As far as Apple rumours go, the one that says ARM-powered Macs are coming isn’t particularly new. That said, whenever analyst Ming-Chi Kuo weighs in, rumours start to take on new shape given his track record of accurately calling trends. Kuo is now saying that Apple plans to launch several laptops and desktops with custom ARM chips in 2021, according to MacRumors.
As far as timing goes, Kuo said earlier this month that these ARM-powered laptops could come as early as Q4 this year. However, at that time details were relatively light. Now Kuo is saying we’ll be seeing them early in 2021, and on desktops to boot. He also said that ARM-based chips may give Apple’s Mac lineup a competitive boost as it reduces the company’s dependence on Intel’s timeline for upgrading its processors, while also reducing processor costs by 40-60 per cent. Kuo also believes that the move could result in more “hardware differentiation” between Macs and PCs.
Accurate as ARM processors use an entirely different instruction set from the x86 processors found in Apple’s current line up of desktops and laptops. The company has been working on improving support between the two instruction sets with projects like Catalyst, which lets developers port iOS apps to macOS. So if the rumours are true expect to see more Catalyst and porting buzz at the online WWDC later this year.
Another interesting tidbit is that Kuo says ASMedia Technology, a Taiwanese firm, is set to become Apple’s exclusive supplier for USB controllers for the ARM-based Macs. That, and Kuo expects USB4 support to come slightly later in 2022.
What is USB4? It’s the forthcoming USB standard and the big thing is it promises a maximum throughput of 40Gbps. It also mashes Thunderbolt 3 into USB4, so you can support multiple devices via a single cable.
While you should take the tech rumour mill with a grain of salt, Kuo missives are generally a sign a particular rumour has pretty solid roots. For instance, he recently noted that Apple planned to launch a new MacBook Air model in Q2 of 2020 and that scissor switches were going to make a comeback. And lo, last week, a new MacBook Air arrived with a scissor-switch keyboard.