What's the Arm? First Apple laptop to ditch Intel will be 13.3" MacBook Pro, proclaims reliable soothsayer

We'll find out as WWDC rolls on


WWDC Apple will confirm its transition to Arm this week at the virtual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), says Ming-Chi Kuo – the analyst widely regarded to be the most accurate when it comes to Cupertino's movements.

Kuo's latest report comes via an investment note sent to clients of TF International Securities, and echoes similar predictions made in recent weeks, most notably by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.

Surprisingly, Kuo reckons the first Mac to ditch Intel will be the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro, which he said he expects to see released in Q4 2020 or Q1 2021. This will reportedly kickstart a process that will see Apple switch from Intel across its entire computing lineup.

Earlier reports suggested that Apple would use its cheapest, most consumer-oriented devices as a launchpad for in-house silicon. The MacBook Pro is, as Reg readers know, more of a workhorse for creatives and developers with a price tag to suit.

Historically, those users have represented the core of Apple's computing lineup. They're also the most sensitive to disruption. A change of architecture could potentially result in compatibility and performance issues – at least in the earliest moments of transition.

It'll be interesting to see how Apple works around that. Will they offer something like Rosetta, the Rosetta binary translation tool layer that softened the blow from PowerPC to Intel? And if so, how long will they support it? Rosetta only lasted three generations of Mac OS X before it was discontinued, presenting problems for those using unsupported legacy applications.

Any change in architecture will make cross-platform development tricky as Mac owners will no longer be able to dual-boot Windows 10 via Bootcamp. There'll probably be some form of workaround – virtualization maybe, either locally or on the cloud – although it would likely not feel as graceful as the current status quo.

Still, the migration does send a message that Apple has confidence, not only in the fact that its in-house chips can rival Intel's performance, but also that it's able to offer continuity for its existing users.

Kuo said he expects Apple will follow up with a redesigned 24-inch Arm-powered iMac. Given that the base iMac currently includes a poky (if not embarrassingly stingy) 21.5-inch display, the extra 2.5 inches will be welcomed.

Speaking of which, the Apple expert or well-connected leak receiver (depending on who you talk to) also predicted Apple will refresh the existing Intel iMac models later this year. Seeing as the iMac last saw an update in early 2019 (or, at the time of writing, 461 days ago), this feels like necessity more than anything.

And if that happens, it'll likely be the last hurrah for Intel in Apple's world, compounding Chipzilla's woes. According to the New York Times, Apple buys $3.4bn worth of silicon from Intel each year, representing roughly 5 per cent of the Chipzilla's annual sales. Intel also has to contend with a resurgent AMD, as well as the prospect of Arm growing market share in the server and PC worlds.

WWDC starts today, and will run for the entire week. This event has traditionally served as a springboard for Apple's most fundamental platform movements, and there's nothing more fundamental than a CPU.

There's a lot to get your teeth into here. A move to Arm would potentially bring improved multi-core performance, longer battery life, and an NPU dedicated to handling AI-driven tasks.

That said, it's likely that Apple's professional users will be paying close attention to the broader strategy behind this new Arm-powered push, and won't be distracted by shiny new hardware.

But what about those who need plenty of computational power, and are currently being served by the iMac Pro and the Mac Pro desktops? Where do they fit into this brave new world?

Similarly, will Apple offer discrete graphics on par with the current Radeon cards found on its premium laptops and desktops? Gamers, and those who use GPUs for work stuff, like building neural networks, will want to know. So do we. The Reg is still in the market for a seat, Apple folks. You know how to reach us, Alan. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Intel is running rings around AMD and Arm at the edge
    What will it take to loosen the x86 giant's edge stranglehold?

    Analysis Supermicro launched a wave of edge appliances using Intel's newly refreshed Xeon-D processors last week. The launch itself was nothing to write home about, but a thought occurred: with all the hype surrounding the outer reaches of computing that we call the edge, you'd think there would be more competition from chipmakers in this arena.

    So where are all the AMD and Arm-based edge appliances?

