Why Apple is moving to ARM chips is a huge deal!

Apple is planning to completely replace Intel as its chip supplier. The change will start very soon. But don’t be afraid, this is actually a great thing for people who love the Apple ecosystem. 

What is ARM? 

At the moment, almost every mobile phone out there uses an ARM processor. ARM (Advanced RISC Machine) is an architecture that promises better battery life, uses less power, and potentially similar performance to Intel’s and AMD’s chips. 

Apart from that, you can benefit from features like always-connected devices that have 4G or 5G connection. Imagine if it gets usual to have mobile connectivity on almost any laptop. It will be great! 

Devices powered by ARM chips are also less power-hungry. This allows fanless designs that are lighter and more portable. To be honest, current-gen laptops are light enough, but even a small improvement is welcome. 

With ARM chips, Apple will be able to control better their releases of new products. Now they are strongly connected to Intel’s schedule, and with all the delays in the past years, this is hard to plan.  

Why now? 

Intel has been struggling for a long time. They continuously delay their 10nm processors. There are just a few available right now, and the future doesn’t look bright for team Blue. They are so much behind that they are trying to collaborate with TSMC to keep up with the competition. AMD is already on 7nm architecture, so are the mobile chip producers, and we are almost at 5nm size already. 

The other big problem is the price. Intel’s chips are expensive. It is a company with a dominating position on the market of computer processors for a long time. So far, they were capable of charging extra for that. 

Also, if you have checked the market of devices with Windows on ARM, you will see that they are starting to be good. Yes, a 64bit application emulator is missing, but Snapdragon 8cx is quite capable of native 64bit apps. It will be a shame to stay behind! 

What could go wrong? 

ARM may not be powerful enough. Yes, we all have seen how powerful the iPhone is, in comparison with Android phones. But how does it compare to Intel Core processors for typical work? 

Not enough software. Apple has provided excellent options for the developers to create universal apps for both macOS and iOS (Universal 2 application binaries). This will come in handy in the future, but what about now? Can we use all the apps from macOS without losing performance due to emulation? Apple promise “translation” of the apps during installation with Rosetta 2. We need to test that. 

ARM can get expensive. ARM is for sale, and it can end in anybody’s hands. Apple has a license for its custom architecture, but what if the price for that license increases in the future? Apple can get completely dependent on a single company. And if you are thinking, why Apple just buy ARM, forget it. It will be too much of a hustle for Apple. It will lead to serious anti-monopoly problems. 

So? 

First, ARM-powered Apple computers are coming this fall. Are you going to get one? Or you prefer to wait a few years to be sure that they are here to stay. I will probably get one to play with it. I am a bit worried about software compatibility and how developers will translate their apps to the new platform. I have seen a great first look, but I need to get one in my hands. 

Stay tuned and let’s see how this develops.    

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