Apple's Shift From Intel To Its Own Arm-Based Processors For Macs To Be Announced This Month

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Is it finally happening? After years and year of speculation and rumors, it looks as though we'll finally hear about Apple's official plans to make the transition to Arm CPU architecture for its Mac desktops and laptops later this month at WWDC 2020. This comes after we heard earlier this year that Apple's first Arm-powered Macs would arrive in 2021.

The latest news comes from reliable leaker Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg. If Apple is indeed going to launch its first Arm Macs next year, the company's developers need ample time to get their apps ready for the architectural shift. This major shift has only occurred twice in Apple's history, with the Motorola to PowerPC switchover in the 1990s, and the move from PowerPC to Intel. That second shift was announced 15 years ago at WWDC 2005, and the first Intel-powered Macs were introduced the following year.

Apple is expected to announce this new Kalamata initiative on June 22nd; the first day of WWDC 2020 (which will be held online-only due to COVID-19). The move away from Intel has been a long time coming, as Apple has reportedly grown increasingly frustrated with Intel's inconsistent processor roadmaps and chip delays. Combine that with Apple's insistence on bringing as much chip design in-house a possible so that it can control the entire stack means that that move to Arm was inevitable.

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7nm Apple A13 Bionic SoC from the iPhone 11 Pro (Image: iFixit)

Not only will Apple have full control over the most important piece of hardware inside its Macs, but the switch to Arm architecture will bring greater performance and vastly improved power efficiency. There are also said to be big gains in artificial intelligence performance with Arm chip designs for Macs. Gurman's report indicates that we'll see thinner and lighter Macs on the horizon due to the Arm switch.

When it comes to the actual Arm chips that will be used, our previous reporting indicated that Apple's first Mac Arm processor will be a design based on the upcoming 5nm A14 Bionic (which will be found in the iPhone 12 family). However, this beefier chip will feature a total of 12 CPU cores (8 Firestorm performance cores and 4 Icestorm efficiency cores) and an Apple-designed GPU on-chip.

Eventually, Apple's Arm processors will be across its entire Mac lineup, including the Mac Pro. Apple's current Mac Pros make use of Intel's high-end Xeon processors, so we can't wait to see what kind of insane Arm configurations that Apple has in development that would be powerful enough to smoke a 28-core Xeon W processor.