It’s important to remember that most computers sold today are still, at their core, superpowered versions of ARM processors. But that’s likely about to change. Apple’s next-generation MacBooks could be arriving in a matter of months, running on a chip built on just one of the three main processor architectures: Intel’s, AMD’s, or Qualcomm’s. That means Macs will come packed with new processor technology that’s built specifically for Macs.
When that happens, you’ll likely see Macs that are initially powerful and, eventually, greatly more powerful. That’s because Apple’s partners—in this case, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company—will be able to write their chips in much faster time, using architecture that’s optimized for a certain chip. (AMD’s chips are based on x86 architecture, Qualcomm’s on ARM.) For example, a board packed with an Intel Core i5 processor that retails today runs Windows Home Server; Intel’s Core i5-7400 represents an 85 percent jump in speed over that model. Core i7 processors, which move from a triple-core chip up to a quad-core chip, take that gain to 144 percent. Chipmakers use these types of increases to increase a chip’s performance while reducing its physical size.
Apple will be taking that increased performance and, presumably, packing it onto chips that are less dense. So, a future generation of MacBooks (or other Apple computers) could be using chips that are thinner and smaller than even the highest-specification CPUs sold today on the market. That means a 2.5-inch footprint, down from Apple’s current 3.5-inch footprint for the MacBook Pro.
Then again, a new MacBook could still be a significant leap for the PC world. Intel’s biggest problem has been trying to get products that have far higher-end processing capabilities—e.g., 7-series Xeon processors for servers—out to the market quickly enough, given the size of the market and the amount of time needed to make a chip. The new upcoming Core i7-9100X is essentially Intel’s Xeon Power family reboot, and yet Intel has yet to begin selling that chip, because it has to do so as a motherboard enabled for new hardware.
With Apple upending the Apple products market with new and innovative designs and releasing new updates every year, it seems that it’s in a good position to switch in the next year or two.