Apple has announced they will be leaving Intel behind for powering their core line of computers. I lived through two of these major transitions – once when Apple moved from Motorola 68000 series processors to IBM PowerPC processors, and again from PowerPC to Intel x86 processors. Now Apple has announced they’re scaling up their A series processors for MacOS using hardware. They’re also announcing that MacOS X will be retired as the new OS will be branded MacOS 11 – Big Sur.
This isn’t unexpected. Apple has been making some pretty solid processors in their mobile devices. My iPad Pro (2018) model benchmarks faster than many current Intel i7 based laptops and tablet.
What does this mean for most users? A transition time while developers get their apps recompiled for Apple’s silicon chips. Developer tools are being released already. Apple also plans on a transition support period to allow non-native apps to run on the new hardware using a translation function called Rosetta 2. If Apple’s history of platform transitions plays out again – in about five years Intel support will no longer be provided by Apple. Apple hasn’t provided a definite date – only that will support Intel for “years to come.”
What does it mean for me? It depends. Many of the applications I use are based on open source projects – they aren’t always actively maintained by full time developers so we’ll see. Microsoft has already began releasing supported versions of Office. Also, having an Intel Mac meant I could run Windows in a virtual machine or in a separate partition called Boot Camp.
Apple’s big sales pitch for this transition is that customers want to run iOS and iPad OS apps on our laptops or desktops. This really isn’t true for most people. Menu bars are desktop, touch UI are in mobile. Transitioning between the two – can be annoying. Much like the less than perfect implementation of the touch pad on the iPad Pro Magic Keyboard. It works but app UI doesn’t always “get it” and doesn’t function perfectly – like scrolling with two finger touch or taps on the touch pad for a click.
If I can’t run a Windows VM or Boot Camp, I may be finally looking at a DaaS (Desktop as a Service) or run a Windows desktop VM at home with a VPN connection. I don’t like either option as it requires some sort of internet connection at all time to use – so I’m limited. We will see if Apple supports x86 Virtualization on Apple’s silicon and how it performs. This is really the biggest question for most of us that use Mac in a business environment.