What it is: Apple’s latest ARM-based processor is more powerful than Intel’s low-end processor used in the MacBook Pro, sparking rumors that Apple will drop Intel processors eventually.
The Macintosh has gone through multiple processor shifts. First it relied on 68000 processors from Motorola. Then Apple shifted to the more powerful PowerPC processor but when IBM failed to innovate the PowerPC processor to keep up with Intel processors, Apple shifted to Intel processors. While the transition from Motorola to PowerPC processors was rocky, the transition to Intel processors from PowerPC processors was remarkably smooth and trouble-free.
That’s because apple offered Rosetta, a PowerPC emulation program for every Intel-based Macintosh. That let you run PowerPC programs on Intel-based Macs without any problems whatsoever. Now rumors point to Apple eventually dumping Intel processors for their own ARM-based A-series processors.
Since Apple’s own processors are already more powerful than Intel’s lower end processors, it’s only a matter of time before Apple’s processors will be more powerful than the best Intel processors. When that happens, there will be little reason to use Intel processors because ARM-based processors are far more power efficient. The only reason to stick with Intel processors will be to maintain compatibility with Windows.
Now if Intel processors start consuming more energy and offer less power than Apple’s ARM-based processors, what does that say for the future of Windows PCs? You can buy a less powerful computer that consumes more energy (Windows PC), or you can buy a more powerful computer that consumes less energy (ARM-based computer). Which option do you think most people will choose?
The transition to ARM-based processors from Intel processors is going to take at least five years. That’s because Apple first needs to make sure all of their software works flawlessly on ARM-based processors. Right now, the biggest program that needs to make this transition is Xcode, the compiler everyone uses (including Apple) to create programs for iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS. The moment you can write programs using Xcode on ARM-based devices is the time when Intel-based Macs will start losing their monopoly among developers.
Instead to turning the Macintosh into an ARM-based device, here’s another idea. Keep the Macintosh using Intel processors and simple promote the iPad as the new computer of the future. The iPad is gradually adopting many features of macOS like the Dock and multitasking, so it seems like Apple can just keep making iOS more powerful on the iPad until the iPad can surpass anything a typical Intel PC can do. When that happens, Apple can simple let the Macintosh wither away like the iPod.
In the meantime, if the Macintosh withers away to be replaced by more powerful iPads, then that means the future of Windows PCs is running out of time. Microsoft made the huge bet to turn Windows into a tablet, a smartphone, and a PC operating system, which relies on Intel processors. If Intel processors can’t keep up with ARM processors, then Windows PCs won’t keep up with more powerful iPads in the future.
That means the future isn’t an ARM-based Macintosh but a more powerful iPad that’s more powerful than a Macintosh. Forcing every Mac user to switch to an ARM-based Mac makes far less sense if the future of computing is the iPad. The iPad is getting more powerful and essentially mimics the Microsoft Surface tablets. When iOS gets more powerful to the point where iPads are more powerful than Windows PCs, that’s the point where the Macintosh will be irrelevant.
The long-term future isn’t the Macintosh but the iPad. That means there won’t be a need for an ARM-based Macintosh because it’s already evolving in the form of the iPad. The future is the iPad. The past is the Macintosh and Windows PCs.