How long has it been since Apple has used that magical, Jobsian-era phrase in one of its press events? Not since 2017, with the not-so-surprise announcement of the iPhone X. The Apple presser today is no different: It’s a “secret” announcement for new laptops that’s been anticipated ever since Apple announced in June that it’s moving its MacBooks ARM-based custom silicon.
That’s what we’ll be seeing today starting at 5 a.m. AEDT — because what else could Apple possibly be previewing today other than that? Spoiler: Apple isn’t going to trot out the “AirPower Mat” that pundits still love to bring up from time to time.
We don’t know the full lineup of laptops that Apple will debut today, but we can make a pretty confident guess. Expect to see an ARM MacBook Air and an ARM MacBook Pro, since there isn’t really a barebones “MacBook” anymore. And Apple will surely drop an ARM chip into all its different MacBook form factors, which means you’ll see an ARM alternative for both Apple’s 13- and 16-inch MacBook Pro.
It remains to be seen if all three laptops will be previewed today, or even announced with an official release date (versus “soon”). It all depends on just how well Apple has been able to cook up something that beats its current offerings — or any other Intel-based MacBooks it plans to announce today, which feels like a long shot.
I don’t see a world where Apple shows off an ARM-based laptop that’s slower than the very best Intel-based MacBooks it’s currently selling (or announcing soon). It’s not Apple’s nature to brag about a silver medal, and especially not when it’s the first company out of the gate to try to push ARM laptops for performance and portability.
The one thing we don’t know is just how the price/performance ratio of Apple’s ARM MacBooks will stack up against its Intel MacBooks; also, what happens to them when Apple ARM makes its big debut. If Apple’s CPUs smoke the performance of its current-gen MacBooks, and Apple can undercut them on price, I think Apple would only be interested in keeping around its Intel-based MacBooks for the sake of giving customers a more gentle transition over the next two years. (And to honour whatever contracts Apple has with Intel, of course.)
As to how that impacts things when it comes time for Apple to update its Intel MacBooks with chips that rival (but probably not beat) its ARM-based MacBooks, we’ll see. A MacBook is a MacBook, after all. All roads (and dollars) lead to Cupertino, but I don’t envision a future press event where Apple highlights the superiority of any Intel chip over its own silicon, if an Intel chip even rises to the occasion like that.
So, don’t expect Apple to bury its Intel-based MacBooks on the Apple store starting tomorrow. You’ll see both ARM- and Intel-based MacBooks competing directly for a while longer, which presents a curious buying dilemma: Should you splurge for a potentially faster ARM-based MacBook with (likely) better battery life and a lower price, but potential app-compatibility issues out of the gate? Or should you opt for a slower Intel-based MacBook that will probably fall out of Apple’s favour before the laptop itself becomes obsolete?
We’ll check back in tomorrow with some buying advice. Based on the rumours, though, I’d definitely keep my eye on Apple’s ARM MacBooks if I were looking to upgrade anytime soon. I don’t foresee app compatibility being that big of an issue unless you really need a complete Windows 10 experience on your ARM MacBook. Otherwise, I can’t imagine that Apple’s new MacBooks will be anything but the very best MacBooks you’ll be able to buy — and soon enough, the only MacBooks you’ll be able to buy.