The ARM Transition

June 21, 2020

If rumours are to be believed, tomorrow during WWDC, Apple’s annual developer keynote, the company will announce a transition from Intel-powered laptops and desktops to new proprietary chips of their own making.

This should increase performance on these devices (over the equivalent Intel counterpart), as well as allow for the laptop lineup to last longer.

Predictions

I am making the following predictions here (I’m sure we’ll be laughing at some of these tomorrow, but hey):

  • First laptop to use ARM will be the MacBook Air
  • First desktop to use ARM will be the iMac
  • MacBooks will last 50% longer (so the Air would last 15 hours on a single battery charge on ARM)
  • No compatibility layer for Intel apps, meaning that all apps would need to be updated for the new architecture
  • First available ARM devices coming in the next three months

Developer Predictions

  • Updating existing apps that exclusively use Apple frameworks will be as simple as checking a box in Xcode
  • Many third party developers will have issues using this conversion process due to embedded Intel binaries in frameworks (for e.g. analytics)
  • Support for third party applications will be slim at first, and certain workflows (e.g. Homebrew) will be absolutely broken beyond repair and will require a lot of time before they work properly again
  • Many developers won’t bother porting their apps to ARM from x86
  • Applications that were published to the App Store with the Bitcode option checked might work without additional work
  • The Catalina 64-bit massacre was a fantastic way to get rid of many compatibility complaints now that we’re jumping architectures

That’s about all for this brief post. We’ll find out more tomorrow!