Apple is moving away from Intel-based Macs to ARM-based chipsets based on its own design. It unlocks a number of benefits, including more efficient processors, better power consumption and lower temperatures, all of which are incredibly attractive to mobile devices.
This is one of the many reasons why ARM is a dominant force on mobile devices. The question now is whether they can not jump, not only to desktop computers, but to make the jump and deliver the ultimate performance required by power users.
Therefore, I find the discussions that Apple is launching both a MacBook and a MacBook Pro later this month, and that need to solve a problem. What̵
Apple has said very little publicly about the project, other than confirming a tough schedule at WWDC 2020, and issuing mac Mini-styled ARM-powered ‘Developer Transition Kits’ presumably under very strict NDAs to allow apps to be recoded and optimized for macOS on ARM.
The implicit promise is that the new macOS on the ARM platform, and therefore the new Mac laptops, will run every application that the current Macs from 2020 can run. This is a big question, especially right out of the box. And those who run may not reach the same performance levels that run during emulation as they would on the original platform. This is ahead, and it’s not always smooth, as Microsoft’s Surface Pro X has shown.
In terms of capabilities, I expect the mono-monikered MacBook to offer a similar experience as the Surface Pro Xl. The first-party apps work smoothly and provide a matching experience; third-party apps specifically designed for ARM will have a similar standard; and emulation for the extensive back directory will have a number of problems and not run at “full” speed. This MacBook will also provide an excellent “cloud client” computer, just as the Pro X does.
While we wait for the references to Microsoft’s specially designed SQ2 chip in the updated Surface Pro X machines, what will Apple deliver with the MacBook Pro on ARM?
The “Pro” suffix has weight, especially in the macOS world. It’s not a lightweight laptop for everyday use, it’s not something that focuses on cloud computing and living in the browser, and it’s definitely not a cheap laptop anywhere. It’s a grunt of a laptop designed for heavy media work with countless images, to throw around 1080p (and still 4K) video for editing, to serve as the most important machine for software development.
So how will it go with a MacBook Pro on ARM?
This is perhaps the biggest question that Apple needs to answer. As it stands today, can a macOS on ARM device retrieve the large amount of work expected of a Pro machine and deliver the benefits inherent in ARM?
If Apple can handle this at the upcoming launch (and while there’s nothing to say it can’t, there’s also nothing that can be quantified to say it will), the Mac platform will have something like Windows 10 the platform has not yet demonstrated. This will give Apple a significant edge in ARM-based computing over the next two years, leaving the ARM-powered Surface machines behind.
Or will the MacBook Pro on ARM simply be the MacBook on ARM where you pay more for a slightly faster processor, increased storage space and a brighter screen?
Read more now about the Surface Pro X and how it can be stacked against Apple’s new laptops …