Is Apple Leaving Intel Macs Behind?

While all recent Macs are getting new macOS 12 'Monterey' features like Universal Control, AirPlay to Mac, Shortcuts (in AppKit!), redesigned Safari, and ecosystem features like SharePlay, Quick Notes, Spatial Audio, iCloud+, and more, Intel Macs aren't getting some Apple silicon-dependant features like Live Text, system-wide Translation, Portrait Mode in FaceTime, and Apple Earth. And that's making some people hella mad!

So, what's the deal?

"For the first time, some of Apple's own features will only be available on computers with the company's homegrown silicon," It's because first time Apple has computers with homegrown silicon.

So just like in my video yesterday where I went over why some people were hella mad, hella angry that Apple didn't use WWDC and the M1 as an opportunity to bring macOS to the iPad Pro, I'm gonna go over today why some people are just as mad, just as angry, that Apple with macOS Monterey is bringing some features exclusively to the M1 Mac and not to the previous Intel Macs. "Apple starts leaving Intel Macs behind in macOS Monterey.

And that includes the features that they wanna bring to those products. So it is absolutely not a surprise that once Apple has the same kind of capabilities in Macs that they've had in iOS devices for over a decade now, they are gonna just use the ever loving stuffing out of those capabilities. "As MacRumors spotted after Apple's developer conference this week, the teeny-tiny footnote at the very bottom of the macOS Monterey preview page indicate that certain new upgrades will only be available on Macs with M1 chips." And first, kudos to MacRumors for not only finding that story and posting it so early, but the minute I gave some context to it on Twitter, Joe Rossignol immediately updated with that context. "A portrait mode in FaceTime that lets you blur your background during calls won't be available for Intel Macs. Neither will Apple's new LiveText feature, which allow you to copy text directly from photos." So in the case of these specific features, of several of the features that are exclusive to the M1 to the Apple silicon Macs, it's because a neural engine, the 16-core neural engine is exclusive to the M1 Macs. It's part of the same package that went into the A14, that went into the the M1. The same Silicon generation, the same architecture that Apple is using across their devices this year from the iPhone to the iPad Air to the iPad Pro to the new Macs.

And what it does is allow Apple to perform all of these machine learning operations much, much more quickly than if they had to write everything out to the GPU, for example. But if that doesn't exist on Intel, and part of the reason Apple has been so frustrated is that they couldn't do the same kind of features that they could do on iOS on the Mac because Intel lack these things. And Apple has been working around sort of these deficits in Intel chips for years using things like the T2 chip, which they offloaded not only real-time encryption too, but also like things like H.265 transcode, encode, and decode. Because it just it worked way better on the Apple silicon than it could on the sort of generalized Intel chips. But the T2 is an equivalent to an A10 processor, and that is the generation before Apple introduced neural networks, those came with the A11 with the iPhone X's chipset. So those features were just simply not available in T2 equipped Macs and T1 Macs that was based on the S2 on the second generation Apple watch system in package, which didn't have any concept of a neural engine either. And of course, older Macs just had nothing, not even a T2 or a T1 chip.

So these features were specifically designed for iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. And because Apple is now running those same chipsets on the Mac, I never wanna use the word trivial when it comes to software development, but it is probably as close to trivial as it has ever been for Apple to take features from iOS and bring them over to macOS, because they will writ large, in theory, just work. Essentially the Mac is now getting those features for quote, unquote free. "Some of Apple's revamped Maps features, including a detailed city mode and the ability to manipulate an interactive globe market will also be M1 exclusives." Now, those features don't rely on the neural engine, but they do rely on the performance efficiency of M1. And you can actually go into debug mode and turn a flag, switch a flag, flip a bit, and enable those even on the Intel Macs. And they will work, but the frame rate is not good, it is bad. And I'm not sure exactly what the battery cost is, but there is an additional battery cost of doing it that way as well. So Apple just disabled it rather than have a bad experience. And there's sort of a rock and a hard place situation going on there.

And again, it's never my intent to make excuses for Apple. They're a multi-trillion dollar company. They have whole departments that they can use to make us use it for anything they wanna do. I wanna give you the information so you can decide for yourself if Apple made a good call, a bad call, or just everything is a compromise, everything is a trade-off, and it all could have gone either way. Totally up to you to decide. But for Apple, they wanna always provide a good experience. And if anything doesn't meet their sometimes ridiculously high standards, especially when it comes to things like frame rate, which they have been just obsessed with at a fundamental, core DNA level, since the original iPhone, like if anything didn't hit 60 frames per second on an iPhone, it did not ship. And these features are exactly the same in those class, so Apple just turns them off. So given that people can find a way to be royally pissed, and sometimes, absolutely justifiably, so, either way, Apple just draws a line in the sand and says, " You know, this, we will not cross. If it doesn't do this, we are not shipping it." And they'll take their lumps for that decision if they have to. "Apple's in the habit of making very bold moves if it helps them tighten up their ecosystem, says Linn Huang, research vice president at the tech analyst group IDC.

