Apple’s New Silicon Chips for the Mac: Features, Specs, Release Date

by Mayank
Apple Silicon

This year, Apple’s WWDC (Worldwide Developer Conference) was held at just another level in that it was the first WWDC ever to be pre-recorded and shown online (Credit: COVID-19 pandemic!). Secondly, the production quality of this special event was just amazing: drone shots, scene transitions made it really interesting and interactive.

Click here to watch the complete event.

Anyway, coming to the event itself, the long 2-hour show revealed some amazing updates and future plans for iOS, iPadOS, MacOS, tvOS and watchOS from Apple. Apple has also introduced some new privacy features for its lineup of products.The biggest announcement that Apple made (though this news was leaked months before the event) is that they are moving their Mac lineup from Intel to their own Silicon chips.

About moving away from Intel Chips

This transition to Apple Silicon occurs 15 years after 2005 (when Apple moved from PowerPC to Intel x86 processors). The new Silicon chips will be based on the ARM RISC architecture. This new architecture is significantly different from the x86 and x64 architectures used by Intel processors. I’m not going to go deeper into the differences between these architectures, but one thing is clear that this transition will take some time. That’s why Apple called it a 2-year journey, the transition to Apple Silicon.

“Today is going to be a truly historic day for the Mac”

The Califonia based company’s CEO Tim Cook said on the WWDC Keynote.

Only time will say how well it will turn out for Apple. Yet the features have looked very promising for now. In this article, I will highlight the features that this transition will bring to users , developers and professional creators.

The Features

  • As I said earlier, the new Apple chips will be based on the ARM architecture. This means that all Apple products will now have a common architecture that will make it easier for developers to write better optimized software for the entire Apple ecosystem.
The all new silicon chip from Apple
  • The integration of the silicon chips with MacOS Big Sur has already been pretty well thought out by Apple. To allow users to use the new chip to its limits, Apple has updated every Apple app that exists for MacOS to run native with the new silicon chips, including professional apps such as Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro. And the best part is you don’t have to update these apps manually as they will come fully updated and working when you buy the new Mac.
Apple has updated it’s complete suite of applications for the new silicon chip
  • If you develop MacOS apps and want your app to run on these new silicon-based Macs, you’ll get everything you need to build those apps on the newly updated Xcode 12. Craig Federighi, senior vice-president of software at Apple, says you just have to open the project in the latest Xcode 12 and recompile the code for your apps to work. But what about the old Intel Macs? Well, Apple has covered developers on that too. They have created a binary called Universal 2 that will allow applications built for Silicon-based Macs to run on Intel-based Macs as well. To learn more about Universal 2, Click Here.
Universal 2 will allow applications built for Silicon-based Macs to run on Intel-based Macs as well
  • Okay, well, I get it, but what about third party apps, one might wonder. Apple said they were working with Microsoft and Adobe to develop their suite of applications for new Silicon-based Macs. In the Keynote, Craig showed Microsoft Word , Powerpoint, Excel and Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom running natively on the new Mac. So, whether you’re using your Mac for your office work or for photo or video editing, you’re covered by Apple.
Adobe Photoshop 2020 running on the Apple Silicon powered Mac
  • If a third-party app has not been updated for the new Mac, the updated version of the popular Rosetta software-The Rosetta 2 will automatically translate the old app to support the new silicon chip. This process will happen during the time of installation, and even the most complex plug-ins and powerful apps will support it.
Features of the new Rosetta 2
  • Do you use Final Cut Pro to edit your videos? Then you’ll surely enjoy the multi-core performance of the new silicon chips. Craig showed three 4K ProRes video streams running simultaneously on the upcoming Mac. Also, with the powerful Apple neural engine, they’ve implemented a feature that intelligently crops the video to keep the most important actions in the frame. You can also apply filters to your videos in real time.
Final Cut Pro on the upcoming Mac streaming three 4K videos simultaneously
  • The new MacOS Big Sur is bringing new virtualization technologies to the upcoming Mac. This means that you can run other operating systems on your Mac, such as Linux. Just fire up Parallels Desktop, create a virtual machine, and you’ll get your favorite distro up and running.
Linux VM running on the MacOS Big Sur
  • The feature that I liked most was the ability to run iOS and iPadOS apps on the new MacOS. Since the MacOS will be powered by the same silicon chip as the iPhone and iPad, the applications built for the latter will run native on the MacOS. You can download these apps directly from your Mac store. How cool is that!
iOS apps running native on the MacOS
  • Apple has launched the Universal App Quick Start Program for developers to start building universal apps for the upcoming Macs. They also started to ship the Developer Transition Kits (DTK) in the form of a Mac Mini running on the Apple A12Z Bionic and a beta version of the MacOS Big Sur. You can apply for the program here.
The Developer Transition Kit (DTK)

Release Date

The new generation Macs powered by the Apple Silicon chips are expected to start shipping by the end of 2020. However, take this as a grain of salt because a famous tipster who goes by the username @komiya_kj recently posted on his official twitter handle that Apple isn’t going to release it’s Silicon powered Macs or Macbooks this year. Here’s his official tweet.

Conclusion

Apple’s new silicon chips promise to deliver the best performance per watt for the lowest power consumption. This would mean that the day-to-day performance of the Mac would be greatly improved. The claims look promising considering that the current generation of iPhones and iPads running Apple’s latest A-series chips perform flawlessly in both single-core and multi-core tasks. It seems, therefore, that the Silicon powered Mac will integrate well with the upcoming MacOS Big Sur to give you a seemingly unprecedented experience as a user, developer and creator.

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