- Apple will begin developing its own chips for future Mac computers, a change that could give the tech giant more freedom to create custom Mac features closely tied to its software.
- It’s an approach Apple took with the iPhone and Apple Watch, both with features powered by Apple’s in-house chip neural engine.
- Developing its own silicon is just one way Apple blends its mobile and desktop ecosystems.
- The company is also redesigning the Mac’s software in a way that’s more like the iPhone and iPad with its Big Sur update.
- These changes could help Apple create new features that make the Mac stand out, after Windows devices largely defined the biggest changes in the laptop industry over the past decade.
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
Apple has always taken a markedly different approach to its laptops and desktops compared to its Windows competitors. While Windows PC makers have infused the qualities of laptops and desktops into the laptops they’ve released over the past seven years, Apple has always maintained a position that mobile and desktop operating systems must be kept separate.
While it’s true that the iPhone and Mac products run on separate software – a decision Apple doesn’t intend to change – Mac computers are set to evolve into something much more like iPhone than ever before. It’s all thanks to Apple’s new Mac software and, more importantly, the company’s plan to move from Intel to its own in-house chips.
Apple announced its decision to develop its own silicon for Mac at its global developer conference last month, saying it expects the transition to take two years. Such a move will allow Macs to run iPhone and iPad apps, as the chips powering those products will run on a common architecture.
It will also open the door for Apple to design specific Mac features based on the hardware and processing power of the device, as is the case with the iPhone, Apple Watch, and other products. Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted at this during the company’s presentation.
“When we look to the future, we envision amazing new products,” Cook said during the presentation. “And the transition to our own custom silicon is what will allow us to bring them to life.”
The Mac has become boring compared to Windows
Apple’s switch to silicon indicates that there are some promising updates coming for the Mac, which hasn’t changed much over the past decade. While Windows computer manufacturers such as Lenovo, Dell, and Asus, among others, have developed computers with removable or flexible touchscreens, multiple displays, or designs that take various forms, Apple’s MacBooks look alike in much, except for the addition of the touch bar in 2016.
The most exciting change coming for Apple’s latest MacBook Pro and Air laptops are their redesigned keyboards, an update that came in response to criticism of Apple’s slimmer, more typo-prone butterfly keyboard. . Dell, meanwhile, presented conceptual laptops with flexible screens and more than one screen at CES tech conference in January.
Apple’s decision to develop its own silicon for the Mac will hopefully mean new innovations will arrive in its line of laptops and desktops. And that’s a very good thing for Apple, which has largely ignored the industry’s biggest trend to unfold over the past decade: the rise of laptop-tablet hybrids.
Apple has never been okay with the idea that mobile and desktop operating systems should be the same, but it has recently started to catch up with this trend by incorporating more desktop features into the iPad, by especially the iPad Pro.
Despite this trend, Apple remains one of the top five suppliers of laptops and desktops in the world in terms of global market share. But it ranks behind PC giants like Lenovo, which ranked first, followed by HP, Dell and Acer, according to figures from the International data company published in April.
Having more freedom and flexibility to develop new features for the Mac that can help it stand out could be especially important now that PC makers are starting to think about the future of the laptop – like the integration of 5G technology.
It would also give Apple an edge in that it wouldn’t be prone to issues affecting the rest of the industry, like Intel’s chip shortage as of 2019, which impacted competitors like Dell and HP.
The future of the Mac is starting to look a lot like the iPhone
Based on the company’s WWDC announcements, the Mac is taking a new direction that will be more like the iPhone experience, possibly paving the way for bigger changes in the Mac lineup.
While Apple has yet to launch its first computer based on its own silicon, the company’s macOS Big Sur update is already giving a glimpse of the growing similarities between the Mac and the iPhone. The update, slated to launch in the fall, has a sleek new design that resembles the interface of iPhone and iPad. For example, Apple brings Control Center – the panel with quick settings for screen brightness, volume, media playback, and other controls accessible on the iPhone – to the Mac with Big Sur.
The dock is also getting a new iPad-like design, and the Messages app for Mac will be updated with features that have long been available on the iPhone, such as support for Memoji, the ability to insert GIFs and special effects when typing certain sentences.
When Apple starts launching computers powered by its own processors instead of Intel’s, this change will become even more apparent. Not only will iPhone apps be able to run on the Mac natively, it will also allow Apple to make bolder and more dramatic changes to the Mac than we’ve seen in recent years.
IPhone’s Biggest Advantage Comes to the Mac: Full Control
Much of what sets Apple apart is that it controls almost every aspect of the product development process, from hardware design to software and silicon. This is what separated Apple’s iOS platform from Windows and Android. Because Apple designs its own chips for mobile devices like the iPhone and Apple Watch, it is able to tailor the performance, features, and power management of its products to match the software in the device.
Take automatic handwashing detection in watchOS 7, Apple’s next major software update for the Apple Watch. This functionality is made possible by the neural engine present inside the Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5.
There are plenty of examples of this on the iPhone, with the most recent being Apple’s deep merge photography feature, which it announced last fall. Deep fusion uses machine learning enabled by the neural engine of the A13 Bionic, the chip that powers the iPhone 11 and iPhone SE range, to process photos at the pixel level, optimizing shots for texture, details and noise.
Apple’s announcement left many unanswered questions about Apple’s silicon, such as the exact wattage of its chips. But what is clear is that developing its own silicon will allow Apple to put its own stamp on the Mac, just like it does with other products.
Johny Srouji, senior vice president of hardware technologies at Apple, said the approach was in line with the vision of co-founder and former Apple CEO Steve Jobs in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek in 2016.
“Steve came to the conclusion that the only way for Apple to truly differentiate itself and deliver something truly unique and truly awesome is to own its own silicon,” Srouji told Bloomberg Business Week in 2016. “You have to control it and own it. “