The rumour has been circulating for some time and now it’s official: Apple is transitioning to its own “Apple Silicon” chips for its Mac computers, a move that will reduce the company’s dependence on Intel chips. Apple CEO Tim Cook made the announcement today during his keynote speech opening the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2020).
“It truly is a historical day for the Mac,” Cook said. “Apple Silicon will bring amazing technologies, industry-leading performance and a common architecture across all of our products.” The shift will enable Apple to merge its iOS and macOS platforms further down the line.
Cook said the transition will elevate the Mac to a whole new level and will take about two years. For developers the move begins this week, with information provided at the conference and the Quick Start program. Customers meanwhile can expect to see the first Apple Silicon Macs by the end of this year.
The Mac has had three major transitions in its 36-year history: the move to PowerPC, the transition to Mac OS X, and the move to Intel. When Apple shifted its computer chips from IBM to Intel in 2005 the company and its developer partners did a tremendous amount of coding work to translate the binary language used by the Apps on IBM chips to those of Intel chips.
Now Apple has created Universal 2 — a new type of universal binary that will work on both Intel-based Macs and the incoming Apple Silicon Macs. The company has also built technologies into its newest macOS Big Sur system to enable a smooth and seamless transition to Apple Silicon.
The new Apple chip will share the same foundation as its A-Series processors, which have powered iPhones and iPads since 2010. A common architecture across all Apple product lines will make developers’ lives easier, as they will be able to write and optimize for the company’s entire ecosystem.
Apple’s ambition to move to its own chips has been well-documented. In recent years the company has greatly improved the CPU performance of its iPhone chips, says Apple Senior Vice President of Hardware Technologies Johny Srouji. The team scaled the architecture and designed a custom chip for iPad’s Retina display, enabling the latest iPad Pro to deliver over 1,000 times faster graphics performance compared to the first iPad.
“We’ve been building and refining our Apple Silicon for over a decade,” said Srouji in his keynote. “The result is a scalable architecture that is custom-designed for Apple products, and it leads the industry in features and performance per watt.”
Srouji says the ultimate goal is to deliver high performance with low power consumption. He explained that Apple’s scalable architecture includes many custom technologies — for example with advanced power management the new chips will “maximize performance and battery life better than ever before.” The team is also designing a family of SoCs specifically for the Apple product lines.
Combined with neural engines, the Apple chip will even make the Mac an applicable platform for machine learning, according to Srouji.
Apple says it will continue to support and release new versions of macOS for the Intel-based Macs for years to come.
WWDC 2020 was moved entirely online due to COVID-19 and will run through June 26.
Journalist: Yuan Yuan | Editor: Michael Sarazen
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