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No Intel inside: First Apple Macs get homegrown silicon with M1 chips

11 Nov 2020

Apple on Tuesday introduced a MacBook Air notebook and other computers with the first Apple-designed microprocessor, called the M1, a move that will tie its Macs and iPhones closer together technologically.

The new chip marks a shift away from Intel technology that has driven the electronic brains of Mac computers for nearly 15 years.

It is a boon for Apple computers, which are overshadowed by the company’s iPhone but still rack up tens of billions of dollars in sales per year. Apple hopes developers now will create families of apps that work on both computers and phones.The new chip marks a shift away from Intel technology that has driven the electronic brains of Mac computers for nearly 15 years

The MacBook Air will start at US$999, the same as its predecessor, and have up to twice the battery life, Apple said. The M1 will also power the MacBook Pro notebook, which starts at $1 299, and its $699 Mac Mini computer, which comes without a monitor.

The Mini is targeted at engineers and scientists because of artificial intelligence capabilities of the new chip that usually requires a graphics chip from Nvidia or AMD.

The new products will be available from next week, executives said.

In June, Apple said it would begin outfitting Macs with its own chips, building on its decade-long history of designing processors for its iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches.

Tuned

Apple executives said on Tuesday that the M1 was intended to be efficient as well as fast, to improve battery life, and that Apple’s newest version of its operating system was tuned to the processor.

Apple’s phone chips draw on computing architecture technology from ARM and manufactured by outside partners such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, or TSMC.

Microsoft and Qualcomm have been working together for four years to bring ARM-based Windows laptops to market, with major manufacturers such as Lenovo, Asus and Samsung offering machines.

Apple’s new M1-powered MacBook Pro

But for both Microsoft and Apple, the true test will be software developers. Apple is hoping that the massive group of iPhone developers will embrace the new Macs, which will share a common 64-bit ARM computing architecture with the iPhone and be able to use similar apps.

Apple software chief Craig Federighi said Adobe would bring its Photoshop software to the new M1-based Macs early next year.

Apple has seen a boom in Mac sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, notching record fiscal fourth quarter Mac sales of $9-billion earlier this month — all of them Intel-based. In June, CEO Tim Cook said Apple will continue to support those devices for “years to come” but did not specify an end-of-life date.  — Reported by Stephen Nellis and Peter Henderson, (c) 2020 Reuters

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