Macs Make the Move to ARM with Apple Silicon

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2020/06/22/macs-make-the-move-to-arm-with-apple-silicon/

The rumors finally came true. At the WWDC keynote, Apple announced that the Mac would be transitioning to custom-designed Apple processors along the lines of those that power the iPad Pro. The first such Mac should be available by the end of this year, with the full transition taking about two years.

Wow. Lot of cool stuff coming down the pike. This looks pretty cool.

I am of course disappointed that there was not so much as a speed bump for the 2019 27-inch iMac. As discussed in another post, I need to push my late-2012 iMac off to the side to gain much-needed rendering power and speed for Final Cut Pro and Compressor. It would have been great to see one of those interim Intel iMacs announced for this keynote, but it wasn’t to be.

So: I’ll order a 2019 iMac with the best GPU, add my own memory kit, and be happy. The old iMac is going to end up on my spouse’s desk, still sitting on the network. It will power everything from a Cricut cutting machine to taking on distributed Compressor jobs when I really really need the power.

And when the A-series chips and the Rosetta 2 stuff gets sorted out, I’ll be just about done with my current job and ready to retire! (That last part: not really.) But I plan to do with this one what I’ve always done with Macs: work them way harder than they were ever intended to, and get the absolute best performance and creative output from them. I did that with my first Macintosh SE, which turned out to be a very capable page-setting system once I added a Mobius full-page display and card to it, along with a 30mb SCSI drive. Oh, and a LaserWriter Plus that I bought used for something like $5,000 in 1989, and eventually replaced its motherboard with an accelerated one that also bumped the resolution up to 300x600dpi. It could turn out a complicated PostScript page in less than a minute! :slight_smile:

Thanks for the rundown, @ace!

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There were no hardware announcements at all, but at the end Tim did say that several new Intel-based machines would be announced (by the end of the year?) and that Intel support would continue for some time. Since the laptop line was recently refreshed, that may mean new Intel iMacs are on the way.

My personal practice is skip buying the first generation of devices with significant new hardware. There are usually significant changes to the 2nd generation that fix the shortcomings that become apparent after more intense use in the field. So, in your position, if replacement isn’t absolutely critical, I would wait a few months to see if there is a last iMac Intel upgrade or if the 2019 one is it. I would jump on which ever one is the last one (and I may take my own advice to replace my 2015 iMac so that I’m port-consistent between my laptop and desktop).

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These will probably be the last Intel machines as the first Apple Silicon (AS) Macintosh computers are supposed to be released by year’s end. For the Keynote, they were using a Mac Pro that had an A12Z chip in it, so probably the first AS Macs will be Mac Pro & iMac Pro.

Rumours about announcements of hardware at WWDC happen every year. They are almost never true unless Apple wants to talk about software for unreleased products, like the ARM-based Macs. Something may be happening with iMacs, delivery for me is 2 weeks for a standard iMac up from the usual 3-4 days.

My only hope is that they will allow Rosetta and the Universal 2 binaries to be used for a longer time than they did for the last transition from PowerPC to Intel. Especially because of saying that Apple would continue to make Intel-based Macs for some time to come. I just finished purchasing a lot of new software in the last few months to replace those that were not 64-bit compatible so I could move to Catalina on a brand new MacBook Pro - and I really don’t relish having to buy all new software again for this transition! If I can go 3-5 years with everything I have now fully updated on this new laptop, I’ll be happy.

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They said they would support Intel Macs for a long time. With the first AS Macs to be released by the end of this year and a fixed 2 year transition period, I expect that any Intel Macs released in 2021 & 2022 will just be “speed bump” machines.

Rosetta lasted just over 5 years. According to Wikipedia, it was first enabled in Mac OS X 10.4., released in January, 2006, and died with the release of Mac OS X 10.7 in July, 2011. I believe that Rosetta partially depended on non_Apple owned Intellectual Property and the inability to renegotiate those licenses for that helped dictate its termination. I’d be curious if Apple has complete control over the IP for Rosetta 2 so that those problems wouldn’t arise here; the decision to stop supporting it and the applications depending on it will reside solely with Apple.

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You write in the article, “So there’s no reason to avoid buying an Intel-based Mac now if it’s likely to meet your needs for the next 3–5 years.” But isn’t there? The Intel-based Macs won’t run all the iOS/iPadOS apps will they?

It sounds like the current Mac are going to be obsolete quicker than usual.

I’ve been wondering if I should upgrade my MacBook Pro late 2013 and decided to wait and see what was announced at the WWDC. Now I feel like waiting more. Am I wrong?

