SAN FRANCISCO: Apple introduced a MacBook Air notebook and other machines with its first central processor designed in-house for Macs.
The new chip, called the M1, marks a shift away from Intel technology that has driven the electronic brains of Mac computers for nearly 15 years. The move that will tie its computers and iPhones closer together technologically.
Apple computers 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 apps that work on both its computers and phones.
The MacBook Air will start at $999, the same as its predecessor, and have up to twice the battery life. The M1 will also power the MacBook Pro notebook, which starts at $1299, and its $699 Mac Mini computer, which comes without a monitor.
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 executives said that 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 executives made numerous performance claims against prior generations of Macs and Windows-based laptops, virtually all of which are based on Intel chips, though Apple did not directly name Intel.
“We believe Intel-powered PCs — like those based on 11th Gen Intel Core mobile processors — provide global customers the best experience in the areas they value most, as well as the most open platform for developers, both today and into the future,” Intel said in a statement.
Apple’s phone chips draw on computing architecture technology from UK-based Arm Ltd, manufactured by outside partners such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.
Microsoft and Qualcomm have been working together for four years to bring Arm-based Windows laptops to market, with major manufacturers such as Lenovo, Asustek Computer and Samsung Electronics offering machines. The true test for both Microsoft and Apple 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. Apple software chief Craig Federighi said Adobe would bring its Photoshop software to the new M1-based Macs early next year.
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 would continue to support those devices for “years to come” but did not specify an end-of-life date.