Apple could release a new Mac with a processor designed in-house, according to a report.
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has reliably predicted upcoming Apple products, released a note to investors detailing the company’s product plans for 2020 and early 2021. Obtained by MacRumors, the note simply states Apple will release a Mac with an Apple-designed processor in the first half of 2021.
You can read the full quote from the note below:
“We expect that Apple’s new products in 12-18 months will adopt processors made by 5nm process, including the new 2H20 5G iPhone, new 2H20 iPad equipped with mini LED, and new 1H21 Mac equipped with the own-design processor. We think that iPhone 5G support, iPad’s adoption of innovative mid-size panel technology, and Mac’s first adoption of the own-design processor are all Apple’s critical product and technology strategies. Given that the processor is the core component of new products, we believe that Apple had increased 5nm-related investments after the epidemic outbreak. Further, Apple occupying more resources of related suppliers will hinder competitors’ developments.”
Interestingly, Kuo’s note also links an ARM-based Mac closely with a 5 nanometre (nm) process for chips. Apple’s A13 Bionic, which powers the iPhone 11 series, sports a 7nm process. Apple is reportedly ramping up research, development and production for 5nm chip technology.
Rumours of Apple working on its own chips for Mac have circulated for some time. Specifically, rumours point to ARM-based processors, which would allow Apple to license core designs from the U.K.-based company and implement them in its own designs similar to its A-series chips found in iPhones.
Switching to ARM would bring benefits and significant hurdles
A move to ARM could potentially bring several benefits to Mac, such as lighter form factors, cellular connection and better battery life. Additionally, ARM chips could bridge some gaps between iPhone, iPad and Mac, allowing apps to more easily work across all three platforms.
Finally, this wouldn’t the first time that Apple introduced a custom chip into a device. The iMac Pro, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Mini and Mac Pro all feature the Apple-made T2 security chips.
Ultimately, the biggest benefit of going with ARM would be that Apple wouldn’t need to rely on Intel anymore. Intel has struggled the last few years and had delays in chip releases, which then impacted Apple’s Mac release cycle.
Despite all the potential positives, moving from Intel’s chips, which rely on the x86 instruction set, could prove problematic. Look no further than Microsoft’s own efforts to move to ARM with the Surface Pro X. The new 2-in-1 from Microsoft struggled with professional audiences due to a lack of app support. A Mac with an ARM processor would likely have the same issues.
While Kuo’s investor note didn’t provide any other details about the ARM-based Mac, I’d expect Apple to implement the in-house chip in a thin-and-light form factor first and leave the MacBook Pro line on Intel chips for the immediate future. Apple recently discontinued its ultra-thin MacBook line, but it could release something similar running on ARM first.