Apple on Tuesday introduced a MacBook Air notebook computer with the first Apple-designed microprocessor, called the M1, a move that will tie its Macs and iPhones closer together technologically.
The new chip marks a shift away from Intel technology that has driven the electronic brains of Mac computers for nearly 15 years.
It is a boon for Apple computers, which are overshadowed by the company’s iPhone but still rack up tens of billions of dollars in sales per year. Apple hopes developers now will create families of apps that work on both computers and phones.
Apple executives said the M1 was intended to be efficient as well as fast, to improve battery life, and that Apple’s newest version of its operating system was tuned to the processor.
Apple software chief Craig Federighi said Adobe Inc would bring its Photoshop software to the new M1-based Macs early next year.
In June, Apple said it would begin outfitting Macs with its own chips, building on its decade-long history of designing processors for its iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches.
Apple’s phone chips draw on computing architecture technology from Arm Ltd and manufactured by outside partners such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.
Power efficiency – that is, getting the most computing done per watt of energy consumed – is one of Apple’s key aims.
Microsoft and Qualcomm have been working together for four years to bring Arm-based Windows laptops to market, with major manufacturers such as Lenovo Group Asustek Computer and Samsung Electronics offering machines.
But for both Microsoft and Apple, the true test will be software developers. Apple is hoping that the massive group of iPhone developers will embrace the new Macs, which will share a common 64-bit Arm computing architecture with the iPhone and be able to use similar apps.
In the meantime, Apple has seen a boom in Mac sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, notching record fiscal fourth quarter Mac sales of $9 billion earlier this month – all of them Intel-based. In June, Chief Executive Tim Cook said Apple will continue to support those devices for “years to come” but did not specify an end-of-life date.