Report: The first Apple Silicon Macs will be the MacBook Pro and Air
November 4, 2020
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Apple developer transition kit
Enlarge / The first Mac with Apple Silicon, technically: the developer transition kit. The consumer products will likely differ.

Sam Machkovech

Apple will start the Mac’s transition to ARM-based Apple Silicon CPUs with three laptops—both 13-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros and the 13-inch MacBook Air—according to a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who has built up a track record of accurate reports on Apple’s plans of late.

Earlier this week, Apple announced plans to hold another livestreamed event to announce new products on November 10. Taglined “One More Thing,” the event was already widely expected to reveal the company’s first Apple Silicon Macs, and the Bloomberg report confirms that will be the focus of the event. Apple first formally announced its plans to move to its own silicon in Macs this summer at its annual developer conference.

Today’s report claims Apple will unveil at least two of the new laptops next week but notes that the two 13-inch models are further along in the production pipeline than the 16-inch MacBook Pro. It also says that there will be few if any design changes to the three machines beyond the new chips.

Each laptop will include an Apple-designed system-on-a-chip closely related to the A14 chip found in newly launched iPhone and iPad Air models. Each chip is said to include a CPU, a GPU, and a Mac version of Apple’s Neural Engine machine learning processor and to be more efficient than the Intel chips included in current Macs.

The report that there are no design changes suggests Apple’s pitch next week may be mainly about performance or battery life rather than making machines thinner—at least as far as this first wave is concerned.

Apple said this summer that it will update the entire Mac product lineup with Apple Silicon within two years, so these machines are just the opening act. The Bloomberg story claims Apple is working on an update to its iMac with the new silicon and that it is also developing a new, smaller version of the Mac Pro.

It’s worth noting that the company committed to supporting Intel CPUs for years to come in its Macs, though it’s unclear if it plans to release new updated Intel Macs alongside Apple Silicon Macs in the coming months and years, or if that statement simply meant that Intel Macs will continue to get software updates.

The Apple Silicon transition will free Apple from Intel’s often unreliable product roadmap, and benchmarks of the iPad Pro and the Apple Silicon developer transition unit suggest that users may see performance gains for certain types of tasks.

Still, it’s possible that not everyone will see a totally smooth transition. While Apple did claim that legacy Mac apps designed for Intel CPUs will often run well in emulation on Apple Silicon Macs via Rosetta 2 and Apple Silicon versions of some important software like Adobe Photoshop or Unity have already been announced, there are still questions outstanding for many professional users in particular.

For example, it’s unclear what, if any, options software developers will have for running x86 Windows in emulation for testing purposes.

Answers to some or all of these questions are likely to come in the next few weeks as Apple’s first ARM-based Macs start shipping.

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