Back in June, Apple announced plans to transition away from Intel chipsets to custom Apple Silicon within two years. The first Apple Silicon Mac is expected to arrive before the end of the year. Which Mac could be the first to make the switch? Let's take a look.
The short list
- Release date: Before the end of 2020 (Apple confirmed), likely November (unconfirmed)
- Model: The first Apple Silicon Mac should be a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.
- Price: Unknown, but should be similar to existing models.
Why the switch?
Moving to a common architecture across all Apple products has long been rumored. When fully implemented, it will mean developers can write and optimize their apps for the entire Apple ecosystem. For Mac, this starts with macOS Big Sur, which was also announced in June.
The latest macOS update, officially released this fall, brings a range of technologies to make the transition to Apple Silicon as easy as possible. At the same time, Apple's offering translation technology using Rosetta 2, that will let the first Apple Silicon users run existing Mac apps on their new machines.
Over the long-run, Apple Silicon should mean less work for developers and allow end-users to move even more freely between Apple devices. This process will take time, however.
The company has said the first Apple Silicon product would launch before the end of 2020. However, we don't yet know which Mac product line will get an Apple Silicon model first.
In July, prominent Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo noted the first Apple Silicon Mac would be a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro, followed by a new MacBook Air. Apple essentially admits this by placing a photo (see above) of a MacBook Pro on its official Silicon announcement!. One or both models are expected to arrive by the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021 and feature the same form factor as the current models.
Kuo believes a 16-inch MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon could arrive in the second or third quarter of 2021, alongside an all-new 14-inch MacBook Pro version. These last two laptops are expected to feature a new form factor. Previously, the analyst noted an iMac with Apple Silicon would also be coming soon. A report by The China Times in August said that the product would ship in the second half of 2021.
Moving from Intel processors to Apple Silicon probably isn't going to lower the price of Macs significantly, at least in the short-term.
In July, TrendForce said the first Mac SoC could cost much less to produce than Intel chips. Further, it estimated the first Apple SOCs could cost under $100, compared to the $200 to $300 for the Intel Core i3 processors on the market.
However, because Apple plans on selling both Intel- and Silicon-based Macs over the next two years, any price differences between similar models would be minimal, at best. As I explained at the time, only when Apple Silicon is the only game in town will we know whether the transition makes Macs noticeably less expensive.
During the transition period, when Intel and ARM Macs co-exist, Apple will probably keep the prices between both types of computers very similar as a way to support both.
Bloomberg expects Apple to announce (not necessarily release) the first Silicon-based Macs in November 2020. Regardless, the first models should be released sometime before December 31.
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