What the Apple Silicon M1 means for the future of Apple’s Macs


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Now that more details about Apple Silicon have been revealed, it’s clear that even the giddiest expectations fell far short of Apple’s real ambitions in building its System-on-a-Chip brains for a new generation of Macs.

Not the iPad Mac

For several years now, long-term Mac fans have fretted that their beloved, 40-something-year-old graphical computing platform was being sidelined as all of Apple’s attention was being focused on the youthful new future of iPads. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has frequently expressed his affinity for the mobility of iPad, causing some to worry he might someday abandon the Mac as a complex relic of the past.

Apple has promoted the iPad as an effortless to use, ultra-light, super thin, long-life computing experience for mainstream audiences. Over the last ten years, the iPad burst onto the scene and radically shifted how educators teach, how salespeople market, how the enterprise deploys digital tools for its workers, and how individuals relax with technology at home.

While iPad has ballooned into a huge new computing platform of hundreds of millions of users, it hasn’t replaced the venerable Mac. Rather than being “cannibalized” by iPads the way that the markets for netbooks and basic PCs were, Mac sales have grown alongside iPads— and not by accident.

Clouds of insistence from analysts and columnists claiming that Apple would— or even should— let go of Mac sales to concentrate on iPads turned out to be ill-informed noise. The idea that Apple needed to merge or integrate its two computing platforms into a “refrigerator toaster” hybrid also proved to be wrong.

Instead, Apple has continued to maintain macOS and iPadOS as separate platforms differentiated by their user interface and the core tasks they perform for different audiences. At the same time, the company has increasingly brought new technologies from one product to the other, making adjustments as needed to fit each’s unique characteristics.

When Apple shipped its first Developer Transition Kit at WWDC, some were surprised that it was effectively a Mac mini enclosure with the internals of an iPad. That again reinforced fears that the future of the Mac might be just a big iPad— similar…