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Explained: Apple’s M1 processor and what it does to the industry

The transition from Intel to ARM-based Apple Silicon is seen as a breakthrough moment in tech, and it could well change the future of Mac. But how does Apple benefit from all this and what the ARM-based Mac means to end consumers?

Written by Anuj Bhatia , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: November 15, 2020 12:10:18 pm
apple M1 chip apple M1 silicon, apple event, arm mac, apple m1 chip explained, apple computersRumor has it that Apple is expected to equip the upcoming MacBook notebooks with an improved iteration of its M1 chip (Image source: Apple)

On Tuesday, when CEO Tim Cook and his top executives unveiled the M1, the first computer chip designed in-house, the Mac got a new lease of life. For years, Apple has been accused of not doing enough to change the course of its Macs, but the Cupertino-based tech firm now has taken the first step in that direction by announcing the first homemade chip for its computers. The message is loud and clear: the Mac is freeing itself from the clutches of Intel, the chip giant that has been powering Apple’s laptops and desktops since 2006.

The transition from Intel to ARM-based Apple Silicon is seen as a breakthrough moment in tech, and it could well change the future of Mac. But how does Apple benefit from all this and what the ARM-based Mac means to end consumers?

What is the M1 chip?

The M1 is the name of the chipset that powers Apple’s new lineup of Mac computers: a new MacBook Air, a new 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac Mini desktop computer. Previously, Apple Macs were powered by Intel processors, and Apple had to go by Intel rules. That dented Apple’s plans to refresh its Macs as frequently as it does for the iPhone and iPad. With the M1, Apple has not only designed its own computer processor for the Mac but it has a full control of the whole process, from start to finish.

Also Read | Why Apple making its own computer chips is a big deal

What’s so special about the M1 chip?

The M1 is based on the ARM-based processor technology that’s different from Intel’s x86 architecture. In short, the chips powering the MacBook Air and iPhone 12 have the same processor technology now. That means the M1 and A14 Bionic have the same DNA. But the M1 is quite clearly designed for the Macs and not for mobile devices, though both chips have a 5nanometer design. The core benefit of using the M1 is that the new Macs will have a longer battery life, instant wake up from sleep mode, and the ability to run iOS apps. For instance, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro has a battery that can last up to 20 hours when watching videos and 17 hours when surfing the web. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

Apple wants full control

The reason why Apple ditched Intel and designed custom processors for the Mac has something to do with how the world’s most valuable tech company operates. Apple wants full control on the product, instead of relying on Intel. This strategy has worked wonders for the company with the iPhone and iPad and the Tim Cook-led company is ready to have greater control over the Mac.

But don’t expect the Macs with Apple Silicon to cost less. For a change, though, the new Mac Mini does cost $100 lower than its predecessor but the prices for the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro remain unchanged.

Microsoft and the entire PC industry could benefit in the long run

There are benefits of the M1 chip, but the transition from Intel to Apple Silicon could pose some challenges. Apps need to be rewritten for the new architecture since most Macs are powered by Intel’s x86 processors. Apple has said its software emulator Rosetta 2 would help M1 to run apps built for Intel-based Macs. But since developers are involved, the transition from Intel to its new Arm-based silicon is certainly going to be challenging. If Apple handles this transition well it would benefit Microsoft. The Redmond, Washington-based company has been working for years to run its Windows software smoothly on ARM-based processors, but has found it hard to convince developers. Apple’s move from Intel to its own silicon would bring a larger focus on Microsoft’s Surface Pro X, which is powered by a custom processor, jointly developed with Qualcomm. If sales of the Surface Pro X grow in the future, Microsoft’s OEMs like HP, Dell and Lenovo will get serious about making products that truly rival the new Macs.

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