Apple announces that its Macs will use Apple's ARM processors: goodbye to Intel and x86 architecture of the last 15 years
Apple has confirmed what has been rumored for years: its desktop and laptop Macs are passed on to their own ARM processors. With this decision, Apple abandons the one that had its partner for 15 years, Intel, and moves on to chips and architecture that has already demonstrated its potential in its mobile devices and that will now also govern its iMac or MacBook.
It is the fourth transition that Apple proposes: the jump to PowerPC, then to Mac OS X and, finally, to Intel processors, preceded this new technological leap that "will help make the Mac better than ever," said those responsible for Manzana.
A path that began many years ago
Apple highlighted how over the last few years Apple has been developing increasingly powerful mobile chips: a lot has rained since that 2010 Apple A4, but there have also been special versions for iPads that offered even more performance: the latest chips for the iPad were for example 1,000 times more powerful in the graphic section than the first ones used in the original iPad.
In total, Apple has distributed 2,000 million chips, something that has allowed us to gain an experience with which to face this transition. The goal, they explained at Apple, was to take the Mac to new levels of performance, but without compromising consumption.
Johny Srouji, the head of the Hardware Technologies division, also explained how these future teams will take advantage of all the improvements that these chips have been introducing.
For example, its Secure Enclave to protect biometric data, its "high-performance GPU" —we'll see if there are surprises here, and how they solve their current alliance with AMD graphics— or their Neural Engine.
Apple wants you to not even know that you are using a Mac ARM
One of the clearest challenges of this technological leap is, of course, that of software. How will the applications that we used to handle on Mac work?
Here Apple has presented several solutions that allow a smooth transition possible for both users and developers.
For starters, all the native macOS applications are already prepared to be used natively in Apple's processors, and in fact from the company they confessed how a large part of the demos that had been seen with macOS were running on chip-based computers from Apple, not Intel. Even tools like Final Cut Pro or Logic Pro already run natively on these computers.
To move applications developed for Intel processors and the x86 architecture to the new Apple processors with ARM architecture, the developers will only have to use xCode, the platform that will allow them to recompile the code and obtain the binaries called "Universal 2", which will be Compatible with both Intel-based equipment and Apple's ARM chips.
Craig Federighi explained how several large software companies were already working on new Mac versions of their applications. Among them are Microsoft Office or Adobe with its Creative Cloud.
Thus, we could see in action Word, Excel, Adobe Lightroom and even Adobe Photoshop running on a computer based on an Apple A12Z Bionic with the development platform.
The fluidity was remarkable, and although we will have to wait to see its real behavior, having these important developments already prepared to run on Macs based on Apple processors is, of course, a crucial step so that there are no problems in the transition.
Virtualization will also give developers and users options to run, for example, software from Linux environments.
Not all applications currently available will be prepared from day one to run natively on new Apple-based Mac chips, but it is in this scenario that Apple has prepared several workarounds.
First, the creation of Rosetta 2, an already comprehensive component of macOS Big Sur that automatically translates Intel application code to application code for Apple chips during installation.
Maya under Rosetta 2 on a Mac based on an Apple chip.
Rosetta 2 even works with games, and to demonstrate it they showed in action the game 'Shadow of the Tomb Raider' in its version for Intel-based Macs running at 1080p without apparent problems.
Secondly, Apple will offer new virtualization environments that will allow, for example, to run Linux systems with total normality in this environment, and its engineers offered an example with Parallels Desktop.
In addition to the "Universal 2" applications, Rosetta 2 and virtualization, there will be a fourth component at play to offer users even more possibilities: the possibility to take advantage of the entire software catalog of iPhones and iPads completely unmodified.
The Monument Valley 2 demo or Fender Play guitar learning app were quick examples of this achievement. It was not clear if the interface of these applications will only show them in windows with the size and format of those devices or the resolution can be adapted so that they can take advantage of the screen of future Macs.
The transition will last two years, and don't forget about Intel-based Macs just yet.
Tim Cook stressed that today is "a historic day for the Mac", and was totally confident with the future of the Mac, to go on to give some details about the roadmap that developers and users can expect from now on.
For starters, for developers the journey begins this week to register for Quick Start and receive the team to work with their developments. These machines have the chassis of the Mac mini and are based on an Apple A12Z accompanied by 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD with the beta version of macOS Big Sur pre-installed and also the Xcode development platform.
The first team based on these chips will appear at the end of the year, but Cook did not want to reveal what it was about. What he did indicate is that from Apple they estimated that the transition would last about two years, but it would not leave out Intel-based machines in the short term.
In fact, it guaranteed that versions of macOS will continue to be offered for years - without specifying how many - with which to update these computers, and even announced that Apple still has some Intel-based Macs ready in its roadmap.
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