Mac systems built around Apple's own custom silicon based on Arm are coming, as the company embarks on a two-year plan to phase Intel chips from its lineup. But when will it happen in earnest? One week from today.
I can't say that with 100 percent certainty, but I'm 99.99 percent convinced. That's because Apple has announced a third fall event (via MacRumors) for next Tuesday, November 10, to unveil "one more thing."
The previous two events in September and October have seen launches of the iPhone 12, a new iPad Air, a HomePod mini speaker, the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE, and some software announcements.
Apple has already stated it intends to "ship the first Mac with Apple silicon by the end of the year," so we can go ahead and disregard any notion that next week's event is dedicated to a refreshed Apple TV set-top box. It's going to be focused on new Macs, and it is a big deal for a couple of reasons.
For one, the transition away from Intel to custom Arm-based processors is a bold gamble. Apple made the switch from IBM's PowerPC hardware to Intel's x86 processors around 15 years ago, and a shift to Arm raises all kinds of questions, mostly about performance. To that end, Apple CEO Tim Cook is exuding supreme confidence (when does he not, though?).
"With its powerful features and industry-leading performance, Apple silicon will make the Mac stronger and more capable than ever. I've never been more excited about the future of the Mac," Cook said in June.
Moving to Arm will give Apple a common architecture across its many product lines, and there is some merit in going that route. But as well as Apple's custom hardware designs have benefited its iPad and iPhone devices, will it work out equally as well for its MacBooks and other Mac systems? We're about to find out.
The other intriguing element is a more recent development—Nvidia's $40 billion acquisition of Arm (provided it clears regulatory hurdles). Apple made the decision to abandon x86 hardware and move to Arm-based designs before Nvidia announced it had hammered out a deal to buy Arm. Apple's relationship with Nvidia is somewhat strained, and has been for a long time. And now Apple is going all-in with IP (intellectual property) that could very well soon belong to Nvidia.
Granted, none of this directly affects PC gaming. But it is interesting nonetheless. And depending on how things work out, it is conceivable that there could be a bigger push towards Arm designs on Windows, as has already happened to some extent.