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Macs Moving to Apple Silicon

Apple announced that in the future, Macs will no longer be powered by Intel chips but will instead rely on custom-designed Apple chips. The company has made such massive transitions twice before: first in 1994 with the move from Motorola’s 68000 chips to IBM’s PowerPC platform, and again in 2006 with the jump to processors from Intel. 

What is Apple silicon?

Apple creates its own chips to power the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV. These chips are based on a platform called ARM. Of all Apple’s products, only the Mac has continued to use processors from Intel. Apple said it would be creating chips specifically to power Macs, although they’ll be part of the same chip family used in iOS devices.

Why is Apple making this transition?

  • Performance: By creating its own chips, Apple can tweak the designs to the sweet spot of performance and power consumption for any given Mac.
  • Profit: Intel processors have high profit margins, and Apple would prefer to keep that money instead of paying it to Intel.
  • Control: With Apple making its own chips, its product roadmaps are within its control, rather than being subject to Intel’s schedule, capabilities, and whims.

When will the first Macs with Apple silicon appear?

Apple said that we’d see the first Mac with Apple silicon by the end of 2020.

Is it better to wait for Apple silicon Macs?

There are two schools of thought. Some recommend buying the first models that appear because Macs with the previous chips may have a shorter effective lifespan. Others prefer to buy the last models with the earlier chips under the assumption that the first new Macs might have unanticipated problems.

How long will Apple keep selling Intel-based Macs?

The company said that it anticipates releasing new Intel-based Macs for roughly 2 years and that it has some exciting new models in the pipeline.

How long will Apple continue to support Intel-based Macs?

Apple didn’t commit to a specific length of time but said it would be releasing new software and supporting Intel-based Macs “for years to come.” In the previous processor transition from PowerPC to Intel, Apple maintained the Rosetta translation environment for over 5 years.

Will my software run on a Mac with Apple silicon?

Happily, yes! Apple announced Rosetta 2, which will ship with macOS before Macs with Apple silicon appear. Rosetta 2 automatically translates existing Intel-based apps. Apple said that Rosetta 2 will be completely transparent to the user.

New MacBook Air

In an effort to eliminate the hated butterfly keyboard from the Mac line, Apple has released an updated MacBook Air that features the scissor-key Magic Keyboard introduced last year in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. That keyboard has received highly positive reviews, and we’re happy to see it appear in the MacBook Air. (Look for a new model to replace the current 13-inch MacBook Pro soon as well.) The Magic Keyboard includes 12 function keys as well as a Touch ID sensor, but no Touch Bar.

Apple significantly improved the MacBook Air’s performance by providing a choice of 10th-generation Intel Core processors, including the model’s first quad-core processor option. The base level 1.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core i3 is probably pretty slow, but upgrading to a 1.1 GHz quad-core i5 is only $100 and a 1.2 GHz quad-core i7 is just $250.

Graphics should be noticeably speedier as well, thanks to the switch to Intel Iris Plus Graphics. The MacBook Air can now drive a 6K display too, if you have a Pro Display XDR.

Apple also doubled the base level of storage to 256 GB, and you can increase that to 512 GB ($200), 1 TB ($400), or 2 TB ($800).

Minor enhancements include True Tone technology for more natural images on the 13-inch Retina display, “wide stereo sound” for the speakers, and support for Bluetooth 5.0.

As welcome as all these changes are, the best news is that Apple simultaneously dropped the MacBook Air’s price. The entry-level model now starts at $999, and it’s available to the education market for just $899.

The New Mac Pro

The new Mac Pro is finally available. The Mac Pro utilizes a stainless steel frame that provides mounting points for a wide array of components and configurations. An aluminum housing slips off to provide 360-degree access, with the processor, graphics, and expansion slots on one side, and storage and memory on the other. One size does not fit all pro users, so you’ll be able to customize the Mac Pro to your needs.

For the ultimate in performance, the Mac Pro relies on an Intel Xeon W processor, and you can choose from 8, 12, 16, 24, or 28 cores. Base clock speeds vary with the number of cores. With the high-end 28-core configuration, Apple is promoting performance increases over the previous 12-core Mac Pro of 300% to 500% for activities like Photoshop filters, Xcode builds, Logic Pro plug-ins, and Autodesk Maya rendering.The base level of RAM is 32 GB, but there are 12 DIMM slots, so you can upgrade to 48 GB, 96 GB, 192 GB, 384 GB, 768 GB, or a whopping 1.5 TB.

Much of a workstation’s performance comes from its dedicated GPUs, which are essential for 3D animation, 8K video compositing, and building lifelike gaming environments, along with pure number crunching. Apple integrates GPUs via the new Mac Pro Expansion Module, or MPX Module, and the Mac Pro holds two MPX Modules. Those modules come with an AMD Radeon Pro 580X, Radeon Pro Vega II, or Radeon Pro Vega II Duo, the last of which combines two Vega II GPUs in a single module. Those cards also offer a variety of DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, and HDMI 2.0 ports for connecting displays.

