Apple is set to release its first Mac based on a custom ARM chip next year, according to Bloomberg. This lines up with the previous timeline reported from Bloomberg, which cited late 2020/2021 timeframe, and other reports from publications like analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Bloomberg says that Apple is working on a range of chips aimed for future Macs. The first Apple-designed chip will apparently be based on a 5-nanometer fabrication process, and feature 12 CPU cores: 8 high-performance cores and 4-efficiency cores.

Apple’s own chips are widely expected to best Intel’s current lineup in performance, and the addition of more cores will certainly help achieve that. Bloomberg says the 12-core chip will be “much faster” than the A13 chip currently found in Apple’s latest iPhones and iPads.

For comparison, Apple’s entry-level MacBook Air only has two cores, and even mid-range 13-inch MacBook Pro models only offer four-core CPUs. Of course, there are more factors than simply core count that contribute to overall performance, but it’s a good sign that Apple’s upcoming ARM Macs are going to offer much greater performance than the equivalent Intel machines.

Bloomberg says Apple is developing multiple Mac chips as part of an internal project called Kalamata, which is synchronizing chip architectures between Apple’s mobile and desktop chips. Unsurprisingly, Bloomberg says that Apple’s first ARM Mac will be an entry-level MacBook model (a Twitter leaker previously suggested a 12-inch ARM MacBook is on the way). Whilst Apple has ambitions to make ARM chips that can rival the performance of Apple’s high-end MacBook Pros and iMacs, that will not be possible for 2021.

The report says Apple is ‘exploring’ tools that would enable old apps built for Intel platforms to keep working on the new ARM-based Macs in a compatibility mode. Apple released a similar emulation option for the last Mac chip transition when the company switched from PowerPC to Intel chipsets.

In addition to performance and efficiency gains, replacing Intel also helps Apple have more control over the Mac product roadmap. Intel has notoriously delayed its chip roadmap several times in recent years, which has prevented Apple from iterating its MacBook line as fast it would have liked. The Retina MacBook Air took years longer than intended to come to market, as the product had originally been designed on the assumption that a particular Intel chipset would be available sooner.

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