Maybe I’m missing something, but am I the only person who has no desire or need to run iOS apps on my Mac? I can see why developers need to do this - but the average user? Not even games would I want to run in that small iPhone window on my Mac!

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I wonder what the Macs are going to cost since they will continue to make one with intel?

I just recently replaced my 2013 13" MBP with a 2020 13" MBP pretty much maxed out. To tell you the truth, I’m feeling pretty good about that right now. The design is sufficiently mature (thanks to going back to the old KB). I would prefer no TouchBar, but whadyagonnado? This thing will hold me over until at the very least the 2nd gen AS MBP. And if indeed the new AS MBP allows for 15 hr battery life, far superior performance over my quad-core i7, and is rock stable, I’ll just put this puppy on eBay and enjoy transitioning to the brave new world early. :slight_smile:

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I’m in the same boat. I just went over all my iPhone apps. I didn’t find a single one I’d like on my Mac instead of what I’m using there. In fact, I’d probably prefer Mac apps on my iPhone (apart from too small screen and no KB/mouse). Notes and Maps would have been obvious candidates but we already had those on Mac and with iCloud sync long before. Wallet maybe? Well TBH, I guess I do prefer iPhone’s TV app over Catalina’s.

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Although it was said there would be Intel support for some time doesn’t necessarily mean they will still make them.

I think it’s more the point that a developer can issue a binary that can run on the Mac or the iPhone. Rosetta2 and Universal2 should mean that an appropriately compiled iPhone app can run on your Intel Mac too.

I’m a very happy owner of a 2019 iMac and I foresee a good five years of life in it yet. But if I was looking at an upgrade from my old 2013 MBPro I’d be waiting to see how quickly they arrive and in what form factor the new ARM series Macs take.

Then again my iPad Air 3 and the Combo Touch have meant that MBPro has been left on the side for quite some time now. My next laptop may well be just a better iPad. It really looked yesterday like the day we had wondered about actually arrived, macOS and iOS looking like variants rather than alternatives.

I have quite a few iOS apps that I’d love to run on my Mac. They’re mostly things that are accessed via the browser on a Mac, but have an app for iOS (Flightradar24, Marine Traffic, etc), or just aren’t coming to the Mac (games, mostly).

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I’ll be taking the wait and see approach this time around. I have some significant software costs in order to simply get off of High Sierra so I’m simply going to stay where I am until I can no longer. At which point I’ll probably just change my current systems to Windows 10. While not as nice, there is a zero cost to doing that so barring a hardware failure I’ll wait and see from there.

I totally don’t see a point to do the spend now to only get Catalina/Big Sur software compatibility to only have to do it again for ARM-based system within a short period of time. Sure there’s always going subscription but why spend on that purely for software compatibility? During which time it can take a number of years to get fully ARM compliant apps. While the ARM processor may have huge gains in of themselves it’s highly possible those gains will not be immediate through actual performance.

So I’m going to see what Apple ends up with rather than holding their hands, funding both them and also developers, through it like the previous 3 architecture changes. I’m happy to pay for product that realises the benefits… not for products that merely promises it.

I also have a few iOS apps that would be great on Mac. Overcast is one (though I don’t really listen to podcasts on Mac, that might be because there is no Mac app for Overcast.) Also DarkSky, which I like more than the web site, and the Twitteriffic app for iOS is better than their Mac app. Another one are the reader apps for The New Yorker and for the Boston Globe. I’m fine using those on the iPad, but it would be good to have Mac versions.

Of course the developers could do that with Catalyst for Intel Macs as well.

If I remember correctly, Rosetta was licensed from Transitive corporation. When IBM bought Transitive, Apple was unable to continue licensing it for new Mac OS X releases.

Hopefully, Apple learned its lesson and will make sure to own their tech this time, either by developing it in-house, by acquisition, or with a source-code license that allows them to continue development independently.

This is my concern as well. I’m currently using some pretty old equipment (2011-era Macs running Sierra). I had planned to upgrade them this fall. If I get a last-generation Intel box, I know I can get compatible versions of my critical apps (FileMaker, MS Office, Photoshop Elements, SilverFast, a few others), but that computer is probably going to end up being unsupported much sooner than is typical for Apple hardware.

If I get a first-generation ARM box, there will probably be good hardware support, but I doubt any of my critical apps will have ARM versions available at that time. I’m going to have to wait and see how many are compatible with Rosetta 2.

Or (and maybe this is best) I could just stick with what I’ve got for another year or two. My only concern here is that the Mac mini has hard drives in it and they’re getting old, but I could install a 2TB SSD without spending a lot of money.