ARM predictions for 2021 and beyond

“With Microsoft and Windows 10 on ARM clearly on the path and Apple set to join the party we are in for some interesting transition years ahead as mobile continues to eat the computing landscape.”

Later this week Apple are rumoured to be announcing their first Apple Silicon based Mac.  This is going to be running an ARM architecture vs x86 as they have done for many years with Intel processors.

So what’s the big deal?

ARM is the architecture used in mobile phones and tablets (think iOS, iPad, Samsung phones etc.)  Shifting a desktop operating system to run on ARM is no easy task but one that is ultimately going to happen for all devices given the power and size advantages that have been proven over and over again.  ARM is the winner the timeline is the only unknown.

Microsoft have started down this path with Windows on ARM now front and center with their Surface Pro X.

Not to be outdone, and highlighting the gravity of the shift, VMware recently announced they have successfully ported ESXi to ARM. Amazon are already at version two of their ARM servers, aptly named AWS Graviton2, and are offering a 40% better price performance over comparable x86 servers.


So what does this actually mean?

Let’s start with the phone.  Game developers over the years have appeared on stage at various Apple keynote events showing their game running on an iPhone and talking about the amazing work they have done to run it at full frame rate with words like radiosity lighting, and HDR common.  This highlighted that you don’t need a big thumping power sucking liquid cooled gaming rig to run a great game.  You can actually do it on a low power energy efficient phone if you get the software stack right thanks to the ARM architecture.

Moving up a notch I have been living life on a Surface Pro X for the past year and after a bit of a rocky start it is now running faster than ANY PC I have ever owned despite the geek bench scores telling me it is going to be slow.  This is once again a testament to Microsoft optimising the software (both the OS and apps) to run on the ARM architecture. 

Simply put it boots faster, wakes from sleep faster and loads apps faster than any x86 PC and with each release it is getting better.



So now to Apple.  We all know the MacBook Air was a watershed moment for the PC market.  Apple pushed the envelope to the max and stuffed what seemed impossible into a size that was unheard of.

At the time other PCs were twice the thickness and had complex fan designs to cool them and if you needed to use it without a power outlet nearby you would be in trouble in just a couple of hrs.  Step forward to what Apple have managed to stuff into an iPad (ARM architecture) and you start to see where I am going with this.

Microsoft and the Surface Pro X have managed to build a fan-less, 7.3 mm thin laptop that is in my opinion excellent.   

This could be achieved only with the ARM architecture.  If Microsoft have managed this what will Apple be able to do?  (For reference an iPad is 5.9mm or some 20% thinner than a Surface Pro X.)

Onto the fun part…



Predictions for the next MacBook

This will be the thinnest MacBook ever and Apple will let us know this is the case in only the way Apple can.

Probability = High

It will be the longest lasting MacBook ever and we may even see a PC that has a real 2-day battery life.  Apple are very good at optimising hardware and software together and 20+ hours of battery could very well be on the cards.

Probability = High

The first cellular connected MacBook.  Apple know how to engineer cellular devices from iPhone and iPad and I predict we will see the first 5G MacBook given the close-knit relationship cellular and ARM have from the billions of phones on the market.

Probability = Medium

2-in-1 removable keyboard. Is this the opportunity to introduce macOS to touch? Apple is massively responsible for the way we touch our devices today and macOS has fallen behind Windows 10 in the touch race given they don’t even have a horse in the race yet. Is ARM the catalyst to releasing a 2-in-1 touch MacBook?

Probability = Low


Looking Ahead to 2021

With Microsoft and Windows 10 on ARM already on the path and Apple set to join the party we are in for some interesting transition years ahead as mobile continues to eat the computing landscape. 

Beyond thinner, lighter and longer lasting devices, the real game changer is going to be when cloud data centers switch to ARM and reduce their power bill and real estate footprint by half (or more).

That has to be a good thing.

Mobile wins… again.

If you are geek and you made it this far and still have 20 mins to spare. This video is a cracker at breaking down the tech.