The age-old phrase has always gone “If you want something done properly, do it yourself.” and in any case, you can guarantee that someone will be there to utter it. Now tech giants Apple have been the latest to follow the ancient guidance and have ditched Intel and AMD in favour of their own processors. This has obviously caused some uproar and possible confusion, but in this feature, I’ll be outlining a few reasons why it’s the right move for the Californian firm.
Reason 1: A Case Of Control
Having used MacOS for a number of years, it should come as little surprise that a key part of my workflow is making use of the unrivalled focus on creativity that MacOS offers with increasing optimisation for creative apps such as Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite or Apple’s own Final Cut Pro X editing software. Apple have long been flying the creative flag, and whilst Intel’s own chips are up to the task of taking Macs to the next level, they’re not in line with what Apple want them to be.
Their work in the integrated graphics sector is a prime example, with it being marketed as the flagship feature of their new CPU lineup. There’s no doubt that advancements in the area of integrated graphics isn’t exciting to us as consumers and to other manufacturers, but Apple have never really been worried about bolstering their graphical performance for the gaming crowd. Macs have never been the best at running games, and even with Apple Arcade now a thing, it doesn’t appear to matter to Apple about how well the current Ice Lake or upcoming Tiger Lake CPUs run games.
With Apple now moving to make their own chips, it allows them a much greater level of control over how well applications run on MacOS and therefore their own hardware. This move has been met with a lot of scepticism from some commentators however with some arguing that Apple won’t be able to match the impressive performance and efficiency offered up by AMD’s latest Ryzen lineup for instance, but Chief Executive Tim Cook has tried his best to silence the critics through stating that Apple’s own silicon will have “industry-leading performance”.
Reason 2: One Big Happy Family
Think of all the Apple devices you own or people you know own. iPhone, iPad, iMac, MacBook, Apple Watch - the list goes on. Apple have always appeared to strive for as much system integration as they can, from linking the Apple Watch to your iPhone to using your iPad as a second monitor with your Mac on MacOS Catalina through Sidecar, and by moving to their own CPUs too, it unlocks an even higher level of integration with both Apple’s own hardware & software.
The move to their own silicon means that Apple’s computing devices will now run the same system architecture as is found in both iPads and iPhones which makes app development for Apple devices a lot easier than before, and also that the MacBook crowd won’t be missing out on any mobile exclusives. This also works the other way too with iPad and iPhone users not constrained by the lack of support for proper desktop apps. With this move, it really looks like Apple are wanting to turn the likes of their newest iPad Pro (with Magic Keyboard attachment) into a fully-fledged laptop in a bid to challenge Microsoft’s Surface line for instance.
We may end up seeing iPad optimized versions of the likes of Final Cut Pro, something that has been touted for a couple of months at this point – a move that one forum user stated would cause “the 'Pro' part of that device's name would actually feel justified.”. With this, it presents a dilemma for the seasoned MacBook user – do you stay with a laptop, or move to a pricier tablet and attached keyboard combo? This element of it makes little sense to me however, as with the way the market’s going currently, laptops are becoming old hat, but to be honest, it’ll be a long time before an iPad can realistically compete with a fully-fledged MacBook Pro.
Reason 3: Ignorance Is Bliss
The release of any new PC, be it a laptop or desktop, is heavily reliant on when either AMD or Intel decide to shove out a new CPU generation – the likes of Dell’s XPS line or Microsoft’s Surface Laptop are all released at the same time, not due to competition, but due to when they get the parts from Intel or AMD. Apple have never been a firm to play by those rules and have always relied on a yearly pattern of releases – WWDC conference in the June, brand-new iPhone in the September. To be honest, you can’t say it hasn’t worked for them – in the UK alone, Apple have had a 49-50% market share of all phones from 2017-2019 – and everyone really does believe the hype. This ties in with their increasingly aggressive marketing strategy around the summer months – go and watch any YouTube video - be it tech-related or not – chances are you’ll see a MacBook Air ad or one for the new iPhone SE.
The problem with being schedule stubborn though is that the competition gets a massive head start. It’s like the average chap racing the 100m against Usain Bolt, or someone in a Big Ben costume expecting to beat Sir Mo Farah in the London Marathon – it’s just not going to happen. A prime example is the latest run of MacBooks – Intel’s 10th Generation CPUs were released back in September 2019, but it’s taken till the latest 13” Macbook Pro (May 2020) to see them in any Apple hardware. Even then, you’ve got to buy the more expensive one to take advantage of that extra power – the lowest price one is stuck in the past with an 8th Generation chip.
Changing to their own silicon means that Apple can now launch products at their own pace and not fall far behind the competition. Actually, with the ARM architecture now taking centre stage, maybe Apple could start steaming ahead with their new chips and put the Windows laptop collective to shame.