Following another proof of the updates to this year’s MacBook lineup – namely the addition of a 16-inch screened model – Apple’s plans for future upgrades are becoming clearer.
This week we saw another piece in the puzzle that is ARM-powered Mac machines. This has been a turning point for some years and offers Apple some key commercial advantages including the near parity of the A-series chips in the iPhone and iPad devices to the Intel counterparts in the macOS powered machines.
First of all, Apple is at the mercy of a single supplier with Intel. Unlike other parts of the supply chain where multiple companies will vie for Apple’s business (banking on marker orders to make up the shortfall generated by a more competitive bid), Apple cannot leverage Intel for a cheaper chip supply. The cost cannot be ratcheted down.
Apple is also at the mercy of Intel’s product cycle. Unlike the synced schedules of the iPhone and the iPad to Apple’s A-xx chips, the Mac roadmap is not up to Apple, it’s up to Intel. Tim Cook may have some choices as to launch dates (I’m thinking late March or late October), but it’s not under his control.
Finally, Apple is working hard to create a single environment for developers to target which will allow apps to run on iOS and macOS without any changes. Putting aside the fact that Microsoft has already tried this with less than astronomical results, Apple’s clear preference over the last few years has been the iOS platform, which is based around ARM. The move feels like a good fit.
Of course, it’s a mammoth task. Not only is there the hardware integration around the design and construction of the full range of Mac machines, but there’s also the issue of present software and compatibility. Microsoft’s Surface RT in part failed because, although the ARM-powered tablet was running a revised version of Windows, the legacy and enterprise apps that many relied on would not run on ARM and there was no commercial benefit in adopting them.