There have been speculations about Macs moving to ARM but now it’s official! Apple just announced it today at their WWDC!
But don’t worry, Apple still has Intel-based Macs in the pipeline, so they’re not going away overnight! Apple expects the transition to take about 2 years.
Back when Apple moved from PowerPC architecture to x86, they introduced Rosetta which was basically an emulator to run all your old PowerPC apps on x86 Macs until developers could port their applications to the new architecture. Apple will now be doing the same thing and release Rosetta 2, so that early adopters can continue to use their entire software library!
If you’re a developer, Apple will be shipping an ARM-based Mac Mini for you to port and test your application this week (you have to apply). Apple will again support compiling “Universal” apps that will run on both architectures. Back in the day that meant compiling an application for both PowerPC and x86 and being able to run it on either platform. Now the same thing will apply but to x86 and ARM.
So as an end-user, you shouldn’t notice anything when going ARM other than increased battery life and if true what Apple says, performance too.
Now one concern I had about Apple moving their Macs to ARM was virtualization. But Apple claims they have new virtualization capabilities so you should still be able to run virtual machines on an ARM based Mac just as you are used to. This will include containers as used with Docker.
iOS and iPadOS Apps on Mac
A year ago, Apple announced Catalyst which allowed you to port iOS and iPadOS apps to x86 but now with ARM-based Macs you will be able to run all your iOS and iPadOS natively, without or little modification. This means all the apps you love from your iPhone or iPad will be available on the Mac.
With their custom silicon, they will include their “secure enclave” and bring it to the Mac.
Developer Transition Kit
As a developer, you can apply for a Developer Transition Kit which basically is an ARM-based Mac Mini with 16 GB RAM and 512 GB SSD that includes the macOS Big Sur developer beta + Xcode which will all run on Apple’s A12Z SoC. Apple will start shipping them this week so you can start working on porting!