One of the longest-running rumors about Apple’s Macs and MacBooks is that they will eventually offer configurations with ARM processors rather than Intel’s. If analyst Ming-chi Kuo is to be believed, that will finally happen in the last quarter of the year or early 2021 at the latest. Apple’s foray into making its own Apple A CPUs for iPhones and iPads definitely lends some credibility to that outlook but, as Microsoft found out the hard way, it takes more than an ARM chip to make a successful ARM computer.
Apple makes formidable ARM systems-on-chip (SoCs) that, in a short span, has managed to run circles around veterans like Qualcomm. It is what powers the iPad Pros that have been compared time and again to laptops with better power efficiency and no need for active cooling. A Mac or MacBook running on an efficient yet powerful ARM chip would definitely give Intel cause to worry.
That, however, doesn’t really address the need for software to work on ARM, particularly macOS. Microsoft’s foray into Windows on ARM proved how nontrivial that prospect is and Apple will need to do more than just slap on macOS. It can’t also simply just run iPadOS unless it wants to further take market share away from its desktop OS.
Then there’s the case of peripherals and accessories that don’t readily work with ARM. Apple may have a few tricks up its sleeve after it opened up last year’s iPad Pros to USB-C peripherals. Doing so for Macs, however, might take more than a year to pull off.
In addition to ARM chips, the future Macs will also use USB 4, says Kuo. This next version of the USB spec combines Thunderbolt 3 and USB to lessen the confusion for both users and accessory makers. These are definitely ambitious changes that could rock the Mac ecosystem to its core so it will be surprising if Apple rushes to put that into action.