Apple announced this week that they're developing their own chips for all their hardware range, along with a new macOS version called Big Sur. That means, for the first time, all Apple's hardware will use the same ARM-based chips made in-house by Apple themselves. It also means that developers can make apps that work across both iOS and macOS simultaneously. Apple also announced their opening up their 'Find My' system to third parties. First USB stick to add it for DJs wins.
The transition away from Intel comes 15 years after Apple's previous transition from PowerPC, which heavily impacted music-makers for years as developers re-made their software to be compatible with the new environment. This time though, Apple has already said the transition will be smoother, although the Rosetta platform that oversaw the transition back in 2005 is returning as Rosetta 2. So what does it mean for music-makers and DJs?
There's no need to panic – your Mac computer with an Intel chip will still work with any new OS updates for the foreseeable future. Apple's new macOS update Big Sur well be the first to include tools to facilitate the transition for developers. The tech giant said: "Apple will continue to support and release new versions of macOS for Intel-based Macs for years to come, and has exciting new Intel-based Macs in development."
Both the transition from PowerPC to Intel and the transition from 32- to 64-bit will be painful memories for music-makers, with some developers taking longer than others to update their apps, some charging for the updates and some not updating at all. Apple has already addressed the issue, saying: "With the translation technology of Rosetta 2, users will be able to run existing Mac apps that have not yet been updated, including those with plug-ins." Of course, the theory is often simpler than the practice so we'll have to wait and see how the transition plays out. As usual with plug-in and OS updates, nothing ever runs smoothly.
"Any iPad apps for music-making will now open on your desktop or laptop too"
Probably the most exciting aspect of the new chips, and why it matters for producers and DJs, is that apps will now be cross-platform between iPadOS and macOS. That means any iPad apps for music-making will now open on your desktop or laptop too. MusicRadar report there's rumours that AUv3 could be supported, which means any apps could now run inside your DAW as plugins. It also means that the iPad Pro is becoming more and more appealing for music-makers, as the two OSs continue to merge, it's becoming more and more like a desktop machine with the added bonus of touchscreen. Or will we see the MacBook Pro display be given touchscreen capabilities? Rumours of Logic Pro and other creative apps on the iPad Pro are already out there.
I am now 100% confident that FCPX, Logic Pro & Xcode are coming to iPad Pro.
I cannot confidently say to what capacity, or with what limitations due to RAM management — but it’s happening within the next year or so.
You can choose to trust me on that, or not, I suppose
— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) April 22, 2020
While Apple has said it's possible to start shipping the first ARM Mac by the end of the year, they intend to "complete the transition in about two years." That means you have some time before you have to start considering what kind of Mac to buy next. It does mean though if you're thinking of buying a new Mac, or you need to, you're in a tough position, whether to wait it out for the newest Mac – which may not support all your software – or to buy an Intel with a shorter shelf life and re-sale value.
Right now, it's probably a good idea to go for a second hand Intel to ride out the transition with less investment and go for the ARMs once you're confident your studio or DJ computer won't suffer from incompatibility issues. How long that will be, we cannot say. Read more about the move to ARM here.