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Macbook: Apple to introduce new ARM chips in one of biggest changes in company history, report claims

Long-rumoured transition would bring computers in line with iPhones and iPads, as well as improving performance

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 09 June 2020 12:35 BST
Apple CEO Tim Cook presents new products, including new Macbook laptops, during a special event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
Apple CEO Tim Cook presents new products, including new Macbook laptops, during a special event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Apple is set to announce a change to its Mac line-up that will fundamentally alter the nature of the platform, according to a new report.

The company will change the chips that power its Macs from Intel to ARM in a decision that will likely be one of the most significant ever to hit the company's products. The new chips will initially come to Apple's laptops in a change that could be announced as soon as this month, Bloomberg reported.

The change would allow the computers to drastically improve their speed, battery life and other key parts of their performance, numerous reports have suggested, as well as bringing the computers more in line with Apple's iPhones and iPads, for which it has long made its own chips.

The announcement is set to be made at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference or WWDC event, which begins on 22 June, according to the same report. It noted that Apple's plans are still subject to change and that the announcement of the change could therefore be delayed.

Apple has long been rumoured to be working on a move to use ARM chips in its laptops, rather than the current Intel ones used across all of its Macs. In addition to the reputed gains from designing its own chips, the decision is said to be the result of ongoing frustration with relying on Intel's release schedule to dictate the timing of Apple's updates and new launches.

Changing would mark the first ever time that Apple has designed its own chips for its Mac line, ever since it was first announced 36 years ago.

The company started using Intel chips in 2006, when it switched away from PowerPC architecture, in what was one of the company's most significant moments. That change required Apple's Mac OS software to be re-written, as well as forcing third-party software to adjust to the change.

The new report from Bloomberg says that Apple will announce the new, similar change during its WWDC event, which begins 22 June. Apple is yet to reveal details about how that event – which usually begins with a large on-stage keynote, but will be held online-only because of the coronavirus outbreak – will actually be run, or how it intends to make the announcements without an audience.

Traditionally, Apple holds the keynote on the first day, with technical sessions for developers running through the rest of the week, and it is expected to continue on a similar timetable. The same event is also expected to see performance improvements for the rest of its line-up, as well as new fitness features in the Apple Watch.

Announcing the change during that event would give developers time to adjust to the new architecture before the new computers arrive in 2021, Bloomberg claimed. As such, the timing of the announcement could change and Apple may still not actually announce it during its WWDC event, the report suggested.

The change will initially come to select versions of Apple's laptops, including a potentially revamped version of its now-discontinued 12-inch MacBook, the report claimed. It will then roll out to the rest of Apple's line-up, including its desktop computers.

The new processors will use the same technology that is found in the iPhone and iPad, for which Apple is able to design its own chips. Those devices have improved at a much more rapid rate than Apple's computers, and some iPads and iPhones now boast better performance on some metrics than their much larger counterparts.

The computers will continue to run on macOS, rather than iOS. But they will be able to borrow applications from iOS, with technology that has arrived in recent versions of the computer operating system.

Nonetheless, software that is currently made to run on the older chips will have to be re-written so that it can work on the new hardware. In previous, similar moves, Apple gave developers toolkits that allowed them to move their software over to the new platform.

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