Leaker Fudge (@choco_bit ) suggests that Apple’s first-ever ARM-based Mac could come in the form of a 12-inch MacBook refresh.
Fudge has shared some of his thoughts (via Reddit) on how why, and when such a roll-out of an ARM-based Mac might take place, as well as speculate on how the apps, Boot Camp, and other important things may be affected.
Fudge says supply chain sources indicate Apple could revive its currently discontinued MacBook, with a new 12-inch model powered by an Apple-designed ARM-based chip. Of course, he also believes Apple will perhaps bring back the much-maligned butterfly keyboard, so not all of the news is good.
There are rumors that Apple is still working internally to perfect the infamous Butterfly keyboard, and there are also signs that Apple is developing an A14x based processors with 8-12 cores designed specifically for use as the primary processor in a Mac. It makes sense that this model could see the return of the Butterfly keyboard, considering how thin and light it is intended to be, and using an A14x processor would make it will be a very capable, very portable machine, and should give customers a good taste of what is to come.
Fudge says the new 12-inch MacBook could look the same as its predecessor, and says it is unclear if there will be design changes. 5G connectivity could also come along for the ride.
At least one of the three processors Apple is said to be developing for use in the Mac is said to be much faster than the A-series chips currently used in Apple’s iPhone and iPad lineups, with the first Mac ARM processors having 12 cores, with eight high-performance cores and four energy-efficient cores. Apple is also working on a second generation of Mac processors based on the future 3-nanometer A15 chip.
Apple would benefit in several ways by using its own processors, as it would no longer be limited by Intel’s unreliable release schedule. It would allow the company to update their Macs whenever they wished, and with great technology enhancements than they’ve seen from Intel.
The chips are expected to feature improved performance and reduced power consumption for better battery efficiency, and Bloomberg says the processors are showing significant gains in graphics performance and apps using artificial intelligence.
There will be a few drawbacks at least short term, such as app support and related issues. However, Fudge says Apple could handle those in the following ways:
– Developer will need to build both x86_64 and ARM version of their app – App Bundles have supported multiple-architecture binaries since the dawn of OS X and the PowerPC transition
– Move to apps being distributed in an architecture-independent manner, as they are on the App Store. There is some software changes that are suggestive of this, such as the new architecture in dyld3.
– An x86_64 instruction decoder in silicon – very unlikely due to the significant overhead this would create in the silicon design, and potential licensing issues. (ARM, being a RISC, “reduced instruction set”, has very few instructions; x86_64 has thousands)
– Server-side ahead-of-time transpilation (converting x86 code to equivalent ARM code) using Notarization submissions – Apple certainly has the compiler chops in the LLVM team to do something like this
– Outright emulation, similar to the approach that was taken in ARM releases of Windows, but received extremely poorly (limited to 32-bit apps, and very very slow)There could be other solutions in the works to fix this but I am not aware of any. This is just me speculating about some of the possibilities.
Fudge says Apple may completely abandon Boot Camp, at least until Windows becomes more friendly to the ARM architecture.
Apple could possibly make an ARM-based Mac announcement their WWDC event on June 22, we’ll just need to wait and see.