The wait for the Macs on Apple's custom silicon might be almost over
Way back in 2017, we started hearing rumors about Apple planning on releasing ARM based Macs in 2020-21. Though at the time it sounded more insane than it does now, a full transition during a single keynote still can’t be expected. It will take Apple a few years to fully move their Mac lineup from x86 to ARM or even possibly RSIC-V, if it will see rapid advancements in the near future.
For now, according to the latest leaks we can expect to see a MacBook Air first getting to stretch its ARMs and then MacBook Pro and iMac should follow. Although the latest leaks indicate so, some other evidence indicates otherwise.
Although, it is not a direct evidence, but using Mendeleev’s approach to designing a periodic table, I should say that most probably we might see ARM based MacBook Pro later this year.
As you might already know, Apple is rumored to release a 16” MacBook Pro (or a big MacBook Air) in October. Given that the current 15” MBP has quite sizeable bezels, it is logical to suggest that the new 16” MBP might come to replace current 15”, the rumor has it, it will use the same body.
Although, this might seem to be the only change not indicative of a full redesign, move to a higher travel scissor-style keyboard might indicate otherwise. Moving to a bulkier scissor design would require to either make the laptop thicker or to shrink the compartment for the mainboard, though the first one seems more likely without move to ARM. Changing keyboard, using a larger screen, and change in chassis dimensions is indicative of a full redesign. If a 15” MBP will receive such massive upgrades, it would be logical if Apple also upgraded a 13” MBP (having 2 laptops of the same model but looking like they are a couple years apart isn’t a great idea, as consumers might get confused, but it's Apple, you never know).
Given that there were no rumors about Apple ordering a 14” or 14.5” panels, it will most probably feature the same screen dimensions but a more compact body in a 13” MBP upgrade. All this indicates a massive redesign, with a few tradeoffs such as thickness.
If Apple is really planning on launching ARM based Macs in 2020, then such a redesign is totally unnecessary and is a waste of R&D budget, many people would still hold off from buying one, waiting for ARM Macs to come in 2020.
This all brings me to my point. I think we will see ARM Macs this year and this month. Given how drastic this redesign will be, there is no reason to do it now just one year before another major one is to come, unless there will be no major redesign in 2020 and this is the one we have been waiting for.
Another point adding credibility to this theory, is that Intel doesn’t have any 10nm (equ. To TSMC 7nm) CPUs which would suit MacBook Pro. The only ones they have are low power 2 and 4-core versions, although they would suit the slim MacBook Air if it was to receive an update in October and not MBP, there are still chances that Apple might want to mimic Microsoft and launch a version of their thin and light laptop with the bigger screen.
Granted, there is a chance that Apple just lost their minds (although only a slim one) and that this redesign will not bring changes on the processing side of things. Transition to ARM might seem unlikely to happen now as Apple only in June during WWDC announced the coding software and systems for developers to more easily port iOS apps to the Mac, hinting at the ARM Macs.
This makes launch of an ARM based MacBook this year unlikely, though most developers would require quite a push to start working on porting their apps to Mac, however easy it is. An ARM based Mac this year would be exactly such a needed push.
Problem of lack of applications supporting ARM architecture and written for MacOS can easily be solved by adding an emulation layer. Apple has great software and hardware engineers so it won’t be too hard for them to make one of the best ever emulators and to design an A-series SoC for October launch, we were hearing the rumors about ARM Macs for a few years now, so they are definitely coming soon and Apple had enough time to develop them.
In conclusion, there is still a very large chance that Apple at their October event this year will launch the ARM based Macs. Whether it will be a MacBook Pro, or a MacBook Air with a 16" screen size, given all the hints, ARM Macs will soon be here.
And it wouldn't be surprise if ARM was secretely developing some custom cores for Apple's Macs exclusively, given that ARM isn't a huge company and RISC-V already poses a threat and Apple is one of their biggest customers who hasn't signed up toe RISC-V club and normally avoids open source hardware, even if it is cheaper.