The ARM & Hammer

The first Apple Silicon destined for the high-end Macs?

A couple days ago, noted Apple supply-chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo issue a report which Juli Clover summarized for MacRumors:

Kuo says that the first Mac models to adopt Arm-based chips will be the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro and an iMac with a redesigned form factor, with Apple planning to launch the new models in the in fourth quarter of 2020 or early in 2021 at the earliest.

Kuo says the Arm-based 13-inch MacBook Pro‌ design will be similar to the current 13-inch MacBook Pro‌, with Apple planning to discontinue the Intel version. As for the iMac‌, it will feature an all-new form factor design and a 24-inch display. 

This sounded wild — not the timetable, but that the first Macs to feature the ARM chips would be “Pro” machines (well, insofar as the iMac is more powerful than, say, a MacBook Air — though he could mean a new iMac Pro here as well, who knows), rather than lower-end Macs. The working assumption of many, myself included would be that Apple would unveil their ARM chips for Mac with a new MacBook — you know, the recently discontinued device which is smaller and lighter than the MacBook Air. It would have seemed to make sense both because of the ARM chip’s supposed battery savings, but also because Apple then wouldn’t need to worry about catering to people running, say, Final Cut Pro, in their first swing at this.

As we learned yesterday at WWDC, as it turns out, this thinking was very likely wrong. While Apple didn’t indicate which Macs would get the chips first (beyond the Mac mini dev kits), they clearly signaled what Kuo is referencing above: that this chip was going straight after the high-end “pro” users. The company not only demoed the aforementioned Final Cut Pro, but also Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop as well.

And Kuo was back today to double down on the Q4 2020 iMac claim — an all-new design. So it certainly seems not only plausible, but perhaps likely that Apple is aiming to enter the “Apple Silicon” era for Mac with a laptop (the MacBook Pro) and a desktop (the iMac). As for that MacBook I desired — it’s not out of the picture either:

Kuo also says that an unspecified MacBook model with an "all-new form factor design" and an Arm-based chip will go into mass production in the second half of 2021, while a MacBook model with a mini-LED display will launch in the first half of 2021. 

So that sounds like this all-new MacBook with mini-LED (!) may be the third Mac to get the new chips. And that there may not be a concept of “high-end” and “low-end” when it comes to Apple’s own chips. I could see a world in which Apple has a slight variation of their chips for “pro” machines — just as they do with the iPad Pro now — but hard to see them talking about clock speeds or the like. Presumably, they’ll optimize the chips in the MacBook more for battery life versus the iMac more for power, but again, they may not tout these tweaks all that much.