Apple to launch MacBooks with own chips – ending 15-year relationship with Intel

 ·3 Nov 2020

Apple Inc’s 15-year relationship with Intel Corp will officially begin to unwind next week when new Mac computers are revealed.

The Cupertino, California-based technology giant said on Monday that it will hold an online event dubbed “One more thing” on Nov. 10. That “thing” will be Macs with main processors designed by Apple for the first time, replacing Intel chips that have been a mainstay since 2006. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

Apple and overseas suppliers are ramping up production of three Mac laptops with Apple processors: new 13-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros and a new 13-inch MacBook Air, according to people familiar with the matter.

Foxconn, known also as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, is assembling the two smaller laptops, while Quanta Computer Inc is building the larger MacBook Pro.

The smaller models are further ahead in production and at least those two laptops will be shown at next week’s event. Beyond the processor switch, the devices won’t have significant design changes.

Apple has less than 10% of the market for personal computers, so the direct impact on Intel sales may be limited. However, the change highlights a crisis engulfing the world’s largest chipmaker.

It has delayed a new manufacturing process, giving rivals a chance to catch up. These problems are at least partly behind Apple’s decision to move to in-house chips, although the company has been steadily shifting to this approach for years.

The partnership between Apple and Intel started in 2005, when Steve Jobs outlined a move away from PowerPC processors.

Intel helped Apple catch up to Windows computers, some of which were more powerful at the time. In tandem, though, Apple was working on more energy-efficient chips for mobile devices based on Arm Ltd designs and continues to use those to power the iPhone and iPad.

On Apple’s recent earnings call, chief executive officer Tim Cook hinted at the Mac launch by saying, “without giving away too much, I can tell you that this year has a few more exciting things in store.” The company generated a record $9 billion in revenue from the Mac in its fiscal fourth quarter.

The first Mac processors from Apple will be based on the A14 chip found in the latest iPhones and iPad Air, and tests inside Apple indicate improved power efficiency over the Intel parts they are replacing. The new machines will also have Apple-designed graphics and machine-learning processors.

Apple said in June that the transition away from Intel chips will take two years. After updating its laptop line, Apple will still have until 2022 to update desktop computers – the iMac, iMac Pro, Mac Pro and Mac mini – with its own processors.

The company is already at work on a redesigned iMac, the company’s all-in-one desktop, and a new Mac Pro model, Apple’s highest-end desktop, other people familiar with the company’s plans said.

Apple engineers are currently developing a new Mac Pro that looks like the current design at about half the size. It’s unclear if that Mac will replace the current Mac Pro or if it’s an additional model.

Apple’s chip designs could help the company reduce the size of its computers due to increased power efficiency, but the current Mac Pro is large, in part, to fit components like additional storage drives and graphics chips.

Apple’s test Mac for developers to write apps for the new processors is a Mac mini with an iPad Pro processor, but the company will still need to roll out a proper update to that model with a Mac-specific chip. The new Macs require macOS Big Sur, a redesigned Mac operating system that makes the software more like iPhones and iPads.

When announcing the transition in June, Apple said the move would provide a common architecture across all of its devices. That means future iPhones, Macs, iPads and Apple Watches will run a variation of the same chip. That will allow devices to work together better and let iPhone apps run natively on Macs for the first time.

Bloomberg first reported on the transition away from Intel in 2018 and again in April. The new Macs will mark Apple’s third major product release this fall. In September, the company announced new Apple Watches and iPads.

The iPhone 12 and HomePod mini lines debuted in October.

Read: Apple launches iPhone 12 line with 5G speeds and new screens

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