Why Apple is Still Making Intel Macs

So, after my last two videos on what Apple Silicon really is and what it really means, I got a bunch of questions from you all asking where that left Intel Macs, especially since Apple was still going to be releasing more of them.


At the exact same time Tim Cook announced that the first Apple Silicon Mac would be shipping this year, he also announced that they still had some new Intel Macs in the pipeline that they were really excited about.

Because, Apple Silicon is going to take some time to rollout. When Tim Cook said we’d get the first system by the end of the year, he said first system SINGULAR. As in one system.

Sure, it could be more, but we can’t expect any more.

He also said the full transition would take two years. As in, it could be two years before the specific Mac you want gets released with an Apple Silicon system-on-a-chip.

Sure, Steve Jobs said it would take two years for the PowerPC to Intel transition back in 2005 and it ended up taking less than one year, but past isn’t always predicate. Things could go just as well this time, or Tim Cook could be far more accurate about the time.

Either way, if you need a new Mac now, now, now, you may simply be in no position to wait for the Apple Silicon version later this year, next year, or seriously, in as much as two years.

And should know my standard advice by now anyway — wait as long as you can to buy, buy when you absolutely have to, buy the best you can afford at the time, and then have zero regrets because there will always be something next.

So, if you need a Mac now, and you can’t wait, don’t feel at all bad about getting an Intel Mac now. It’ll see to your immediate needs and when the time comes for your next next Mac, even better Apple Silicon models will be on the market.

And, especially if you are a high-order-bit Pro, where time is literally money, new systems are paid off by the studio, a single client, or a single gig, getting a new Intel 10th generation iMac or 16-inch MacBook Pro, with next-generation RDNA graphics from AMD, now could be well more than worth it to you even if you plan on getting an Apple Silicon Mac whenever they arrive as well.

If that’s your plan, jump down and tell me which one you’re waiting.

Rev A boards

I have this friend whose like a nerds nerd. He’s written software that’s literally been used by billions of people. On every platform. And there’s two things he doesn’t do — beta and buy rev A boards.

What he means by that is simple: He has to work, he has to produce, and he has absolutely zero time for anything that will slow him down or hinder him for doing that in any way. Which is what cutting edge, never mind bleeding edge, software and hardware will do.

So, he’s always a point version or two behind on his operating system and software updates and a generation or two behind on his computers and cards.

And that’s totally legit. Totally valid as computing choices go.

For some people, having the best and last of the old is just a much smarter, safer, more predictable, more practical position than having the first and least known of the new.

That’s why, while I’m here waiting and just totally obviously salivating over whatever Apple Silicon Macs we get first and soonest, and if you are as well, hit that like button and lets see how how it can go.

But him, he’s just sitting there, laughing, and more than happy for me to be the beta tester, the guinea pig, on all of that for the next year or several.

Just sitting there waiting to see how that family of Apple SoC’s really perform. How that Intel platter really, really gets served by the Apple Silicon’s sandwich.

How Apple scales up from ultra-lights to pro laptops, to desktops, to workstations. How those storm-based CPU cores really compare to Intel’s… endless Lakes. How the custom GPU face off againt Intel embedded and AMD dedicated, never mind Nvidia… How universal memory works compared to the PCI buses. What the RAM and storage stories end up being, the specialized silicon vs. general purpose computing plays.

Just laughing, waiting to spend his money on that 10th Gen, RDNA iMac or MacBook Pro…

And maybe some or many of you are as well. Let me know in the comments.

The software story

Now, as much as Apple loves to hold an event, show off a new product, and say orders start today or this week and they’ll be in the store or at your door immediately if not within a week or two…

When it comes to really new products, as in new category products, Apple typically announces them way earlier than when they ship, sometimes a month, sometimes several.

And no, not to give Tim Cook time to personally come to your house and baseball bat your old Mac so you’ll just have to buy the new one. It’s still not safe for him to travel.

But, no. Seriously no. To give developers time to get their apps ready.

For Apple Silicon specifically, there are a couple ways apps will be able to run.

First, existing Mac apps will run using Rosetta 2, which basically emulates Intel on Apple Silicon. It does a lot of smart things, including translating on download, install, and dynamical as needed, and it will probably run way, way better than anyone is assuming right now, but it’ll still be emulation.

Second is Universal Binaries 2, where developers have the existing Intel version, make a specific version for Apple Silicon, bundle them up, and you just get the right version for your system when you hit download.

Many, if not most developers, especially Indies who really care about the performance of their software are going to jump on that, like Mario on a super mushroom.

But many if not most is not all. Just like not all 32-bit plugins and apps got moved to 64-bit in time to survive the Red Upgrade that was Catalina, not all Intel apps will get moved over to Apple Silicon.

Sometimes it’s because they’re older apps and the people who developed them are just no longer around, and sometimes it’s because they see the Mac as just a niche market and t think they can justify the effort and costs, and sometimes it’s because their own internal resources and priorities and politics make it so it’s going to take them a bunch of months or a year or more to do it.

You know, like Google with iOS apps.

But, if that app happens to be a bleeding edge game or, far more critically, a high-performance audio or video tool, or 3D or scientific modeler that you depend on for your work, than Rosetta 2 just isn’t going to be much comfort… or much help…

And if that app or game doesn’t even exist on macOS to begin with, and you’ve been using Bootcamp to run Windows on your Intel Mac… well… Bootcamp isn’t even going to exist on Apple Silicon Macs either.

That’s all end of line.

So, if you need Windows, like good old-fashioned Windows on Intel, then you’re going to need an Intel Mac for a good long while still.

Which is why Apple is still closing them out, even with delays in the roadmap and shipping chips, and issues with lock-downs and shelter-in-place, and just… everything.

Getting the Mac lineup all good and all updated on the latest Intel and AMD chipsets, and promising to support them with new operating systems for years to come… that just creates the best and strongest foundation for everyone before everything that comes next.