Apple, Inc. (AAPL) has announced that new models of its MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini will be manufactured with its own internally developed M1 semiconductor chip. The company calls this chip "revolutionary" and promises that it will be "the first in a family of chips designed by Apple specifically for the Mac."
In a press release, Apple CEO Tim Cook asserted that the "breakthrough M1 chip represents a bold change that was years in the making." He added, "M1 is by far the most powerful chip we've ever created, and combined with [macOS] Big Sur, delivers mind-blowing performance, extraordinary battery life, and access to more software and apps than ever before."
- Apple has unveiled a new set of Mac computers using its own M1 chip.
- Apple touts huge leaps in key performance dimensions for these Macs.
- This represents a blow to Intel Corporation (INTC), which had been Apple's chip supplier.
- Apple will gain more control over development and launches of Macs.
Key Performance Figures
Apple asserts this about the M1 chip: "With its industry-leading performance per watt, together with macOS Big Sur, M1 delivers up to 3.5x faster CPU, up to 6x faster GPU, up to 15x faster machine learning (ML) capabilities, and battery life up to 2x longer than before." Additionally, Apple says that the M1 is faster than the chips in 98% of the laptop PCs sold in the past year, and that it will make "previewing massive images or importing large files ... faster than ever."
The image signal processor (ISP) in the M1 chip is designed to improve camera image quality with better noise reduction and greater dynamic range. The Secure Enclave within the M1 chip, combined with the Big Sur operating system, is designed to offer best-in-class security.
Impact on Intel
This announcement, the initial step in Apple's plan to transition all its Macs to using only its chips over the next two years, represents a blow to Intel, whose semiconductors have powered Macs since 2006.
In response, Intel issued a statement asserting that it is "focused on delivering the most advanced PC experiences and a wide range of technology choices that redefine computing ... We believe Intel-powered PCs – like those based on 11th Gen Intel Core mobile processors – provide global customers the best experience in the areas they value most, as well as the most open platform for developers, both today and into the future."
Using its own chips will give Apple more freedom over the design, development, and launch cycle of its Mac computers. This move also will permit Apple to fine-tune the performance and features of the Mac, as it already does by using homemade chips in the iPhone. Moreover, the move will help Apple to maximize the returns from its own investment in chip design and production.
Meanwhile, from a consumer standpoint, migrating away from Intel chips to Apple's own ARM-based semiconductors holds the promise of allowing the same apps to run on all Apple devices. ARM-based chips already are at the heart of the iPhone and the iPad.
However, Apple's move to using its own chip in the Mac is seen by some observers as a major gamble. Apple's M1 chip uses the same ARM architecture that is found in the chips used in mobile devices, and other tech giants have released laptops with ARM chips.
However, while ARM-based Windows PCs, such as the Surface Pro X from Microsoft Corporation (MSFT), offer lighter weights and longer battery lives, they often deliver less raw computing power in real-life applications than more traditional Intel-based machines. It remains to be seen if the new M1-powered Macs live up to claims made by Apple.