WWDC’s Biggest Surprise Might Be an ARM-Based MacBook

WWDC’s Biggest Surprise Might Be an ARM-Based MacBook

The question was never if but when, and while some thought it might not happen for another couple years, based on a new report, it appears Apple could announce the first Mac computer powered by an ARM-based chip at WWDC 20 later this month.

According to Bloomberg, Apple may finally be ready to publicly announce its “Kalamata” initiative which seeks to transition Apple computers away from x86-based Intel CPUs to ARM-based processors like the homegrown A-series chips Apple already uses in iPhones and iPads. And while Bloomberg says that the first Mac computer (most likely a laptop of some sort) to feature an Apple-designed ARM-based processor won’t actually go on sale until sometime in 2021, Apple wants to announce its plans this year to give developers as much time to prepare as possible.

Giving developers lots of lead time is incredibly important because while Apple’s new ARM-based Mac will have a different architecture on the inside, it seems the new device will still run macOS and not iOS. That means much of the software that runs on Macs will need to be tweaked or rebuilt in order to properly utilise the system’s new ARM-based architecture, lest users run into issues with lacklustre performance and app comparability like you sometimes get when using a Windows on ARM-based device like the Surface Pro X.

That said, Apple has been preparing for its upcoming shift for quite a while and has already created a number of tools that should help ease the transition such as Mac Catalyst, which allows users to run apps made for iOS on macOS and helps developers more easily port iOS apps for use on desktop.

By switching over to custom ARM-based processors for its computers, not only would Apple gain greater control over the specs and features of the hardware that goes inside its devices, it would also help create a more unified ecosystem for Apple products in general, which are currently split between x86-based systems running macOS and ARM-based gadgets running iOS.

Furthermore, people have been claiming for years that Apple’s top-end A-series chips have more than enough performance to keep up with the kind of x86 chips used in today’s Windows laptops while offering potentially even better energy efficiency. So in theory, not only would Apple’s new ARM-based Mac be just as fast as a comparable x86 machine, it would have longer battery life too.

The last time Apple made a change this big was back in 2005 when Apple moved away from PowerPC processors made by IBM to x86 CPUs made by Intel. And while there was a bit of grumbling at first, that change was a major reason Apple saw huge growth in Mac sales over the past decade and a half.

While a lot of this is still up in the air, if Bloomberg’s report is true, WWDC 20 could end up being one of the most important events ever in Apple history. So don’t forget to check back for more coverage on WWDC when the event kicks off online later this month on June 22.

Know something about Apple’s plans? You can reach me at sam.rutherford@gizmodo.com or reach us anonymously via Gizmodo’s SecureDrop.

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