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WWDC 2020: What you need to know about Apple Silicon

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We knew this was going to happen for years. And it’s daytime. Apple has announced the fourth evolution for the Mac – a slow but inevitable evolution that is moving away from Intel.

Apple is no stranger to radical mac side changes. First there was the PowerPC architecture, then Apple switched to MacOS X, then to Intel processors. Today, Apple is beginning the transition between Intel and Apple Silicon.

What is Apple Silicon?
For now, it appears to be essentially Apple’s A12Z 64-bit ARM system on a chip used to power the iPad Pro 2020.

At no point in the presentation at WWDC 2020 did Apple mention Arm, and made only a brief reference to Intel. The goal is to advance the Apple brand on the components part of the machines.

What can Apple Silicon do?
At WWDC 2020, Apple showed hardware equipped with this chip, capable of running applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel, Adobe Creating Cloud, and handling heavy workloads, such as rendering four 4K Apple ProRes video streams in Final Cut Pro, without a drop of sweat.

Apple has been very clear about the goal behind this change: to offer more performance with less energy consumption and to offer the best of both worlds, those of laptops and desktops, without the inconveniences.

are the technical specifications?
As is the tradition at Apple, there is no comparison between Apple Silicon and Intel processors.

But Apple has not backed down to present its silicon benchmarks: more than two billion chips have been delivered in more than a decade. Apple designed the A-Series processors, multiplying the performance of the iPhone’s chips by a hundred and the iPad’s graphics performance by a thousand. Apple no longer depends on Nvidia for GPUs, and has acquired an encyclopedic knowledge of everything needed to design and develop world-class silicon.

What is Rosetta 2?
When Apple switched from PowerPC to Intel, it used a binary translator called Rosetta to enable retrocompatibility. The new version of MacOS, codenamed Big Sur, will come with Rosetta 2, which will automatically translate existing Mac applications at the time of installation, all taking place behind the scenes without any user intervention.

No specification was given on how the Rosetta 2 translator works and how it performs. But Apple has introduced a Mac equipped with the A12Z that runs iPhone and iPad apps. A demonstration was also made of Linux running in a virtual machine. You have to ask yourself, “What about Windows 10?” Well, conference attendees were able to notice a Windows 10 virtual machine on the dock, turning into Parallels Desktop.

When will they be ready?
As for deadlines, Apple preferred to play it safe and remain vague. While a development kit including a Mac mini equipped with an A12X with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage will be available this week, the first Macs equipped with Apple Silicon will be available “by the end of the year”.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, also pointed out that the company has other Macs based on Intel processors in preparation for this year, and that the full transition to Apple Silicon would take two years. He added that MacOS will continue to support Intel Macs for years to come.

While Apple did not criticize Intel in any way, the message was clear: after just over a decade of designing chips for the iPhone, the company can now easily replace the chip giant and get better performance in return. Perhaps we can see a hidden message for Intel, which should strengthen its game.

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