The Mac’s Transition to ARM
It has been 15 years since Steve Jobs announced Apple’s last major processor transition, taking the Mac away from PowerPC to Intel’s x86 processors, and the arguments this time round are pretty much the same as then. Intel’s x86 processors, like the PowerPC processors of 15 years have stagnated, the performance increases for the last 5 years have been mediocre to say the least, and the efficiency, or as Steve Job’s reiterated throughout his presentation, Performance Per Watt, also isn’t improving. Meanwhile Apple’s A Series ARM based chips found in their iOS hardware has gone from strength to strength, so in addition to Performance Per Watt Apple will also gain control of its own destiny, which we know Apple will love.
Unlike the last transition the majority of apps compiled on Mac’s are for ARM already, that is apps compiled for iOS. I expect the transition to be painless for all apps written in high level languages, the bigger question is around apps that have a lot of low level or legacy code. macOS (or Mac OS as it was then) 10.4 & 10.5 featured Rosetta, which dynamically translated PowerPC instructions into Intel, and with Intel processors being so much faster than the existing PowerPC processors they replaced, it went pretty much unnoticed, so hopefully Apple has something similar up their sleeves this time.
The extra Performance per Watt could result in faster, lighter and cheaper Mac’s, but something tells me they won’t be focusing on the later!
Last time around the transition from PowerPC to Intel took around 13 months from when it was announced. I expect it to take a bit longer this time, with the consumer line switching to ARM in a similar timeframe.
The iMac got a 5K Display 5 years ago, a slightly slimmer design 7 years ago, but in reality it has looked the same with its Unibody enclosure for 10 years now.
The iMac is set to finally get a design overhaul, loosing the majority of its bezel and chin, and be transformed to a design resembling an iPad Pro held up on the existing iMac stand. Despite the imminent switch to ARM, this is set to be an Intel based machine with an upgraded CPU and faster RAM, but more significantly dropping the Fusion Drive in favour of a SSD as standard across the line.
iOS and iPadOS 14
The most significant changes are set to be in Messages, with improvements to group chaps allowing you to see when multiple people are typing, the ability to mark conversations as read, and a resurrection of the /me command which was a favourite of IM apps in the naughties.
With the iPadOS going out on its own last year, I would expect to see it continue to gain some additional features compared to iOS, with the Home screen set to get a major overhaul.
In addition to this, this year might be the one that Apple allows third party apps to be set as the default ones for email, web browsing and the calendar.
Information about macOS 10.6 has few and far between, but one of them is Messages from iOS coming over to macOS using Catalyst. Although this might spell the end for features such as built in screen sharing to another Mac, it will bring feature parity for display effects, Animoji etc, which for the majority of use cases is more significant.
The majority of watchOS’s functionality usually comes along with a new generation of the Apple Watch itself, with rumours this year that will be blood oxygen monitoring and sleep tracking. That being said, it might be possible that Apple unlocks the sleep tracking capabilities in watchOS 7.