If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last couple of months (given everything going on at the moment, we wouldn’t blame you) you are probably aware that Apple has decided to move away from Intel chips and implement their own, custom ARM-based chips, otherwise known as ‘Apple Silicon’. This is big news, perhaps the biggest hardware announcement Apple has made for some time now. Apple promises that these new chips are capable of impressive levels of performance and early Geekbench results certainly back that up. But with any transition, there’s going to be a cost to Apple ditching Intel, and that cost will largely be on users and developers. Will it, therefore, be a good idea to wait until the second generation of Apple Silicon? Any issues or bugs that were around at launch will more than likely have been ironed out by then. Especially If you’re using your Mac for professional purposes, bugs or issues that crop up will be far from ideal and may even prevent you from meeting those deadlines.
This will not be the first time that Apple has switched chip manufacturers. Back in 2005, Apple switched to Intel from PowerPC, a manufacturer whose processors can nowadays be found in vehicles and communication devices. Even back then, there were still concerns over compatibility, so much so that it was reported that Apple wanted to pull the plug on the switch to avoid any of those issues cropping up. They were worried that the transition would take a long time to complete and that it would cause confusion amongst their customer base, according to IBM. But Apple did, however, implement a few apps and services that would go on to ensure a smooth and speedy transition, most notably Rosetta and Universal. The whole process took around two years to complete and caused little to no problems for users and developers alike.
This time around is no different and Apple has even revived and launched new versions of Universal and Rosetta which are both, rather unoriginally named; Universal 2 and Rosetta 2. Apple has even added new features to the tool Xcode 12 to help developers optimise their own apps for Apple Silicon and Big Sur. But certain apps may not even require the help of these tools. All native macOS apps have been confirmed to be already running with Apple Silicon. Big names such as Microsoft and Adobe are also on board with the ARM shift, although it is currently unknown whether these apps will be running natively at launch. This could certainly cause some issues and confusion amongst the creative industry with the Adobe Creative Suite being vital to the majority of creative professionals for everyday work. And running such CPU intensive tasks under an emulation could be painfully slow. So much so that it may be worthwhile waiting for a native version or sticking to an Intel Mac before switching too soon.
If you plan on buying a new Mac anytime soon, then it’s in your best interest to wait until the end of this year and probably early next year. By that time, Apple should have released at least one, possibly two, Macs with Apple Silicon. That’ll put you on the right track to avoid any hiccups. During this year’s WWDC announcement, Apple very vaguely stated that we could expect to see the first Mac running these new custom processors by the end of 2020, with no word of what the first model might be. We are now in October, and a release date for these new Macs is yet to be announced. On the 12th of October, Apple held a ‘digital-only’ event in which they discussed many new and exciting, upcoming Apple products such as the iPhone 12 and the new HomePod Mini but, unfortunately, no mention of when we can expect to see these new Macs. In fact, why not check out our event round-up blog over on MacFinder here.
If you are, therefore, holding out on buying a current Intel Mac, in the hopes that the line of new ARM-based Macs will outperform anything and everything, you could be waiting a long time, especially if you’re a creative. While no official word just yet, it has been heavily rumoured that the first Mac to feature Apple Silicon will likely be a lower-end MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, with some even speculating that we could see a return of the 12-inch MacBook that was discontinued in 2019. This would make a lot of sense, as all of these devices have limited thermal headroom which Apple has claimed as one of the main benefits of the introduction of Apple Silicon. All of which would not be ideal if you require your Mac to perform more intensive tasks. An iMac or indeed a Mac Pro is highly unlikely to feature this processor upgrade by the end of 2020 and may not even feature at all until the latter half of 2021. So if you’re holding out in the hopes of a fully kitted Mac Pro with Apple Silicon, I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait quite a bit longer.
Though it’s hard to know exactly what Apple has in store for its Mac lineup, you can rest assured that it’s going to be interesting. If the 2005 transition from PowerPC to Intel is anything to go by, we could expect a fairly uneventful transition, at least we hope so anyway. But before you jump on board with these new ARM-based Macs, we would recommend waiting, just to see if any major issues or bugs do crop up as they should all be ironed out by the time gen two rolls around.