MacBook ARM chips to be unveiled at WWDC 2020 — and Intel should be worried

MacBook Pro 2020
(Image credit: Apple)

The biggest change to Macs in more than a decade. could be just weeks away. Apple will reportedly announce at its WWDC 2020 conference on June 22 that it plans to make its own processors for Mac computers. And Intel would be kicked to the curb.

As reported by Bloomberg, Apple wants to give developers enough time to adjust ahead of the release of new Macs in 2021 that will be powered by Apple’s own chips. However, the timing of the announcement could change.

The new processors will reportedly be based on the same technology used in the iPhone and iPad. And that’s good news, since the A13 Bionic in the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro is the fastest chip in a phone, and the A12Z Bionic inside the iPad Pro is faster than many of the best laptops.

Based on early leaks, the upcoming A14 Bionic chip destined for the iPhone 12 could be as powerful as the MacBook Pro’s current CPU. And because it’s based on a 5-nanometer process, this chip should also be more efficient than anything in Intel’s stable.

However, because the new MacBook processors are based on ARM technology, software developers will need time to ensure that their apps are compatible. Apple has also been bringing its iPad apps to the Mac platform to show how easy it is for devs to port their wares from mobile devices to Mac computers.

As Bloomberg notes, Apple has been working with Intel on Mac processors since 2005, so this would represent a sea change for Intel and the entire computing industry. And even though Apple commands only 10% of the PC market, this move may accelerate the transition away from Intel by other brands.

For example, the Surface Pro X uses an ARM-powered SQ1 processor co-developed by Microsoft and Qualcomm. And Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Tab S7 is expected to be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 processor. 

Apple reportedly decided to make the move away from Intel after testing of ARM-based Macs revealed a performance gap versus Intel chips, especially in terms of graphics, AI and battery life.

The move to ARM would also enable Apple to deliver thinner and lighter designs. The 13-inch MacBook Pro, for example, has had the same chassis for several years. And it’s heavier and thicker than many Windows-powered rivals. Perhaps Apple has been waiting to make bigger design changes pending the arrival of these new chips.

Apple is reportedly working on three of its own Mac processors, according to Bloomberg. And the first will be based on the A14 chip inside the iPhone 12. That system on a chip will contain a CPU, a GPU and a Neural Engine for machine learning and AI.

Ultimately, the writing is on the wall for Intel when it comes to Apple. And we can’t wait to see the next wave of Macs that arise from these new chips as Apple embraces other new technologies like mini LED displays for MacBooks.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.