A new report from Bloomberg cites sources close to Apple who say that Apple is on track to introduce Macs running Apple-made CPUs and GPUs in 2021. The chips the company is developing are codenamed Kalamata.
While there have been previous reliable reports that Apple is doing this, today’s article goes into much more detail than before on both Apple’s strategy and the basic architecture of the chips. Its sources say that Apple is working on three different systems-on-a-chip for Macs, and all of them will be based on the A14 chip the company has developed for the next flagship iPhones.
The initial wave of Mac chips will have eight high-performance cores and four energy-efficient ones—codenamed Firestorm and Icestorm, respectively. Apple is looking into introducing chips with more cores in later products, it seems.
The fact that Apple is developing multiple Mac chips may be a clue that Apple may not just be thinking about a single new Mac laptop based on in-house silicon but an entire line. It’s not clear from this whether these will be additive to the current, Intel-based lineup or whether Apple will began replacing Macs in its current lineup with computers built with these chips in mind.
The report does say that one of the chips Apple is developing will be “much faster” than those used in the iPhone or iPad, though they will not yet be sufficient to replace the fastest Intel chips in the MacBook Pro or Mac Pro. Like those iPhone and iPad chips, though, these Mac chips would be built using a 5-nanometer production technique, and they would be made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.
Apple plans to introduce new processors after the 2021 iPhones based on those phones’ chips as well, and Bloomberg notes that this probably means Apple plans to develop silicon for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac marching in step moving forward. That’s not surprising, given how Apple has done things in the past.
All of that suggests that we’re most likely to use Apple chip-driven versions of, say, the MacBook Air or Mac mini before we see Apple’s performance workstations make the switch.
Apple currently uses Intel CPUs in all its Macs, which it started doing back in 2006. That switch was a boon for the platform in part because it made it easier for developers to make software that could easily be ported to the Mac from the dominant Windows operating system and vice versa.
But that was then. The landscape is very different now. Today, Apple’s own iOS/iPadOS operating system is a behemoth of a platform, with a far more robust software ecosystem than the one users enjoy on the Mac. Last year, Apple introduced a new initiative called Catalyst that was all about providing tools to help developers port iPad apps to macOS easily.
Moving Macs to chips closely related to those found in iPads and iPhones would further that goal even more. That said, Apple’s leadership has made public statements that the company does not intend to merge macOS and iOS/iPadOS; they would remain distinct operating systems, and this report in Bloomberg reiterates that.
There are other reasons for Apple to switch from Intel, too. Some updates to Apple’s Mac product lineup have often been bottlenecked on waiting for updates or overcoming barriers in Intel’s roadmap, which does not always suit Apple’s priorities and which has been subject to disruption in the past.
Plus, a core part of Apple’s philosophy in designing and marketing products is end-to-end integration of hardware, software, and services. This would give Apple greater control over the entire Mac experience. It might also allow Apple to adopt a new strategy to replace that of developing specialized chips that add security features and the like on top of what Intel’s chips already offer (as with the T2 chip, for example) and take a more unified approach like that seen on the iPhone.