At Apple’s recent event in New York, they announced a new Mac Mini, MacBook Air, and iPad Pro. Though compact and inconspicuous, the Mac Mini enjoys a rabid fanbase. And even though the MacBook Air hasn’t been updated since 2015, it is arguably the most important notebook in the MacBook line-up. But make no mistake, the iPad Pro was the star of the show.
As it should be. The latest iPad Pro is a monster. If you look at pure compute performance, its A12X Bionic processor blows the MacBook Air out of the water and is comparable with the latest MacBook Pro. It achieves this in a body that weighs less than half a kilogram (in the case of the 11-inch model) and measures only 5.9mm thick. Most amazing of all, it doesn’t even need a fan to keep itself cool.
Ever since the first iPad Pro in 2015, Apple has positioned it as a device that could replace traditional computing devices. The newest iPad Pro comes very close to realizing that dream, leading to a sense that Apple is prioritizing the iPad over its Macs.
Apple is clearly championing the iPad now but the Macs continue to be an important product category for Apple. In Apple’s latest Q4 financial reports, Mac accounted for 12% of Apple’s total revenue while iPads only made up 7%. Mac revenue was up a modest 3% whereas iPad revenue was down 19%. As awesome as Apple’s iPads are, it is not immune to the general decline of the tablet market as a whole.
Unlike iPads, Macs don’t use Apple’s own custom processors, they use Intel’s. And Intel has been having a pretty rough time with their processors. They have missed deadlines and their new processors haven’t been groundbreaking. Apple, on the other hand, has been able to eke out meaningful performance improvements year every year with its own A-series processors that it puts in its iPhones and iPads.
Apple’s control over its hardware and software is one of the reasons for the company’s success. And if it isn’t able to make something on its own, it was able to find reliable suppliers to do it for them. Intel, it seems, is letting Apple down, leading to rumors that Apple would one day ditch the chipmaker for its own processors in its Macs.
A switch to Apple’s own chips would make a lot of sense. Most crucially, it would give Apple a lot more control, over the Mac’s performance, power requirements, and even release dates. No more waiting on Intel to deliver their latest processors, only to find that it provides a meager increase in performance.
Switching processors on such a scale isn’t new to Apple and the Mac (watch the video above). In 1994, Macs switched from Motorola 68000 processors to IBM PowerPC processors. And in 2006, it made a major switch again from IBM PowerPC to Intel processors. These decisions were always made with the aim of making the best possible products for Apple’s customers and if the last few years have been any indication, it seems that the Mac’s future lies away from Intel.
Specifications are not everything. It's what you do with what you have that matters.