Report: Apple is readying Mac with in-house ARM processor

The chip would see Apple free itself from Intel.

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Apple will release a Mac in 2021 that features its own in-house designed processor, according to an investor note by Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo, as seen by MacRumors. The ARM-based processor would see Apple free itself from its dependence on Intel and allow it to strengthen its control over its product ecosystem.

Apple hates being dependent on others — The company has over the years invested significant resources into developing CPUs and other hardware core to its products, such as the A-series of processors that power its iPhones and iPads. Creating its own chipsets allows Apple to engineer them to its own specifications and timetables — it's been reported in the past that its product releases have been delayed in part due to Intel's own delays in creating new chips. The company could save money at the same time.

Apple has also gotten itself into public spats with partners like Qualcomm, which supplies the company with cellular modems for the iPhone and iPad. Qualcomm has charged Apple licensing fees to use its modems that the company felt were excessive and led to a very contentious lawsuit. Apple settled with Qualcomm and at the same time acquired Intel's fledgling 5G modem business, suggesting the company will someday free itself from Qualcomm too.

Here's the specific portion of Kuo's note where the Apple-designed processor is mentioned:

We expect that Apple's new products in 12-18 months will adopt processors made by 5nm process, including the new 2H20 5G iPhone, new 2H20 iPad equipped with mini LED, and new 1H21 Mac equipped with the own-design processor. We think that iPhone 5G support, ‌iPad‌'s adoption of innovative mid-size panel technology, and Mac's first adoption of the own-design processor are all Apple's critical product and technology strategies. Given that the processor is the core component of new products, we believe that Apple had increased 5nm-related investments after the epidemic outbreak. Further, Apple occupying more resources of related suppliers will hinder competitors' developments.

Developing its own chipsets could also allow Apple to choose where they're produced, potentially avoiding future manufacturing delays like those being caused by the coronavirus outbreak in China.

Apple's mobile processors are super fast — If Apple's recent iPhones and iPads are any indication, we should expect solid performance from any Apple-designed chip inside a Mac. Its most recent iPad Pro in particular flies in multitasking and running sophisticated apps like Photoshop. Using the same fundamental architecture across macOS and iOS could allow such apps to seamlessly operate across platform as well.

There is some concern that such a move to an ARM-based processor would spell the end of dual-booting Windows on Mac's, however, as it would not understand how to read the instructions for running Windows, which is based on an x86 architecture. There exists an ARM-based version of Windows but it cannot run many traditional desktop apps because they were written for x86.