An ARM Mac

With the launch of the new MacBook, I'm starting to think that the ARM-based Mac might soon become a reality. People have been talking about it and speculating on its launch for years, but now I think it might become very possible for a few reasons. The first of which stems from a tweet today from @sajii:

This shows something interesting. Theoretically now an iPhone or iPad logic board could fit comfortably in a MacBook chassis, requiring (theoretically) little-to-no modification to the chassis itself. This paired with the comparatively enormous battery in the MacBook would lead to tremendous battery life in an ARM powered device.

The switchover to Intel Core-M processors in the new MacBook also leads me to think that perhaps this Mac is aimed more at tablet users who want a little more than the iPad can provide (or think they do). The iPad has already shown that it is an extremely capable computer and that the iPad's processor can match the performance of an Intel Core-U chip1. To me it seems like a no-brainer to start making a transition to an ARM/A8X-based Macbook.

Lastly I'm almost certain that Apple does have a version of OS X that runs on ARM chips. OS X and iOS share many frameworks and most of a kernel already2. I think that they have all of the pieces and engineering resources to make that happen.

It might not come in the next year, or even the next 5. But I do believe that this new MacBook is the first signal we've seen of a real possibility of an ARM-based Mac. All of the pieces are coming together. Hopefully they come together soon.

  1. Theoretically a Core-U chip should be more performant than its Core-M cousin, meaning that an iPad Air could theoretically be more powerful than this MacBook. 
  2. Not to mention the fact that Apple already proved that they have the technology to make code from one architecture run on another through an interpretation layer with Rosetta

Arthur Rosa is an engineering manager based in Sunnyvale, California.