Apple makes the leap to ARM on its computers with Apple Silicon

After years of speculation the jump to ARM by Apple has been officially announced. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO at the World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC 2020), has presented this fourth transition of the company. Historically Apple has gone through third party processors as Motorola, PowerPC, Intel (x86) and now jumps to its own custom designed Apple Silicon (ARM), something it has been doing for years since the first Apple A4. Energy efficiency, platform unification and control over your own hardware to optimize it are the key points of this radical change.

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As announced, app developers can now start working on a Mac Mini which is presented as a Developer kit that integrates the Apple A12Z processor found in the iPad Pro, a processor with enough power to move software such as Office and Adobe applications up to a certain level.

Those of you who suffered the transition from PowerPC to Intel x86 can already imagine what awaits you, to smooth this whole step we will have several tools in the software field that will help with this change. We will also have certain limitations when it comes to emulating or running x86 software, of course.

  • Rosetta 2: instruction emulation software to avoid execution problems, it is not clear what level of performance loss we will have, but we can imagine a scenario similar to what we have seen in Windows 10 ARM.
  • Universal 2: software to recompile applications thanks to Xcode so that they work both in the current x96 and in the future ARMs. Something we have also seen in Microsoft with several attempts, in any case in Apple it will be transitional and imposed.
  • iOS and iPadOS apps: the applications compiled for these systems will already run natively on the new Apple Silicon but will require a complete redesign of their UI to be efficient and not remain as a mobile app on a PC.
  • Virtualization: machines are offered to virtualize environments like Linux, which should not be a problem in their versions for ARM that in the versions for x86 we will have several layers of emulation and can be a burden.

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The new operating system for Apple Silicon computers is macOS 11 Big Sur, with this change will lose all Boot Camp options, and we will not be able to run Windows natively in parallel. The huge amount of users running Windows emulation with Parallels will also be affected for sure with a very significant performance loss.

This step affects Intel’s business in a minimal way, since Intel’s market rate in this market is low and its most lucrative business is servers and PCs of all kinds for other sectors. Interestingly Intel has achieved with Foveros 3D a better power consumption and size that would come in handy for Apple, plus the improvement of its integrated Xe GPUs is also significant.

AMD it’s more affected with this change, as it loses the business of the dedicated GPUs it used to integrate into Apple computers in the higher ranges. It remains to be seen how the graphics power of Apple’s new computers based on its own embedded chips suffers, which while very powerful at the professional user level are away far from dedicated hardware.

As we can see, Apple Silicon has clear advantages for Apple, above all because of the absolute control it will have over the hardware and its platform. This means, as always, more benefit for Apple, something in which they are experts. Will the change be better for each user? We’ll see, for now they have pitfalls already known and experienced in other previous jumps of Apple. We will have a few years moving in terms of software, the price of this new hardware of course will be… expensive.

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