The Mac’s long-rumored tran­si­tion from Intel proces­sors to Apple’s own ARM designs could be swifter and more exten­sive than you might have expect­ed. Accord­ing to a new research note from ana­lyst Ming-chi Kuo, report­ed on by MacRu­mors, Apple is plan­ning to release “sev­er­al” ARM-based Macs in 2021 in both lap­top and desk­top form fac­tors.

Kuo believes that switch­ing to ARM will allow Apple to reduce its proces­sor costs by 40 to 60 per­cent while gain­ing more flex­i­bil­i­ty over its hard­ware line­up. He recent­ly claimed that Apple would launch its first ARM-based lap­top in the fourth quar­ter of this year or the first quar­ter of next.

Rel­a­tive to x86 proces­sors from Intel or AMD, ARM designs are usu­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with mobile devices because of their greater pow­er effi­cien­cy, giv­ing prod­ucts like the iPad long bat­tery life with­out the need for active cool­ing. It makes sense, then, that Apple would see its increas­ing­ly pow­er­ful A‑series proces­sors as a good fit for Mac­Books.

The notion of ARM desk­tops is intrigu­ing

The notion of ARM desk­tops is per­haps more intrigu­ing, main­ly because no-one’s real­ly tried it yet in con­sumer com­put­ers. Pow­er effi­cien­cy is close­ly relat­ed to per­for­mance — mobile ARM devices run at low pow­er because they need to pre­serve bat­tery life and run cool in a thin form fac­tor. What kind of per­for­mance could be achieved from, say, some­thing like the new iPad Pro’s A12Z chip in an iMac-style body with active cool­ing and a per­ma­nent pow­er sup­ply from the wall? And what would this mean for the ultra-engi­neered, ultra-expen­sive, Xeon-based new Mac Pro?

In any case, it sounds like the ARM tran­si­tion is going to be big news for the Mac next year. Apple would nor­mal­ly announce this sort of thing at its annu­al World­wide Devel­op­ers Con­fer­ence in June, but this year’s in-per­son event won’t take place due to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. Instead, the WWDC 2020 keynote and oth­er devel­op­er ses­sions will be broad­cast online at an as-yet unspec­i­fied time.

Pho­to by Nilay Patel / The Verge

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