Apple has been rumored to be working on an ARM-powered MacBook for years. Today at WWDC, alongside announcements for iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, tvOS 14, and macOS Big Sur, the company made it official.
The big benefit to using an ARM processor is lower power consumption, and Apple is promising that without sacrificing performance. The firm promises to make processors that are specifically designed for Mac, just like it has previously done with A-series processors for iPhone, S-series processors for Watch, and AX processors for iPad.
Moreover, Apple is promising native apps, something that Microsoft has been unable to deliver on its Windows on ARM platform. All of its first-party apps will work on day one, even things like Final Cut Pro. In fact, it already has a bunch of third-party apps on board, like Microsoft Office and a bunch of Adobe apps. Apple even showed off full Photoshop running natively.
Of course, the Cupertino firm can't count on all apps being updated on day one, and if you buy a Mac, you're expecting to be able to use everything that you're used to. That's where Rosetta 2 comes in, and that's meant to translate all of your apps so they just work. Apple says that it's even faster than it was in the days of transitioning from PowerPC to Intel back in 2005, and it translates your apps upon installation.
Another big promise was dynamic translation for JITs, such as web browsers. For Windows on ARM, this was a pain point because this is code that's harder to cache. It will be interesting to see how well Apple pulls this off.
But according to Apple, the vast majority of apps will only take a few days of work to get them running natively. In some cases, it will just take recompiling them in Xcode.
Apple has a Developer Transition Kit that you can use to start testing, which packs an A12Z processor, 16GB RAM, and 512GB of storage. Units will start shipping this week. The company said Macs with ARM processors will arrive before the end of the year, and the full transition will take two years; however, it still has some Intel-based Macs in the pipeline.