For those of us who spend a lot of brain power thinking about where Apple is headed, this week has been a bit of a head scraper. New reports from the China Times suggest that the first Mac with Apple Silicon will be a small laptop, which is in direct conflict with the suggestion of reliable supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that the first Apple Silicon Macs will be an iMac and a 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Conflicting reports on the future of the Mac ?! What to make a tea leaf reader?
However, I wonder if both of these reports can be true. And in that case, the rollout of Apple’s silicon potentially makes a lot more sense than it seemed before the spinning report from China Times.
First things first
For many years, when rumors roared that Apple was turning to its own chips to power the Mac, the assumption was always that the most obvious ARM Mac was a small, fanless laptop. It will benefit from an efficient processor that does not require active cooling ̵
Even in the early days of ARM-on-Mac rumors, when there was a lot of skepticism about whether Apple could possibly build processors that were powerful enough to run most Macs (and to be fair, in 2015 the answer was probably “no”), everyone assumed that an ARM MacBook was more than possible. In fact, it seemed nice to MacBook did not running on an ARM processor. (The Intel processor it used was disappointingly understated.)
So the latest China Times report, which suggests that the first Apple Silicon Mac out the door will actually be a 12-inch MacBook, feels Right. These are some rumors and speculations that are so well worn that it fits like a glove. A 12-inch MacBook running an iPad-class A14X processor will be as fast as one of today’s MacBook Pros, offering spectacular battery life.
It makes so much sense that I have to ask myself: Do I nod to this new report because it reinforces the long-standing theory of Apple Silicon? Because Ming-Chi Kuo’s report said something completely different.
One or two strokes
Although Kuo’s reports have been suggested to refer to the first Apple Silicon Macs out the door, he is assured when the new Macs he has described would actually be available. Sent 2020? Early in 2021? It’s not unreasonable to imagine that maybe the 13 – inch MacBook Pro running Apple’s Silicon would arrive a little later than the rumored MacBook, and while the iMac is in desperate need of a redesign, it’s another model that might as well be shipped. in 2021 as 2020.
What makes me inclined to believe the China Times report is that Apple must launch a new chip design this fall with the A14, presumably to launch a new series of iPhones that will be announced soon. An iPad Pro variant will almost certainly follow, and perhaps a suppressed Mac version with even more processor cores after that. But there are a lot of chips to launch in a short time. It does not seem unreasonable to imagine that Apple can instead roll them a little slower, with the more powerful Mac-focused processor coming in early 2021.
But … the theoretical A14X processor, one that powers a new iPad Pro, would have more than enough power to run a 12-inch MacBook. That model can also sneak in with Apple’s silicon integrated graphics processor, giving Apple more time to build more complex Macs with support for discrete GPUs. (The China Times report suggests that Apple plans to build its own GPUs for Mac systems.)
Although I would like to see Apple come out of the gate strongly with a pro laptop and an iMac running Apple Silicon, I can see how releasing an Apple Silicon MacBook this fall will be a relatively small product that allows Apple to buy time on the hardware development front, and also lowers the pressure on developers who compile their apps for Apple Silicon. In the second wave of product releases, we may see more of what Kuo is proposing – a new iMac, a MacBook Pro, a MacBook Air (if the 12-inch model does not inherit that name) and more redesigned laptops later in 2021.
If we get more Macs this fall with Apple Silicon, I’m excited. But if all we get is a 12-inch MacBook with impressive performance and battery life, I will not be disappointed. In a way, this is the scenario we have already visualized for five years.