
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#16
windwhirl
Octavean
Actually Apple has been putting ARM chips in their Mac Book line IIRC since the T2 SoC security chip is ARM based. It would be interesting to see if Apple can make use of the T2 to allow native ARM support for some ARM apps on current x86/x64 Macs. T2 has been around for a couple of years now (2017???).

Generally though one would think Apple would simply start to encourage software developers for their current hardware platform to support ARM. They have already done so with Adobe Photoshop. If Adobe can do it then other developers can as well.
I don't think the T2 chip can be used for such things. It's mostly a SoC for controllers, the security processor and a image signal processor... but I've never seen specs for it (cores, clocks, etc.), besides the fact that it is based on the A10 processor.

And it already runs its own OS. So, very unlikely.

Besides, Apple wouldn't do it, simply because it doesn't make sense to them (why let you keep your current Mac instead of making you buy a new one), and using the T2 for things that were never considered during its design and implementation may be technically very difficult (or not).
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#17
Chrispy_
windwhirl
For bootcamp, though... Is it really that common to use a non-Apple OS on Macs?
I work in the content creation and construction industries, and deal with the finance industry somewhat. In all three of those fields there is a laundry list of essential software that simply doesn't run on OSX. Rosetta is way too slow. Running as a VM is probably okay (depending on the VM type) until you need GPU support - at which point OpenGL/OpenCL/DX10+ becomes patchy and problematic.

Mac users have a list of options ranging from VPN to a remote session and treating their macbook as a thin-client that does nothing natively at all, all the way to bootcamp where everything is local and running natively. There is no one-size-fits-all approach because everyone has different requirements. All I know for a fact is that some kind of x86+Windows API support is often mandatory - however it is achieved.

As popular as OSX is in the US, it has only a 9% global marketshare. From a software developer's perspective, 9/10 customers are running Windows on x86 architecture, which is why so much stuff simply doesn't end up on OSX at all.
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#18
IceShroom
Sandbo
By numbers only, the new ARM CPUs designed for MAC is likely outperforming the Intel CPUs Macbook Pros are using:
iOS: https://browser.geekbench.com/ios-benchmarks/
Mac: https://browser.geekbench.com/mac-benchmarks/

This is going to be interesting, though being successful or not depends a lot on the software side.
The most unreliabe benchmark. How does it test different OS,API, Compiler and Instructions of different ISA? Also does it put same load on different processor??
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#19
Octavean
windwhirl
I don't think the T2 chip can be used for such things. It's mostly a SoC for controllers, the security processor and a image signal processor... but I've never seen specs for it (cores, clocks, etc.), besides the fact that it is based on the A10 processor.

And it already runs its own OS. So, very unlikely.

Besides, Apple wouldn't do it, simply because it doesn't make sense to them (why let you keep your current Mac instead of making you buy a new one), and using the T2 for things that were never considered during its design and implementation may be technically very difficult (or not).
Yeah, I don't necessarily disagree.

I was simply saying it would be interesting to see if Apple could make it work in some way. It is probably unrealistic to think the T2 could take the entire workload of ARM software and yield a good user experience given that T2 wasn't initially designed for this purpose. However, if in later iterations of the chip some improvements were made and the task was addressed more like a math co-processor then perhaps,....

How Apple would approach an ARM Mac support is anyone's guess but an ARM only Mac book seems a little harsh. ARM emulation on x86/x64 hardware seems a bit harsh too.
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#20
Assimilator
I'm willing to bet this rumour is correct. Apple has been converging its phone/tablet and desktop operating systems while simultaneously putting massive resources into its ARM implementation for the last half-decade.

It's likely that they'll add something to their current product lines (overpriced laptops/overpriced workstations): overpriced Apple equivalents of the Chromebook. After all, the majority who buy Apple laptops don't intend to use them for anything more than productivity, and MS already has Windows for ARM which means they have Office for ARM. No need for x86/x64 emulation if you're using the thing as a status symbol more than doing actual work on it.
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#21
xorbe
The problem is ARM. Personally I don't want a personal computer with an ARM as the main processor. ARM Ltd is just another layer of pricing and control. We're better off with x86_64 imho. ARM is no longer simple. It is more complex than x86 in many ways.
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#22
cygnus_1
Chrispy_
If they can't get an emulation layer to work with x86 and AMD-64 for bootcamp, there are going to be a lot of disappointing conversations between employees and their company sysadmins across dozens of major industries.

There's a reason WindowsRT was an unmitigated disaster, yo.
The difference with WindowsRT is in the app stores. Apple already has an incredible amount of ARM based iOS apps that they've already done the ground work to make work in MacOS. I think if they're going to release an ARM powered MacOS device, they will not do it until they can offer the vast majority of at least iPad apps for use on it and that's probably not far off.

Assimilator
MS already has Windows for ARM which means they have Office for ARM.
Office for Mac is a separate codebase from Office for Windows and very doubtful they have an ARM version of Office for Mac. There will be Office on ARM MacOS, but very doubtful it will be the Windows version of Office. More likely to be iPad Office on MacOS.
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#23
GoldenX
notb
12.9 iPad Pro with 1TB and their keyboard case costs $1700. There's almost no reason why a similarly equipped ARM MacBook would be any cheaper.
That sounds so effing sad.
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#24
NC37
GoldenX
So... 1000 USD ARM notebooks now?
After Apple says the ARM switch will mean lower cost Macs. Can't forget that lie they pushed when they switched to x86. They got away with it once, they'll try again.
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#25
Darmok N Jalad
I don’t see Apple struggling with an ARM MacBook. I get the feeling they are going this way to source better ULV chips for thinner, simpler designs, especially since Intel has really struggled to provide such chips.

As for software, I’m curious if Apple will depend more on ports from iOS instead of x86. They’ve already laid out the framework for apps to bridge the gap, and external storage and primitive mouse support was added in iPadOS 13. We own a few iPads, and I could totally see the value of a MacBook that sits in the gap. Price is the mystery. Will Apple price this to be an entry level device so it can work in education? I bet Apple can source its own chips for cheaper than what Intel can provide, and they can reuse their chip in iPad as well. It’s probably not going to be a pro device, so I can see it being cheaper than iPad Pro.
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