Apple has announced that it will be transitioning Macs to its custom Apple Silicon. The company announced that it will ship its first Mac with Apple Silicon by the end of this year, while it will continue to release and support Intel-based Macs for a few years. The entire transition process will take 2 years to complete.
The company used an A12Z Bionic System on Chip powered Mac to demonstrate the powerful performance that its own silicon will offer when powering desktop computers. The company showed off Final Cut Pro being used to edit 3 streams of 4K Pro Res video, on a 6K Pro Display XDR, to demonstrate how powerful the SoC is. A12Z Bionic is the same SoC that is used on the 2020 iPad Pro.
Apple announced that it has been working on a family of Mac SoCs, and that all the demos done in the day to showcase macOS Big Sur features were done on an ARM-based Mac. Transitioning to Apple’s own SoCs will give Macs industry-leading performance per watt and high performance GPUs, which confirms that the company will be getting rid of both Intel and AMD silicon down the road. Macs will also get access to silicon like Neural Engine, which will allow developers to take advantage of machine learning performance at billions of instructions per second.
Apple is aiming to improve the performance per watt in its Mac processors with its custom silicon, something which it has not been able to achieve with Intel processors. Although Apple did not show any graphs to compare its processor performance against Intel, or call them out for performance issues, it showed the below comparison during the event:
With its custom SoC, Apple will also be bringing a huge number of technologies that it created and perfected for iPhone and iPad, over to the Mac. Some of these include low-power design, high-performance video editing, high-performance GPU, machine learning acceleration, and much more.
Apple’s new macOS 11 update, Big Sur, will be the operating system to kick-start the transition. It features a new design, support for a huge number of new features, and will help with a smooth transition to Apple silicon. The operating system will support technologies such as Rosetta 2, which will allow existing x86 apps, that were compiled for Intel-based Macs, to work. With Xcode 12 and Universal 2 application binaries, developers will be able to create a single app that will support both Intel-based Macs and Apple silicon. Developers will also be able to take advantage of the common architecture that Apple silicon-based Macs will have with iPhone and iPad.
Apple also showcased that virtualization will work just fine on its new silicon, allowing developers to run Linux. Since Apple will be using the same SoC architecture that it uses for iPhone and iPad, with improvements, these new Macs will be able to run iPhone and iPad apps without any changes.
Apple showcased Tomb Raider game running at a good frame rate and 1080p resolution, without any modifications, just by using Rosetta 2 emulation. The company also showed Linux running in a virtual machine without any performance issues, to help with web development. Apple also showed off Maya, Adobe Photoshop, and Microsoft Office working flawlessly on its A12Z SoC. Apple also already updated all its Mac apps, including professional apps like Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro, for its new silicon.
As per Apple, most app developers will be able to recompile their apps using Xcode and get them up and running in a few days for the new architecture.
To help kick start the migration process, Apple also announced a Universal App Quick Start Program. This program will give developers access to documentation, forums, beta updates for macOS Big Sur and Xcode 12, and limited time access to a Developer Transition Kit, based on A12Z Bionic SoC with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD. Developers will have to apply for the program and the cost for it will be $500.