And this certainly feels like the start of something like that." For years, for years, the Mac was just behind the iPhone and the iPad. Features that existed on the iPhone and the iPad took forever to come to the Mac, like Shortcuts just did this year. And apps that were on the Mac were just so far behind. The version of those apps that were on the iPhone or the iPad, things like Messages and Maps. And just the whole idea that if Intel can't have them, M1 shouldn't have them feels just so utterly desolate, and cynical, and pessimistic to me that I have a hard time entertaining it. "Apple wants to tap into the machine learning capabilities of its new M1 chip, Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, said in an email. Pat says that while Intel has chips that could enable these features in theory, Apple is concentrating its efforts on its home grown silicon. Therefore Apple is likely only motivated to do the work for go-forward processors." And one thing to note, because Wired completely fails to note this, is that Pat includes Intel on his client list, Intel but not Apple. Pat consults for, works for Intel, does not consult or work for Apple. Because Apple just doesn't believe in those kinds of consultants. So while Pat is absolutely upstanding, and he has a reputation to protect and he's gonna always give you the best insight that he can, if you're a publication, and these are the analysts you're asking, you really need to note any potential conflicts of interests right there in the article, because otherwise they can come back to bite you. "Their points about neural engine are very apt, Huang says. But that's not to say none of this could be done on Intel with a little bit of elbow grease."

And yeah, so exactly what I said. But it's not only that it would require that elbow grease to implement those M1 features on Intel, but that those elbows could then not implement any Mac specific features as well. It's the simple realities of the development process. The reason why we haven't been getting day and date features on the Mac previously, because it entails more work. And I say, we as someone who's still using an Intel 16-inch MacBook Pro because they just don't make a 16-inch Mac book Pro with Apple silicon yet. So, you people who are using M1 Macs are getting those features day and date now. So Apple absolutely could assign engineers to go and take these features that are already built, that are already ready to deploy for Apple silicon and recreate those for Intel. But it would take the same amount of time again to do them, probably more, because Apple has specifically optimized their own custom silicon to do exactly the kind of features that they have road mapped out for their products, where Intel is this big generic box that they'd have to do any number of engineering workarounds to achieve the same results.

And that is what would cause the delays, not only in how long it would take to get these iPhone and iPad features ported over to the Mac, but at the opportunity cost that those Mac specific engineers would otherwise be spending that time on Mac specific features, on features that don't exist on the iPhone and iOS. And for good and for ill, whether you agree with it or you hate it, Apple has always, always been absolutely relentless in leaving the past behind, in destroying it whenever they possibly could so they could embrace the future. Move towards the future as fast as inhumanly possible. "It's a really clever move by Apple to force obsolescence and get users to buy new Macs to increase revenue, Moorhead says." But in a different universe where Apple had provided these features and they didn't work as well on Intel as they do on Apple silicon because they're purpose built for Apple silicon. And Apple silicon just simply perform so much better than Intel. they'd find another analyst or that analyst but find another angle just to say, "Apple is making sure things don't perform as well on Intel as they do on M1 to force people to upgrade." And I can just see like a Fringeverse a, my nightmare, a coffee free Fringeverse where Apple decided to withhold features from M1 Macs just because they didn't wanna make the Intel Mac owners salty.

And so once again, iOS, the iPhone, and the iPad get LiveText and Translate, and blurry backgrounds, all of these things. And they're totally absent from the Mac, or they take until next year or the year after to show up on the Mac, when Apple can finally get Intel compatibility working up to their standards. At a time when Intel is further and further from consciousness anyway. And then the articles that would come out from the exact same publications would be so super salty about that. Apple deliberately denies M1 features from new Mac owners. And then I feel zero sympathy for Apple because trillion dollar company, and they can take every lump they need to take. And they should take every lump that they can possibly take. But as someone who deeply loves the Mac, as someone who understands that the whole reason that Apple transitioned from Intel to their own custom silicon was to be able to deliver features, not just in number, but in quality, and on time that were just impossible with Intel. This is the entire reason for doing that.

And I just, I refuse to be rage baited about that. Because eventually, I will get that M1X MacBook Pro of my dreams, and it'll have all of these features. And if you're waiting two or three more years, you will get whatever more additional features come there and you will be better off as well. So again, there are very specific, very pragmatic reasons why Apple made the choices they did when it comes to having these features exclusive to M1 Macs. But now, after hearing those reasons, if you think that's the best decision Apple could have made, they made the right choice, that's great. But if you still think that Apple made the wrong choice, that they should have spent the time and resources to port these features over to Intel as well, even if it would have taken more time, even it would have been at the cost of other Mac specific features, then I think that's great too. You know, I'll never ever tell you not to hate, but I will always, always make sure that if you hate, you can hate as smart as absolutely possible.