When Might Apple Release an Arm-Based Mac?

There have been rumors suggesting Apple has an interest in Arm-based Macs for years now, but speculation about an Arm-based Mac has picked up over the course of the last year following rumors about Apple's work on its own chips designed for the Mac.

Right now, Apple is reliant on Intel for the processors used across its Mac lineup, but that is perhaps set to change in the future as Apple works to transition over to Arm-based chips similar to the A-series chips used in its iPhones and iPads.

Arm vs. Intel


Right now, Apple uses x86 chips from Intel in all of its Mac products, while its iPhones and iPads use Arm-based chips. x86 chips and Arm chips are built using different architectures.


Intel's chips are CISC (Complex Instruction Set Architecture) while Arm chips are RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer). As these names suggest, RISC instructions are essentially smaller and less complex than CISC instructions, which means Arm processors require less power and are more efficient carrying out computing tasks.

Arm chips have historically been seen as not powerful because x86 chips are designed for more robust desktop machines while Arm chips are designed more for lower power applications like mobile devices. Arm has historically focused on power efficiency, while Intel has historically focused on maximizing performance.

Ditching Intel


Apple has been using Intel's chips in its Mac lineup since 2006 after transitioning away from PowerPC processors. Because Apple is using Intel technology, Apple is subject to Intel's release timelines and chip delays.

Over the course of the last several years, there have been multiple instances where Intel has seen significant chip delays that have undoubtedly impacted Apple's product plans. Swapping over to its own house-made chips would allow Apple to release updates on its own schedule and with perhaps more frequent technology improvements.

Apple would also be able to differentiate its devices from competing products with chips designed by its own internal teams, introducing even tighter integration between hardware and software.

Apple's Arm-Based Chips for iOS Devices


Apple uses an Arm-based architecture for its A-series chips in the iPhone and iPad, and each year, those chips get faster and more efficient. In fact, when introducing the latest A12 and A13 chips, Apple has made it a point to emphasize that these chips are faster than many Intel-based chips in competing devices.

The 2018 iPad Pro models with A12X chips, for example, are close in speed to the 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro models.


With Apple closing the speed gap between Arm and x86, there's no reason why many of the company's notebook machines (and even desktop machines) couldn't be powered by Arm-based chips instead of standard Intel chips.


Apple's A-series chip packages also include custom-built GPUs, Secure Enclave, memory and storage controllers, machine learning processors, Image Signal Processing, custom encryption, and more, all of which could also be applied to Mac processors.

Arm Chips in Current Macs


The ‌MacBook Pro‌, MacBook Air, iMac Pro, Mac mini and upcoming Mac Pro are already equipped with Arm processors, in the form of the T1 and T2 chips that power the Touch Bar and other features in these machines.


The T2 chip in particular integrates several components, including the system management controller, image signal processor, SSD controller, and a Secure Enclave with a hardware-based encryption engine in addition to powering the Touch Bar and Touch ID.

Arm Benefits


Bringing Arm chips to a Mac could bring efficiency and battery life improvements without sacrificing speed, with Apple also perhaps able to cut down on the size of some of the internal components, thus perhaps allowing for slimmer devices.

An Arm-based MacBook might not need a fan, for example, much like an ‌iPad‌. Apple's iPads also have superior battery life, another feature that could be brought to the Mac lineup.

Apple's Rumored Work on Arm-Based Chips


Rumors suggest that Apple employees are working on an initiative codenamed "Kalamata" to make iPhones, iPads, and Macs work more seamlessly together.

One aspect of this involves new custom-built Mac chips that are designed by Apple much like its current iPhone and ‌iPad‌ chips.

Apple eventually wants developers to be able to create an app that can run across all Apple devices, and along with custom-built chips, Apple has also been working on this on the software side with Mac Catalyst. Mac Catalyst lets developers port their ‌iPad‌ apps over to the Mac App Store with minimal effort.

When Will Apple Release an Arm-Based Mac?


Apple is said to be aiming to transition to its own Arm-based chips starting in 2020, though the transition period could take some time.

It's possible one Mac line, such as the ‌MacBook Air‌, could see an update first ahead of the rest of the Mac family.

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Tag: ARM

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Apple Hires ARM’s Lead CPU Architect Amid Rumors of ARM-Based Macs as Early as 2020

Multiple reports have indicated that Apple plans to transition to its own ARM-based processors in Macs starting as early as 2020, and the company recently made a significant hire that lends credence to that objective.


