Huge Apple news: Here's when ARM-powered MacBooks are coming

Could Apple make a MacBook with its own processor as early as next year?
(Image credit: Future)

Apple's had a long, and very complicated history with Intel, which currently provides the chips that powers Cupertino's desktops and laptops. One of the highest-regarded Apple prognosticators just drew a line in the sand for when Apple will next defy Intel.

According to Ming-Chi Kuo, whose claim was published by MacRumors, Apple will release its first Apple-designed ARM processor-based Macs in the first half of 2021. Rumors of Apple's plan to build Macs without Intel's assistance started in 2018, and have always seemed like they'll happen "someday" and not soon. This prediction by Kuo changes that.

Aside from supply-chain cost benefits to Apple that could trickle down to consumers, the benefits that matter to you include potentially longer battery life, and greater integration with software on other Apple devices, such as the iPhone (which runs on Apple's own ARM-based chips).

The big potential downside of an ARM chip is that it could introduce software incompatibility issues with existing apps. Hopefully, developers would get at least a year's advance notice, by giving them a hint (or even more definitive news) during June's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

Kuo mentioned the ARM-powered Mac while talking about the big picture news for Apple's own chip manufacturing: "We expect that Apple's new products in 12-18 months will adopt processors made by 5nm process, including the new 2H20 5G iPhone, new 2H20 iPad equipped with mini LED, and new 1H21 Mac equipped with the own-design processor." For those counting at home, current iPhones are using 7-nanometer+ process chips.

Last year, we heard this change could happen as early as 2020, and since the ARM-powered Mac rumors are still faint, we're not betting that they'll arrive before the new year.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.