    A glance through the catalogs of the major OEMs – Dell, HPE, Lenovo, Inspur, Supermicro – returned plenty of results for AMD servers, but few, if any, validated for edge deployments. In fact, Supermicro was the only one of the five vendors that even offered an AMD-based edge appliance – which used an ageing Epyc processor. Hardly a great showing from AMD. Meanwhile, just one appliance from Inspur used an Arm-based chip from Nvidia.

    Continue reading
  • Apple’s M2 chip isn’t a slam dunk, but it does point to the future
    The chip’s GPU and neural engine could overshadow Apple’s concession on CPU performance

    Analysis For all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Apple's move to homegrown silicon for Macs, the tech giant has admitted that the new M2 chip isn't quite the slam dunk that its predecessor was when compared to the latest from Apple's former CPU supplier, Intel.

    During its WWDC 2022 keynote Monday, Apple focused its high-level sales pitch for the M2 on claims that the chip is much more power efficient than Intel's latest laptop CPUs. But while doing so, the iPhone maker admitted that Intel has it beat, at least for now, when it comes to CPU performance.

    Apple laid this out clearly during the presentation when Johny Srouji, Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies, said the M2's eight-core CPU will provide 87 percent of the peak performance of Intel's 12-core Core i7-1260P while using just a quarter of the rival chip's power.

    Continue reading
  • Qualcomm wins EU court battle against $1b antitrust fine
    Another setback for competition watchdog as ruling over exclusive chip deal with iPhone nullified

    The European Commission's competition enforcer is being handed another defeat, with the EU General Court nullifying a $1.04 billion (€997 million) antitrust fine against Qualcomm.

    The decision to reverse the fine is directed at the body's competition team, headed by Danish politico Margrethe Vestager, which the General Court said made "a number of procedural irregularities [which] affected Qualcomm's rights of defense and invalidate the Commission's analysis" of Qualcomm's conduct. 

    At issue in the original case was a series of payments Qualcomm made to Apple between 2011 and 2016, which the competition enforcer had claimed were made in order to guarantee the iPhone maker exclusively used Qualcomm chips.

    Continue reading
  • Apple gets lawsuit over Meltdown and Spectre dismissed
    Judge finds security is not a central feature of iDevices

    A California District Court judge has dismissed a proposed class action complaint against Apple for allegedly selling iPhones and iPads containing Arm-based chips with known flaws.

    The lawsuit was initially filed on January 8, 2018, six days after The Register revealed the Intel CPU architecture vulnerabilities that would later come to be known as Meltdown and Spectre and would affect Arm and AMD chips, among others, to varying degrees.

    Amended in June, 2018 the complaint [PDF] charges that the Arm-based Apple processors in Cupertino's devices at the time suffered from a design defect that exposed sensitive data and that customers "paid more for their iDevices than they were worth because Apple knowingly omitted the defect."

    Continue reading
  • We sat through Apple's product launch disguised as a dev event so you don't have to
    M2 chip teased plus MacBooks, iOS 16, macOS 13, watchOS 9 and more

    WWDC Apple opened its 33rd annual Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday with a preview of upcoming hardware and planned changes in its mobile, desktop, and wrist accessory operating systems.

    The confab consists primarily of streamed video, as it did in 2020 and 2021, though there is a limited in-person component for the favored few. Apart from the preview of Apple's homegrown Arm-compatible M2 chip – coming next month in a redesigned MacBook Air and 13" MacBook Pro – there was not much meaningful innovation. The M2 Air has a full-size touch ID button, apparently.

    Apple's software-oriented enhancements consist mainly of worthy but not particularly thrilling interface and workflow improvements, alongside a handful of useful APIs and personalization capabilities. Company video performers made no mention of Apple's anticipated AR/VR headset.

    Continue reading
  • Workers win vote to form first-ever US Apple Store union
    Results set to be ratified by labor board by end of the week

    Workers at an Apple Store in Towson, Maryland have voted to form a union, making them the first of the iGiant's retail staff to do so in the United States.

    Out of 110 eligible voters, 65 employees voted in support of unionization versus 33 who voted against it. The organizing committee, known as the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE), has now filed to certify the results with America's National Labor Relations Board. Members joining this first-ever US Apple Store union will be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

    "I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory," IAM's international president Robert Martinez Jr said in a statement on Saturday. "They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022