To those who were paying attention, it was obvious for a while that Apple should make the move away from Intel processors to their own line of silicon chips.
The steps were there: an iPad with speeds closer to a laptop, mouse and trackpad support for iPadOS, Catalyst, the T1/T2 security chips. They were gradually easing us into it. Still, there will be issues with this transition.
Mac-only developers are going to need to either rewrite their apps or abandon them. All x86_64 compiled apps will be dead in 2-4 years; apps you may have enjoyed back in the day, including pro or rare and ones will never return unless the developers get to work right now. On the flip side, having access to many more iPadOS apps if developers decide to port them over will be a huge benefit, depending on their interoperability (could port within a matter of “days” Cook said). Out of the box, they may not look that good at all, so it will take time to improve upon them.
It is likely that Apple will dump Thunderbolt 3 in favor of USB4. Not only is USB4 just as fast as TB3 (40Gbps) but it is backwards compatible. So long as AMD provides ARM drivers (which they have in the past apparently), eGPUs will still be a thing. It is unlikely Apple will pay for the licensing for TB3 since they are trying to make a clean split from Intel, and not everyone will be able to afford a Mac Pro with a dedicated graphics card. It would be a shame if my RX580 in a Razer case would not work out of the box on these new devices. I’m ready to upgrade!
The Death of Steam
Since 32-bit games such as Half Life 2 and TF2 have been killed off in Mavericks, Steam has taken a huge catalog hit on the Mac as of recent. When the ARM transition completes, there may be nothing left but the sanitized Apple Arcade. Going against the Mac App Store TOS, it will simply die off as the last Intel machine is sold or supported. Steam may die anyway from the cross-platform approach Microsoft is taking with the new Xbox. I think its time may be up soon, besides for anything VR or cutting edge on Windows or Linux (non-ARM) only. Unless they decide to port their games to ARM to support more Android devices as well, I’m not sure how Steam will survive on the Mac or in general.
A True Hybrid Device
macOS 11 (RIP OS X) will gain some functionality of iOS as has been happening on a regular basis. The true merging of iPadOS and macOS should occur sometime over the next few years. Will Macs gain GPS and cellular service? More than likely not if you own an iPhone, which would be more than assumed. The language in yesterday’s presentation suggested, and I’m paraphrasing, “you can check a map before you leave home,” insinuating that Macs are to still be stationary for the most part; many location-based apps just might not make the leap to MacOS.
Having FaceID as a competitor to Windows Hello would be a welcome addition. Third party calling apps, an expanded Files/Finder to have third party storage options, and an extremely good handoff mode would put Apple on the forefront of a truly unified ecosystem. It’s exciting. We’re already going to see Apple headphone handoff between all Apple devices, which I can tell you bugs the hell out of me at the moment with Bluetooth. If they could only enable it with other BT headphones, then we’d be rocking and rolling; I suppose this is also Apple silicon-enabled through the Air Pods themselves, though I prefer my bone conductors.
I’m not entirely sure what the form factor of a laptop with no touch screen capabilities really means anymore for Apple, especially since the new iPad Pro with case/stand looks nearly like a laptop (minus the “lap” part). What’s the point of a MacBook Pro anymore, besides under-the-hood power and a hinge? I can see the need for a large touchscreen iMac for professional artists as Microsoft has attempted with their desktop Surface offering, and even perhaps a Mac Mini for everyone else, but it would need to have much more powerful chips than mobile devices to truly cut it. It’ll still be at least two years before the Mac Pro could justify moving away from Intel as well, and Apple will need to ensure that all of the apps have caught up, or editors, photographers, and musicians will be completely turned off. Seeing Adobe already on board is a good sign, who have been laggards historically.
Jailbreaking Your Mac
If all apps are to now be downloaded through the Mac App Store, it is likely that you’ll never again bump into some random developer website that will provide a direct download link. These days of scouring the web for custom-use apps is quite over. However, as iOS has been jailbroken, we’re likely to see the same techniques applied to Apple silicon devices on the desktop. It also remains to be seen if the Hackintosh will survive on another ARM-based device, or if a new security chip will ruin all of this. I don’t see jail breaking as a long-term solution anyway, but it is an odd idea to consider for something that will be touted as a full blown computer.