Will Apple Computers Remain Competitive Without Intel Processors?

Assuming that Apple’s ARM-based processors are competitive on performance, I don’t see why not. I don’t believe Apple would make this move unless they knew they were. It’s been in the works for a very long time.

Apple Intel Processor

The modern macOS is based on BSD Unix and is easily portable to other CPU architectures. Honestly, Apple has the resources to port their software to anything they wanted—x86–64, ARM, MIPS, Sunway, back to POWER, Elbrus, RISC-V, whatever—they could do it with no problem. But they have made a huge investment in ARM and can achieve greater vertical integration by going with that, so ARM it is.

Apple’s long-term strategy has been obvious for years. I still remember buying an iPad as a Christmas gift for someone in December of 2012, and even then, Apple was claiming it could replace a laptop and offered “desktop-level performance”—and that was several generations of Apple Silicon ago. Modern Apple CPUs are several times as powerful as what one could buy in late 2012.

It made no sense for Apple to make such a massive investment in its own CPU development unless its strategy was always to run all its own devices on its own processors. Furthermore, it made no sense to create such powerful ARM devices (relative to what other ARM vendors produce) just to cram them into media consumption devices. Apple has been planning all along to move these chips into its entire product line. They are doing it now because they think they are close enough to Intel to make it work or at least can optimize their software enough to reach performance parity or even beat x86–64 performance.

Apple has done this several times before. When the Motorola 68K line was nearing the end of the line in 1993, Apple went in with Moto and IBM and helped develop the PowerPC line, which they used until the mid-2000s. When they couldn’t get faster G5 processors, they switched to Intel because that was the only way forward. But I never got the feeling they liked having to do that or being beholden to Intel on what products were available. I remember them keeping MacBooks on the Core 2 Duo well past its EOP because the first-generation Core i-series wasn’t to their satisfaction. All three times—with 68K, with PPC, and with Intel—Apple never had control of the very brains that went into the machinery. When motos 68060 was missing a few instructions from the 040 that classic Mac OS depended on, Apple was stuck. When Apple couldn’t make a PowerBook G5 because the thing would have been power-hungry and hot unless it was clocked so slow an old G4 would beat it, they were stuck. They didn’t want to find themselves stuck again.

Now they never will be stuck, unless they get themselves stuck.

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