New Mac Pro, where are the ARM Macbooks?

Apples New Mac Pro

Apple closed out their keynote at WWDC 2019 with a bang this year. A very pricey bang, the new Mac Pro and newly released XDR Display will set you back a whopping $12,000 and that's before the extra 1k on their monitor stand. In Accidental Tech Podcast, Jon Siracusa and Marco Arment had details on pricing for the matte screen, an additional - you guessed it - 1 thousand dollars. All of this pricy hardware is absolutely top of the line. Way beyond a prosumer or even professional developer workflow. It's clearly targeted towards the high end media professional market which will probably be buying these machines in 20–30k configurations like hot cakes.

Opinions seemed varied on the design, personally I think Apple created a beautiful device. It's design is incredibly rugged and industrial but refined. A very different take from the Mac Pro "Trash Can" that was designed to look beautiful on a workstation desktop. The new Mac Pro looks like an absolute monster, and has the insane power to back that up. With a baseline 28 core Intel Xeon processor, up to 1.5TB of RAM and 8 PCI Express slots this machine can go a number of different ways.

The new frame allows for easy removal of the entire case, exposing a 360 degree view of the internals. Additional wheels was a great idea. 3 Interior fans and a blower keep cool air flowing through the entire machine allowing the processor to have up to a 300W Thermal Density Profile. This is one of the highest TDP's out there and what has allowed Apple to get away with 1 powerful processor instead of two smaller cores.

All of this fantastic power is extremely expensive, no doubt each case is CNC machined from a solid block in one of Apple's ever increasing factories full of solely huge amounts of CNC machines. But the design is epic. The modularity and configurability was actually raised a bar by Apple, they didn't meet the industry standards but actually completely set a new bar for what a high end machine should look like inside and out. A truly impressive feat for Apple which it seemed for many years simply abandoned the Pro market focusing on their portables and mobile devices.

As I was watching the keynote's announcement by Craig Federighi that iTunes was being split up some things stood out. For instance, plugging in a device into the new macOS Catalina would do nothing! No alert asking you to sync your device! But if you did want to sync, that functionality was now bolted onto the Finder app. iTunes was finally being rebuilt from the ground up, likely in "Project Catalyst" Apples new framework that allows developers to build apps seamlessly across iOS, tvOS and macOS.

Mac OS X was built on the Foundation of AppKit, a NextStep framework of Steve Jobs previous company acquired by Apple for their next generation object oriented operating system. AppKit served Apple well until the iPhone, and a groundbreaking new framework without any legacy that had accumulated for the past decade called UIKit. UIKit was so easy to use and develop apps with for years Developers had been making clones of UIKit to allow for bringing iPhone apps to the Mac with similar codebases. Apple eventually made this happen because AppKit by this point is completely outdated and much more difficult to use for a variety of reasons than UIKit.

iTunes was for many years the last remaining "legacy" app on Mac, because it had so so many functions, all built on an even more outdated legacy framework Apple deprecated a decade ago called Carbon, it stayed around. Year after year Apple seemed to kick the can of "fixing" iTunes but eventually it made sense the fix was to remove iTunes. And they finally did!

Which brings me to some extremely exciting and interesting conclusions. If Apple is indeed working on ARM MacBooks they would need to get rid of all legacy apps such as iTunes, now they have done that, the other being Finder which was finally rebuilt a few years earlier. Could Apple indeed have macOS running somewhere in Apple Park on an ARM device right now?

It's possible they may never go this direction, the iPadOS designation Apple has given clearly indicates they are looking to seriously increase the capabilities of the iPad as a desktop class device in the coming years. They've added desktop browsing, and more power user features such as connecting USB devices this year with iPadOS 13.

Why do we even want an ARM MacBook. Well for starters we could afford it, compared to this beautiful Mac Pro most of us will not get in our lifetimes. But the benefits for most users would be: battery life, battery life, battery life! By dropping intel power hungry processors and using extremely power efficient ARM processors MacBooks could have significantly more battery life. I would estimate a full day's battery life is possible. But also speed. Because ARM can have many more cores, and uses a RISC instruction set that lowers the amount of time spent waiting on the CPU. Which can drastically increase the speed of apps execution.

Imagine if you will a much faster, lighter, longer battery life MacBook. Who doesn't want that. That got me the most excited because I think Apple recognizes an iPad will never replace a desktop OS or laptop. The iPad Power User category is a small fraction of iPad users, and so Macs are here to stay. So where are the ARM MacBooks, my guess is at least 1 year if not 2. We certainly won't hear about them for a long time from now unfortunately. That could seriously impact Apple's relationship with Intel which is already rocky to say the least.

ARM chipsets are gaining usage in the server market every year but still represent a tiny fraction of the server market even though companies have seen the power savings would drastically cut their power bills which at their scale is a huge saving. But the speed isn't there yet. It will be at least 1–2 years before we see ARM chipsets compete with Intel and maybe 1–2 years after that they surpass Intel speeds. It's a long road ahead but the pieces are clearly falling into place and that got me the most excited this WWDC.