What will the transition to Apple silicon mean for Mac users?

In a nutshell, you’re going to benefit a lot if you’re someone with both feet in the Mac and iOS camps, someone who cherishes the mobility of a laptop, and someone who develops apps and websites on a Mac.

macOS Big Sur desktop screen shot
Source: Apple

Let me explain a bit further.

  • With future Macs, iOS developers will easily be able to make available their apps with no extra development effort. Your Mac in effect becomes another iOS device so you can readily access the same productivity and entertainment apps you use on your iPhone and iPad.
  • Apple is promising dramatically better computing efficiency from their future Macs over Intel processing technology. If this pans out, then it means you’ll be able to get much better battery performance, and hopefully with less heat radiated (leading to longer life). This could be great if you consider yourself highly mobile and constantly need “all-day” availability from a laptop.
  • The new Macs will not only offer the benefits enjoyed for years by software developers, but will also allow virtualization for running Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, SUSE, or Fedora. If you’re a Mac person that also wants or regularly needs ready access to Linux, then this will make you feel right at home.

There are two more potential benefits to the future Macs running on Apple silicon: the ability to provide custom features and capabilities specific to the new chips, and also develop and launch new Macs with greater control over supply chain availability. The latter means Apple won’t have to rely on a third-party (Intel) to make new Macs available to their customers.

Unfortunately, there are going to be some downsides to consider, as well – at least in the two-year transition Apple has defined for moving away from Intel.

  • You’re going to be relying on developers to update their x86 apps to run natively on Apple silicon (ARM). If not, there is still a path forward via emulation, but performance may be compromised somewhat.
  • Generally speaking, you won’t be able to run Windows on your future ARM-powered Mac. Apple is still going to be supporting its Intel-based Macs well into future and is working on new ones as well, so you won’t feel the need to rush into the transition.
  • Just speculation at this point, but power Mac users are likely to have to rely on their beefy Intel-powered machines for at least a while longer – it’s likely the first Apple chips will not yet be as capable.