Apple loves to control every aspect of their products. From hardware to software, the company dips its fingers in almost everything. Though iPhones had a reputation for having a “walled garden” in terms of software, since modifications were not possible (without hacking at least) and apps were only available through the App Store, this has long extended into hardware.
Apple designs its own mobile processors that go into the iPhone and iPad, doing a great job at it too. They also have custom security chips in many of their products, even laptops and desktops, that manage everything from biometrics to audio. And if this report is to be believed, analyst Ming-Chi Kui says that the company is taking the next logical step and will be releasing both laptops and desktops featuring custom-designed ARM-based processors late next year.
Replacing the usual x86 chips found in computers with ARM-based chips like smartphones makes sense. ARM-based chips run cooler, use less power, and are easier to manufacture. The architecture is wildly different and a massive other topic but a longer-lasting laptop without fans makes sense. However, you’ll lose all compatibility with every piece of software made for the x86 architecture, and emulation attempts will likely underperform current benchmarks,
We know this because it’s been done. Microsoft launched the Surface X, a tablet/laptop combo much like their regular Intel models but with a Qualcomm-based CPU. Standard x86 emulation didn’t work well at all, but for everyday users, this might not be a big deal. Unfortunately, according to most reviews, performance and battery life were problems, and the price tag was still high.
It’s likely that we’ll see ARM-based computers greatly improve in the next few years. But knowing Apple, expect limited compatibility with your favorite software while maintaining a high price tag. We expect a more iPad-like experience, with limited functionality but hopefully better portability and battery life. And there will definitely be growing pains. But ARM might be the future of ultrathin laptops, so we’ll have to see.