How Apple came up with the M1 SoC -- and what is next

Posted on Monday, Nov 23 2020 @ 22:39 CET by Thomas De Maesschalck
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One of the more interesting tech launches of the year was last week's release of Apple's first M1-based computers. A lot of folks doubted whether Apple could pull it off to release competitive ARM-based laptops and desktop PCs. Since the first benchmarks hit the web, we can only say we're very impressed with what the Cupertino-based company has achieved.

In a new article, ARS Technica offers the result of a Q&A session with several Apple executives. Overall, it's not really in-depth but it does provide some interesting background information about the development of the M1 SoC. You can read it over here.
Some time ago, in an Apple campus building, a group of engineers got together. Isolated from others in the company, they took the guts of old MacBook Air laptops and connected them to their own prototype boards with the goal of building the very first machines that would run macOS on Apple's own, custom-designed, ARM-based silicon.

To hear Apple's Craig Federighi tell the story, it sounds a bit like a callback to Steve Wozniak in a Silicon Valley garage so many years ago. And this week, Apple finally took the big step that those engineers were preparing for: the company released the first Macs running on Apple Silicon, beginning a transition of the Mac product line away from Intel's CPUs, which have been industry-standard for desktop and laptop computers for decades.
We know the entire Mac lineup will transition to ARM as part of the current two-year transition from Intel to ARM. But are new Intel-based Macs still coming? Based on the interview, it appears all new Macs in the pipeline right now are Apple Silicon based. Every Intel-based system the company had in its pipeline is already shipping.

While we're excited about Apple Silicon, the Mac is losing one major selling with this transition: the ability to run Microsoft's Windows operating system. With Intel-based Macs, it's possible to install Windows via Apple's Boot Camp tool. At the moment, there's no way to run Windows on the M1-based Macs and it doesn't look like Apple is putting in effort to facilitate this. Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi points to paid third-party virtualization tools and says native Windows support on the machine is up to Microsoft. At the moment, the only option is to use CodeWeavers' CrossOver 20 virtualization, but it's not ideal.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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