Omar Ali

A friendly geek and an automation junkie.

On the MacBook and the rumored switch to ARM architecture

27 Apr 2020

With rumors and confirmed leaks, it seems like Apple will introduce an ARM laptop in 2021 sporting its upcoming A14 chip. While the step makes a lot of sense given Intel’s recent struggle with improving its 14nm, trying to move to 10nm, and watching AMD storming the market with its Ryzen 7nm chips.


The advantages are plenty for Apple, but the switch comes with its complications. For the scope of this article, I would like to handle the following challenges:

1. Performance

While Apple can introduce more than 8 cores in its upcoming A14 chip, for consistent, long, single-threaded workloads, AMD64 architecture remains king.

2. Compatibility

App Developers need to compile their apps against both AMD64 (for backwards compatibility), and ARM architectures (not to mention x86 which was supported until the release of MacOS Catalina).


In order to create a smooth transition, like the one Apple pulled off with the switch from PowerPC (Motorola and IBM) to x86 (Intel), here’s how I think #apple can create a similar transition:

  1. Compile all their apps against #arm: easy to achieve if not already in progress.
  2. Reach out to popular apps creators who already have apps running on iPadOS, already running ARM architecture. And with the newly introduced mouse support, iPadOS is inching closer to conversion with MacOS, and it should be relatively easy to convince major app developers to support both architectures on MacOS.
  3. Introduce the new architecture solely in small and light laptops. This would be a major selling point: laptops with no fans, much lighter, and if Apple would pass savings to users, cheaper: slightly harder 
  4. Introduce dual processor support for MacBook Pro, with a similar approach used in GPU Switching (already supported), where the ARM would be running the show until a CPU-demanding application kicks in, and the Intel chip would be spinning its fans and handling the extra power.


Only time will tell how Apple will handle this. Nonetheless, this is exciting time for the industry. ARM has been adding to its massive base on small devices like phones and tablets, small laptops like Chromebooks, AWS introducing Graviton on servers, and now Apple on laptops. The future of devices with no fans and no heatsinks is getting brighter. What do you think? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.