The Mac Pro offers eight PCI Express expansion slots: four double-wide slots, three single-wide slots, and one half-length slot preconfigured with an Apple I/O card. Apple also offers the Afterburner PCI Express card, which accelerates ProRes and ProRes RAW codecs in Final Cut Pro X, QuickTime Player X, and supported third-party apps.

That Apple I/O card provides two USB 3 ports using the USB-A connector, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and two 10-gigabit Ethernet ports. The top of the Mac Pro case provides another two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Storage begins with a 256 GB SSD for those whose data is all stored externally. However, you can also upgrade to 1, 2, or 4 TB SSDs.

The Mac Pro starts at $5,999.

New 16-inch MacBook Pro

Apple has introduced a new 16-inch MacBook Pro that improves on its predecessor in several ways. The 16-inch MacBook Pro replaces the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro and starts at $2399.

Apple says the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s new Magic Keyboard has “a redesigned scissor mechanism and 1mm travel for a more satisfying key feel.” Many people disliked typing on the previous keyboard’s butterfly mechanism and keys failed frequently, causing Apple to redesign the keyboard multiple times and offer a repair program for out-of-warranty devices.

The display is of course larger, with a 16-inch diagonal measurement and a slightly higher native resolution. That translates to a default resolution of 1792-by-1120, up from 1680-by-1050, so the new MacBook Pro will show more content than the previous model. Apple says the 16-inch MacBook Pro is up to 80% faster than the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro. 16GB of RAM is the base level and up to 64GB is available. Storage starts at 512GB and goes to 8TB. The new notebook also features significantly improved audio input and speakers.

Between the larger screen, the six-speaker sound system, and the 100-watt-hour battery that Apple says provides up to 11 hours of battery life, the company had to increase the size of the 16-inch MacBook Pro slightly compared to the previous 15-inch model. It’s about 8mm wider and 5mm deeper and weighs 4.3 pounds, which is more than the 4.02 pounds of the previous model.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro continues to offer four Thunderbolt 3.0 ports for charging and connectivity. You’ll still need a collection of dongles for connecting peripherals, displays, etc. Note that the 16-inch MacBook Pro ships with macOS 10.15 Catalina and almost certainly cannot be downgraded to 10.14 Mojave.

Apple Business Manager

Apple Business Manager ensures that every Apple device you purchase is associated with your corporate account before it’s shipped to you. That enables zero-touch configuration and eliminates much or even all of the manual set up. Here’s how we make this happen.

We’ll work with someone at your company to set you up with two Apple programs: Apple Custom Store and Apple Business Manager. You will merely need to respond to some email messages from Apple and a call with Apple to verify that they agree to Apple’s Terms & Conditions on behalf of your company.

Apple Custom Store provides a customized corporate store for purchasing Apple devices for your company. All devices purchased through your Apple Custom Store are automatically tied to your company until you intentionally release them, such as while decommissioning. This can help protect against theft or employees keeping devices they shouldn’t.

Apple Business Manager, is what enables us (or you) to enroll and manage devices purchased through your Apple Custom Store. When we say “manage” we’re talking about mobile device management, or MDM. MDM systems allow IT administrators to define “profiles” that specify your company’s settings and policies. Those might be email login credentials or security policies such as requiring each Mac to turn on their screensaver after 5 minutes of inactivity and require a passcode to unlock. An MDM system lets your company control when to install operating system updates, ensuring that nothing happens before you’re ready.

Don’t upgrade to Catalina Just Yet

We know you want to play with the new features, but Catalina is not something you should install right away. Apple changed the operating system in some fundamental ways that could break your essential apps or workflows.

32-bit apps don’t run anymore: To identify which 32-bit apps—and portions of apps—won’t work in Catalina, download and run the free Go64 utility from St. Clair Software. If you rely on any of the software it calls out, you’ll need to update or find an alternative.

Newly installed apps must be notarized by Apple: Notarization is a process Apple uses to verify that an app distributed outside the Mac App Store is free of malware. It’s likely that older apps already on your Mac when you upgrade will continue to work fine, but if you try to install an older, unnotarized app, that may not work.

Apps require more permissions than before: In the last few versions of macOS, you’ve probably seen apps asking for permission to do things like access data in Contacts, Calendars, and Photos. In Catalina, apps will have to ask for permission to access files in your Desktop and Documents folders, and external volumes. It’s possible that older software won’t understand.

We suggest you wait for the 10.15.3 or 10.15.4 update, or get in touch with us early in 2020 for a status update.

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