Towards the end of the year, Apple will have a MacBook Pro on sale powered by an ARM-based processor with Apple’s own design. It will give MacOS laptops a new lifestyle and a chance for Tim Cook and his team to redefine what it means to be an Apple laptop.
And that means the current MacBook Pro line has reached the end of the line. Instead, it will be (with a nod to Douglas Adams) a new laptop that will be almost, but not completely, completely unlike the MacBook Pro as it is named after.
The biggest change has been strongly followed and developed. Apple confirmed that it would switch the Mac platform from Intel-based processors it has been using since 2006, to its own design of ARM-based processors. Although it has not yet been confirmed, the expectation is that the upcoming A14 processor designed for the iPhone 12 will pick up an X variant to be used in both the next generation iPad Pro, and the first MacBook Pro with macOS on ARM laptop due of released later this year.
The question of older apps built for the Intel platform running on the ARM platform has not yet been answered publicly. This is an issue that Apple will be aware of, and there will be significant time and resources invested in this project. Many of the first impressions of the new macOS platform will be governed by how wide, stable and fast-running Intel apps an ARM computer will be.
As the new platform gathers, developers will shift attention from the older versions to focus on the latest updates on the new platform. Undoubtedly, some updates will be backported to Intel, but there will be a clear “before” and “after”, and the MacBook Pro is completely in the “before” side of things.
It will not only be third-party developers who will take this view. Apple will focus on pushing the ARM platform forward and taking advantage of the ARM feature set to differentiate the platform. Undoubtedly, key features of keeping Intel computers connected to Apple’s cloud will be restored, but part of the appeal of moving to ARM is the advances that can be made in hardware and software that are not possible on the older platform.
The possibilities for integrating the macOS platform in iOS and iPadOS to a greater extent will be a simpler proposal with the three platforms running not only on the same architecture, but the same chipset. The lines between Mac, iPhone and especially iPad and iPad Pro will be blurred. There is something already affecting the user interface of macOS 11; the move to an iPadOS-like interface is clear.
The MacBook Pro is a workstation laptop that millions trust for both work and pleasure. As a standalone computer, it can operate outside of Apple’s pervasive cloud of services. It does not lock the file system, restrict media sources or restrict access to payment services. It can sideload applications without the developer requiring Apple’s permissions (although the one-click notarization requirements make it less attractive).
As Apple moves toward an integrated platform and brings its laptop range closer to the closed world of smartphones and tablets, the Mac platform will move away from the powerful vision of computing that Steve Jobs implemented. Tim Cook’s tightly controlled mobile platform pulls it in.
Cook’s Apple is ready to pull the trigger on a move that will accelerate this process, and that’s the transition to ARM. The MacBook Pro, which many people love and trust, is going to see a significant change that will change what it means to be a MacBook Pro.
Your old MacBook Pro is technologically dying. The new laptop will still be called the MacBook Pro, but it’s going to be another beast.
Read more about the long-term support that Apple should consider for existing Mac owners …