I suppose I am old enough to have endured two big transitions in the Apple world. The first, of course, was Apple jumping ship from the PowerPC line of chips, ending with the G5 as its last hurrah in that space, to more competitive Intel chips. Today, at WWDC, Apple announced its next transition, promising to release the first Apple Silicone powered Macs by the end of the year.
A Mac Mini style developer’s kit is already being primed and made available to developers to take a look at what this new era will look like.
Already, we are being shown glimpses of new Apple Universal Binaries. (Blast from the past!)
I am always in a wait and see mode, but with the advances that its own chips have given it in the phone and tablet world, this makes sense for Apple. Their chips are excellent and are probably especially ideal for laptops. A MacBook with an Apple chip is going to be fast, efficient, and small, truly fanless without settling for an underpowered mobile Intel chip. It’s kind of exciting. Right now, you can mock up your own experience if you pair a decent iPad with an Apple Keyboard.
What will be especially interesting is the desktop end of it. Will someone really use a Mac desktop with an Apple chip to do their video editing? How will it stack up against the more serious and beefy options in the Intel/AMD world? Is this Apple giving up after recently redesigning the Mac Pro? Apple has committed to continue to support and develop future Intel Macs, and I could see a scenario where Apple’s ARM chips go into the consumer side of things like Mac Minis, MacBooks, and MacBook Pros but everything else remains in the Intel world. However, it’s probably unlikely. We’ll just have to see.
On the other hand, is this the end of any customizability in future Apple Silicone chip-based machines? Will we see, for example, a future Mac mini with upgradable RAM slots? I doubt it. Maybe these future Macs won’t need upgradeability, being far more efficient than current hardware. Maybe their form factors will be simpler, and their price tag a bit cheaper too. Who knows?
Once again, Apple is taking some risks, but in this case, it’s proven. They aren’t dependent on IBM to design and push the limits of its chips. They aren’t going to be tied to Intel either. Their chips are in their hands now. Of course, this could put pressure on Intel to step up and make a case for Apple to remain a customer, working hard to develop processors to fit future products. We’ll see.
Already, Mac users with long memories are wondering when their Intel Macs will be excluded from future Mac updates. Will it be a fast transition like Leopard to Snow Leopard? Or will it take a few cycles?
What a day for the Mac.