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Apple’s Brilliant Plan to Dominate Without Intel Processors

The company solved the chicken-or-egg problem that haunts its rivals

Owen Williams
OneZero
Published in
5 min readJun 23, 2020

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Image: Apple

At Apple’s annual developer conference on Monday, the company made a bombshell announcement: The Mac is switching to Apple-designed ARM processors, with plans to drop Intel for good.

The transition to what the company is calling “Apple Silicon” will provide a huge array of benefits to future devices and frees Apple from depending on Intel’s chipsets for its hardware, which has dictated how and when it could update MacBooks in the past. Apple expects the first devices powered by its own processors will arrive later this year.

ARM-based processors offer increased performance while being more power-efficient and generating less heat than their Intel counterparts. The shift will potentially allow Apple to dream up thinner, lighter laptops that last longer on a charge and may not require fans to cool down while tackling complex tasks like running Photoshop or coding an app.

Most importantly, it allows Apple to have total control over its own destiny, building almost every aspect of its hardware in-house for the first time.

The benefits are clear, but switching to a new processor architecture is a massive undertaking with consequences for every app, including Apple’s own. The switch requires developers to rebuild their apps to run on the new hardware correctly and adopt new coding practices that are compatible with ARM processors, potentially leaving many older apps to stop functioning entirely.

Such a shift creates a chicken-or-egg problem: To get customers to buy an ARM computer, developers need to build enough apps to make it worth buying. To get developers to build apps for an ARM computer, they must be convinced it’s worth the investment to build for, and there needs to be hardware available for them to use.

Microsoft has faced this problem in its own attempts to shift to ARM-based processors over the years. The Surface Pro X, released in 2019 with a…

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Owen Williams
OneZero

Fascinated by how code and design is shaping the world. I write about the why behind tech news. Design Manager in Tech. https://twitter.com/ow