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Apple Unveils Its Own Processors For Macs, Signaling 'Historic' Transition Away From Intel

Macs with Arm-based chips are expected to arrive by the end of the year.

Apple on Monday announced that it will launch the first Macs with Apple-designed processors by the end of this year, beginning the process of displacing Intel chips in Mac computers.

The company's transition to in-house chips, which had been long rumored, is expected to take two years, and will include an emphasis on improved performance, Apple CEO Tim Cook said.

Calling it "a historic day for the Mac," Cook said he believes the Mac will come out "stronger and more capable" following the CPU transition.

Apple signaled that the move away from Intel will be gradual.

"We plan to continue to support and release new versions of macOS for Intel-based Macs for years to come," Cook said during a prerecorded keynote for the virtual Worldwide Developers Conference 2020. "In fact, we have some new Intel-based Macs in the pipeline that we're really excited about."

Apple has already been designing its own Arm-based processors over the past decade for devices including the iPhone and iPad. The company will now be leveraging that expertise in designing chips for the Mac that offer high performance and low power consumption, said Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies, Johny Srouji.

"We'll have a common architecture across all of our product lines, making it far easier for developers to [build] and optimize software for the entire Apple ecosystem," Srouji said.

Developers will soon be able to start trying out Arm-based chips on Mac with a “transition kit” device running Apple's A12Z processor, which is used in the latest iPad Pro models.

"Everything developers need to build apps for these new chips is built into the new version of Xcode. To get started, developers just open their app projects and recompile," said Craig Federighi, senior vice president for software engineering at Apple. "The vast majority of developers can get their apps up and running in just a matter of days."

App makers that have already begun recompiling and testing apps for running on Apple-made silicon include Microsoft and Adobe, he said.

Notably, the Macs with Apple-made processors will be capable of running unmodified, native iPhone and iPad apps, the company said.

Apple accounts for less than 5 percent of Intel's annual revenue, and the short-term impact will not reach that full amount due to Apple not transitioning fully away from Intel at first, Evercore analyst C.J. Muse told the New York Times last week. However, the move by Apple could inspire more device makers to consider non-Intel chips, hurting Intel's reputation, Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, told the Times.

In a statement provided to CRN on Monday, Intel said that "Apple is a customer across several areas of business, and we will continue to support them."

"We believe Intel-powered PCs—like those based on our forthcoming Tiger Lake mobile platform—provide global customers the best experience in the areas they value most, as well as the most open platform for developers, both today and into the future," Intel said in the statement.

Apple started using Intel processors for the Mac line in 2006 in a move away from PowerPC processors.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company is believed to be interested in launching its own processors to reduce its dependencies on suppliers. Along with device timetables not always lining up with those of suppliers, manufacturers such as Apple are continuing to grapple with CPU shortages from Intel that have constrained device production.

"I'm very impressed with their Day 1 native app support – including Microsoft and Adobe it appears," said one executive at a solution provider partner of Apple, who asked to not be identified.

"I'm looking forward to the fall, where I assume they can hit on the performance in much more detail,” the executive said. “The battery usage of native apps should be a game changer on the MacBook side. They highlighted the A12Z chip, which is already used on the latest iPad Pro and runs at approximately 2.5Ghz--so that gives some impression of performance in their event demos."

"All-in-all, this Mac migration looks very polished and planned so far," the executive said.

Apple, with a $1.56 trillion market cap, saw its stock rise 2.62 percent to close at $358.87.

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