June 29 update below, post originally published on June 27.
Following the announcement at WWDC, Apple’s move from Intel to ARM over the next two years offers Tim Cook and his team the opportunity to reshape the Mac platform with new architecture, new code and new practices.
June 28 update: as has long been suspected, this will see iPad and Mac platforms converge in terms of appearance and functionality. WWDC shows the direction that Apple would prefer to happen, and is a propensity for the iPad. Charles Tumiotto Jackson for MacO’Clock closely examine the moves to bring the interfaces together, which would make the apps more portable:
“Practically everything new about macOS redesign seems like an iOS version. Rounded corners everywhere, especially on the dock, new icons, control center … Pretty much everything now looks like an iPad interface.”
One of the biggest differences remains Apple’s control over the iPad platform over the Mac. But as we are about to see, this is starting to change.
June 29 update: Apple already has significant experience with ARM hardware, both in silicon design and in integration with operating systems, thanks to iPhone and iPad. The latter, especially the iPad Pro, will have given management the confidence that the Mac platform would retain Intel’s power alongside the potential for a tighter design.
It is already on display, with the MSPowerUser team highlighted the difference between the Apple developer transition kit (a Mac Mini with MacOS on an A12Z ARM processor previously used in iPad Pro) and Microsoft’s ARM-based Surface Pro X:
“The first thing the developers did when they got it was to launch some benchmarks and the results are pretty embarrassing for Microsoft and Qualcomm.
“Multiple Geekbench results indicated that the Developer Transition Kit has single-core and multi-core average scores of 811 and 2,871 respectively. This compares rather favorably with a single-core score of 726 and a multi-core score of 2,831. for Microsoft Surface Pro X thanks to the 3.0 GHz SQ1 system optimized by Microsoft (SoC). “
Remember that this is a first public build of the operating system and a Mac Mini running a repurposed processor. Expect further earnings in the coming year.
One of the first visible steps is to remove Boot Camp and reduce the flexibility of Mac hardware. Apple believes that users don’t have to worry, but what’s good for Apple isn’t always good for developers or consumers.
We recently saw it with Basecamp’s Hey email app and the problems navigating Apple’s App Store policies, particularly as regards the functionality of the app that Apple wanted to see and the use of Basecamp of an external payment service that was not from Apple (where Apple collects thirty percent of the revenue).
This was a high profile case, but not a single case. Apple has set its own rules for accessing the App Store, from earning through the functionality, appearance and style of your apps. And the App Store is the only way to reach and interact with Apple’s customer base (something that is under antitrust investigation by the European Commission),
This is in contrast to the Mac platform.
Yes, there is a Mac App Store where developers can submit their apps to the Apple ecosystem … but the Mac platform is much more open for loading into applications from other sources, it is much more open to different payment systems and it is much more open to making different decisions that Apple would make.
While Tim Cook continues to redefine what it means to be a Mac, one of the most obvious influences is the iPad. Not only has the iPad Pro moved towards the ethics of a MacBook with the release of a magic keyboard and a touchpad for tablets, but the user interface of MacOS and iPadOS has a growing similarity.
The closed system of mobile devices remains something Apple is particularly proud of. While the Mac platform will move to ARM and the expected release of the first ARM-powered MacBook Pro later this year, will Apple take the opportunity to follow the iPhone and iPad along this path?
Apple may never complete that journey, but it has already taken steps along that route, with the latest occurrence during WWDC last week. Apple has confirmed that Boot Camp will not be available on Mac ARM machines. When these computers arrive, they will not support Bootcamp. This is the software that allows alternative operating systems to run on Mac hardware. Instead, the only way will be to use virtual machines that run within MacOS. Tom Warren for The Verge:
“Apple later confirmed that it does not plan to support ARM-based Boot Camp on a Daring Fireball podcast.” We are not directly starting an alternative operating system, “says Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering. “Virtualization is the way. These hypervisors can be very efficient, so the need to direct startup shouldn’t be the real concern.” “
Boot Camp is a vital tool for many and Apple’s reassurances “shouldn’t really be the concern” will be welcome if you’re explicitly using your Mac in the way Apple intended. But this is not for everyone. The Mac platform – especially but not limited to those of the “Pro” class – are racing machines with specific needs. Apple’s push towards its future could easily drive those users off the platform, as the transition from 32 bits to 64 bits was smooth for the most part, but a critical mistake for others.
MacOS confirmation for ARM is not yet a week old, but Apple is already removing a key feature. The change is clearly beneficial to Apple and gives Apple more control over the platform.
Is this the only move Apple will make? The mood music of MacOS is that “things are changing” and in the case of Apple’s software policies on Hey, “these app store rules are fixed.” How far Apple will “freeze” MacOS remains to be seen. Will it remain as it is, or will Tim Cook and his team push forward on the successful business model on the iPhone and iPad?
Now read more about the latest cooling issues on the MacBook Air …