Apple Mac computers make jump to its own chips

BBC Technology 22 Jun 2020 07:51
By Leo Kelion Technology desk editor
Tim Cook is seen against a backdropImage copyright APple

Apple has confirmed it will transition its Mac laptop and desktop computers to its own ARM-based processors.

The move means that Macs will run on the same type of chips as the firm's iPhones and iPads, rather than Intel's.

Intel had faced problems manufacturing its own designs, leading it to issue a public apology to computer-makers.

Apple's challenge will be to carry off the transition smoothly and convince third-party developers to update their apps accordingly.

"We expect to ship our first Mac with Apple silicon by the end of the year," said chief executive Tim Cook, adding that it would likely be two years before its full product line had made the jump.

The firm said the move would allow it to offer new features and improved performance as well as making it easier for developers to "write and optimise software for the entire Apple ecosystem".

"Apple's motivations for doing this include reducing its dependence on Intel, maximizing its silicon investment, boosting performance and giving itself more flexibility and agility when it comes to future products," commented Geoff Blaber from the consultancy CCS Insight.

Image copyright APple

Apple said that Microsoft was working on an optimised version of Office, and Adobe was developing a version of Photoshop.

To mark the significance of the move, MacOS will move to version 11. Since 2001, it had only moved from 10.0 to 10.15.

Apple successfully made the switch from IBM-Motorola's PowerPC processors to Intel's x86 family in 2006.

Microsoft already allows Windows 10 to be run on both Intel and ARM-based processors and looks set to continue supporting both chip architectures.

Image Copyright @ianfogg42 @ianfogg42
Twitter post by @ianfogg42: If new #ARM-based Macs will be able to run iPad apps, why shouldn’t future iPad hardware be able to run Mac apps? #wwdc20Image Copyright @ianfogg42 @ianfogg42

This could hit sales both at Apple and the development studios that make software for the platform.

Samsung, Qualcomm and Huawei are among the many other companies to do so.

The company has said that it has more than 100 million active Mac users. Back in June 2005, when it first announced the move to Intel chips, the figure was about 12.5 million.

"However, this transition... could give momentum to Microsoft's current efforts to run Windows on Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors."

Existing Mac owners will see changes to the next MacOS operating system - called Big Sur - which Apple said marked its biggest redesign to date.

Analysis by James Clayton, North America technology reporter

Hardly surprising then that the processor in your computer is kind of important. Changing it is no small thing - and Apple hasn't decided this lightly.

The prevailing view in Silicon Valley is moving to Apple silicon will make for more powerful Macs.

But there are risks too.

And - considering how well Mac products sell there will be a nervousness about changing a formula that has worked very well for Apple for the last 15 years.

Privacy notices

This will initially be limited to some new BMWs, but the firm said it intended to expand to other models in time.

App developers will also have to provide more information about the data they gather about users, so that Apple can display a summary to them before they install the software.

One of the biggest changes to the iPhone's iOS14 operating system will be a shake-up of the home screen.

  • suggested apps, which are based on past habits
  • recently downloaded items
  • themed downloads, for example games

Another Android-like new feature is the introduction of App Clips, which allow part of a program to be downloaded quickly. These must be less than 10 megabytes in size and will be able to be triggered via an NFC-transmission or by scanning a QR code.

Image copyright APple

It will support 11 languages to begin with including English, Mandarin, French, German, and Arabic.

For the first time, users will be able to set third-party email and web browser apps as the default in iOS, rather than Apple's own software.

And its MeMoji cartoon-like characters now feature new styling options, including the addition of protective face masks.

These include:

The next version of WatchOS adds sleep-tracking functionality to the firm's smartwatch - which will be based on a user's movements in bed.

Image Copyright @benwood @benwood
Twitter post by @benwood: It wouldn't surprise me if the new hand-washing app on Apple Watch and face mask Memojis emerges as some of the big stories of WWDC. I never cease to be amazed how gimmicks like this capture the public's imagination #WWDC20 Image Copyright @benwood @benwood

In addition, the wearable will allow third-party "curated" watch faces to be shared and installed. The Activity app - which is now renamed Fitness - will track calories used for various dance styles.

Apple's AirPod Pro earphones will gain spatial audio to recreate a cinema-style surround sound experience. They will also automatically switch between a user's Apple devices as the owner moves from one to another.

Image copyright APple

It has also emerged that Apple TV's YouTube app will play clips in 4K for the first time, ending a stand-off with Google over the video-encoding technology involved.

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AppleIntelGeoff BlaberCraig FederighiMicrosoft
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