ARM's lead CPU and system architect Mike Filippo joined Apple last month, based out of the Austin, Texas area, according to his LinkedIn profile. Filippo led the development of several chips at ARM between 2009 and 2019, including the Cortex-A76, Cortex-A72, Cortex-A57, and upcoming 7nm+ and 5nm chips.

Filippo also served as Intel's lead CPU and system architect between 2004 and 2009, and he was a chip designer at AMD between 1996 and 2004, so he brings a wealth of chipmaking experience with him to Apple.


Filippo's profile still lists his ARM role as ongoing, but social media talk suggests that he has left the company.

Apple designing its own ARM-based processors for Macs would allow it to move away from Intel processors, which have frequently faced delays. In fact, sources within Intel reportedly confirmed to Axios that Apple does plan to transition to ARM-based processors in Macs starting next year.

Apple already designs its own A-series chips for the iPhone and the iPad, and it also designs the custom T2 security chip in recent Mac models, as part of its broader efforts to move to in-house components and chip designs. Apple has long been known for closely integrating its hardware and software.

Last year, Bloomberg reported that the transition to ARM-based processors is part of a multi-step process that will eventually allow developers to create one app with a single binary that runs across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Apple has already laid the groundwork for this with Project Catalyst.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro
Tags: Intel, ARM
Buyer's Guide: MacBook Pro (Buy Now)

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Google Poaches Top Mobile Chip Designer John Bruno From Apple

Google has reportedly poached one of Apple's top chip designers, as it continues to pursue plans to design its own chipsets for consumer devices like its Pixel range of smartphones.

According to The Information, the search giant has hired well-regarded Apple chip expert John Bruno, who has worked on silicon architecture for iPhones since 2012. Before moving offices to Cupertino to help with Apple's ARM-based mobile chip push, Bruno worked at Advanced Micro Devices and led chip design at ATI Technologies.


Bruno founded and managed Apple's silicon competitive analysis group, which sought to keep the company ahead of competitors in the area of chip performance. He follows several other experienced chip engineers who have defected to Google from Apple over the past year, including Manu Gulati, Wonjae (Gregory) Choi and Tayo Fadelu.

The hires highlight Google's attempt to keep pace with Apple, which has been designing its own mobile chips since 2010. Recently, Google said it would sell chips known as Cloud Tensor Processing Units (TPU) to other companies so that they could benefit from its deep learning tool set, TensorFlow. However, the recruitment drive is more likely to be aimed at making own-branded chips for Google's Pixel smartphones.

Indeed, Google's first mobile chip could be right around the corner, according to Jim McGregor, an analyst at Tirias Research who spoke to The Information. With the help of off-the-shelf intellectual property, the Mountain View-based tech giant could have a multifunctional system-on-a-chip up and running in as soon as six months, McGregor said.

Tag: ARM

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Microsoft Claims Upcoming ARM-Powered Laptops Offer Multi-Day Battery Life

Microsoft and Qualcomm have revealed they hope to release ARM-powered laptops by the end of the year, with the two companies promising multi-day battery life from the new machines (via Trusted Reviews).

At its annual 5G summit in Hong Kong, Qualcomm revealed new details about the PCs it is developing in partnership with Microsoft. Known as "Always Connected PCs", the laptops are powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor and rely on an ARM emulation layer to run x86 Windows 10 desktop applications.


ARM processors require fewer transistors, which enables a smaller die size for the integrated circuitry. Their smaller size and lower power consumption are two reasons why they can be found in iPhones and iPads, but the increasing performance and efficiency of the chips is making the step up to laptops a realistic proposition.

Microsoft said it is already testing "hundreds" of the ARM-powered laptops internally on a daily basis, with battery life in particular exceeding expectations.
"To be frank, it's actually beyond our expectations. We set a high bar for [our developers], and we're now beyond that. It's the kind of battery life where I use it on a daily basis. I don't take my charger with me. I may charge it every couple of days or so. It's that kind of battery life."

Bernard added: "I would consider it a game-changer in terms of the way people have experienced PCs in the past."
The first round of Always Connected PCs are said to be coming from the likes of Asus, HP, and Lenovo, but they aren't expected to be cheap. Qualcomm said more affordable Windows 10 Always Connected PCs should become available once the portfolio expands.

Apple is reportedly looking into using ARM-based core processor chips for future MacBooks, which would reduce the company's dependence on Intel. Industry sources claim that Apple would instead build its notebook chips using ARM Holding's technology, a British company that designs ARM architecture and licenses it out to other companies.


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