The Dawn of a New Era: Apple Silicon Powers the Mac
Apple’s “One More Thing” event was likely the final Apple event of 2020, following one in September that was mainly about the iPad and another one in October that introduced four new iPhones, all sporting 5G. On center stage today was the Mac, which moving forward will forgo the Intel chip set that served as the processor since 2006 in favor of Apple’s internally developed silicon, the M1 chipset. Last Spring, developers were extensively briefed on the upcoming Apple silicon Macs at WWDC so they could prepare their apps for the upcoming changes, but there were still a few more surprises we’ll cover in this post. For those of us who enjoy taking a trip down memory lane, check out Steve Job’s announcement from WWDC way back in 2005 explaining that Apple would switch to Intel processors.
Three new Apple Silicon Macs
The big surprise is that we will see three new models of the M1 Mac, and not just one as we heard in the rumor mill. All models will be available next week, with MacOS Big Sur (AKA MacOS 11) available on November 12th. All of the models tout impressive gains in power, battery life, CPU and performance. And Apple has eliminated the fan on the MacBook Air, and added studio quality microphones on the MacBook Pro for all of you Zoom warriors.
The MacBook Air will start at $999 ($899 for education)
The Mac Mini will start at $699
The MacBook Pro will start at $1299
The M1 chip
Like Apple’s chip for the iPad and iPhone 12 series (the A14), the M1 chip uses 5 nanometer technology and boasts incredible inter-generational performance improvements. The move to Apple silicon means that apps can be designed as universal apps that can run on both the ‘legacy’ Intel processors and on Macs that sport the new M1. For apps that haven’t been revamped for the new silicon, the Rosetta 2 translation layer should make them run on the newer Macs. Apple is inching closer to a completely controlled ecosystem by moving away from Intel, and to that effect, the company also recently purchased Intel’s cellular modem division. When Apple fulfills it’s six year exclusive contract with Qualcomm, which provides the 5G modems for the iPhone, in 2025, it will have close to complete control over its chip supply chain. So, the M1 isn’t just a high-performing, low energy computer processor, it’s the pathway to complete independence for Apple. It’s a long-term vision, and Tim Cook deserves credit.
What we didn’t hear about in 2020
And of course, we heard nothing about the long rumoured Apple Car, and I suspect we will have to wait a few more years if we ever see one at all. Apple AirTags, a competitor to Tile that allows for location-based tracking of small objects like keys, didn’t make an appearance. I suspect that’s because AirTags haven’t yet met Apple’s expectations around quality. We also thought we might hear something about the high-end Airpods Studio over-the-ear headphones, which were a no-show, and a new iteration of Apple TV, which has been teased in several code teardowns.
One More Thing
This may be anticlimactic to some, but the “One More Thing” moment was really the M1 chip on three new Macs. We’ve known about Apple silicon since WWDC in June, so I wouldn’t say this was a big surprise, but it is a huge leap forward for Apple. When Steve Jobs announced the Mac would move to Intel in 2005, it was a defining moment for the Mac, and it marked the beginning of an era that would last nearly 15 years. Of course, as we enter the age of the Silicon Mac, you can expect day one support from MobileIron for all of the new Apple devices. And the real “One More Thing” Moment? Apple hilariously wrapped up the event by trotting out John Hodgman, who famously played the role of a stodgy PC in Apple’s award winning “Get a Mac” ad campaigns in the mid 2000’s. He was having trouble keeping up, which was entirely the point.