Apple's switch to ARM is HUGE or is it?

After the WWDC of 2 weeks ago it was NOT possible to browse YouTube and NOT see the different videos by Apple fanboys/girls basically stating that this switch from x86 to ARM licensed chips was HUUUUUGE!! Even here at TWIT there was not a single show where this was not spoken about. So much so that for the past 2 weeks, even shows like Windows Weekly turned out to be extensions of Mac Break Weekly. C’mon Leo, are you listening? Give it a break.

Well here I want to examine just how big and significant a change this actually is.

After all the iPad and iPhone have been using Apple designed and manufactured ARM chips for many years and given that the user base IS huge for both of these if a switch to another processor type for these devices were made, it would be HUGE. So lets discount them from this as they are already running ARM and have been for many years.

So the actual switch from x86 to ARM is basically for the Mac desktop (and laptops) and ONLY the Mac!!!

Steve Gibson of Security Now fame in his podcast #722 of 23rd June 2020 @ the 15:10 mark, has this to say:

Quote "The latest market share has Windows 10 solidly in - that is, market share of the desktop - Windows 10 solidly in first place at 53.74%. Windows 7 is in solid second place at 28.35. But after that, so Windows 10 at nearly 54%. Windows 7 at about 28%. Then it’s a drop to third place for macOS X v10.14 at, get this, 3.84%. Then Windows 8.1 at 3.65.

So together the pair of Windows 10 and Windows 7 total 82% of all desktops." (End Quote)

What that means is that this HUUUUGE change is only for 4% of PC users?

The latest figures bear out Steve’s statement:

Market Share

So what exactly is all this hullabaloo about? How can a change for 4% of users ever be a big change?
Yes for Mac users (4%) it may be huge but in the scheme of things, I am sure that Intel and AMD, the makers of the x86 chips have not even blinked. After all why would they for a mere 4% of revenue.

Another thing is the name for the new Mac OSXI -

Whenever I hear it I cannot help thinking about this nursery rhyme:

Baaa Baaa Axxxx sheep, have u any wool
Big Sur, No Sir, 3 bags full.
One for my master…etc.

Sorry guys, I had to add that. :rofl:
Cheers and less noise next time please.

As a non-Apple user, this is big, just as it was big when Apple moved to Intel from PowerPC.

Yes, it is only 4% of the market, or thereabouts. But it is a market that is, essentially 100% Intel at the moment, esoteric things like Raspberry Pis aside. That is big.

Apple is in the top 5 PC makers world wide and it is the most profitable. That makes it big.

But for the normal desktop, there isn’t really a way away from Intel in the short term, as too much of business software is reliant on Intel and (old) Windows.

It is a wake up call to the industry, but it is still one that the mainstream can’t yet take advantage of.

Edit : with business software, I really mean the software that keeps businesses running, not office suites and the like, but ERP, CAM, PLC control and monitoring, industrial processes etc.


I think it’s a big deal because they’ll be the first chip designer to create an ARM design with a focus desktop performance rather than the perf/power compromise that we see in mobile designs. Sure there are some smaller companies that make server offerings, but this is Apple. That 4% of OS X is still a lot of very vocal people, so there’s a huge imperative on Apple to get it right. Now we’ll really see what ARM is capable of in a apples-to-apples fight against the classic x86 architecture.

So yea, I’m the furthest thing from an Apple user but I’m still psyched.


Well, a MacBook Air or Pro with a screaming multicore Axx, super lightweight, with a screaming Apple GPU AND 18 hours of battery life could easily change that Mac market share drastically. (Maybe even a touch screen like the iPad Pro and it can run iOS apps and Mac Apps) And also, the security…ANNND, when the Mac is running Apple Silicon, now the market share is ALL APPLE DEVICES cuz the’ll all run iOS apps


It seems this would Apple’s attempt move from the bulky software if the past. Windows software requires all kinds of extensions and frameworks just operate properly for today’s devices. It’s good to have software that is built today for devices today.

IMO Photoshop vs Affinity would be another example of things moving forward in attempt to leave bulky software behind.

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Yes, this is the first time since the late 80s / early 90s that ARM will have been used as a desktop chip. Until now they have worked on reduced performance or they were in servers. I can’t think of any chip manufacturer that currently tailors their ARM designs for the desktop.


I believe they have stated that they will sacrifice increased battery life, at least to start with and the ARM chips should have a similarl TDP to the Intel U series chips and therefore similar battery performance.


I’d say it’s only as huge as the introduction of the iPhone in 2007.


Apple gets lots of hype for ARM performance, but with the current top super-computer using Arm, the writing is on the wall and has been. The only thing slowing Arm adoption is legacy apps and code.
Windows has had a working Arm version for years, but their instance on supporting 20-30 year old x86 only APIs allows business to keep the same old code base and not modernize, so their Arm version never has a chance to grow since it lacks the legacy support.

Apple is small enough that it can afford to lose a few people that are invested in legacy x86, just like they dropped the die-hard supporters of PowerPC. But I doubt that it will have any immediate affect on the market.
If Dell announced they would try selling an Arm server again, that might see a bigger shakeup if they could sort out the supply issues that killed their first attempt 6 years ago. Again we see how Apple’s small market share is a benefit, as well as controlling your own CPU manufacture.


I am not an industry analyst but I do work in the tech sector and can do basic arithmetic.

A couple points:

  1. I don’t know if Gibson sourced his numbers or not but you don’t mention a source.

  2. There is a little bit of strange counting in the quote from Gibson in that two major releases of Windows are combined and counted against one release of MacOS

Both IDC and Gartner estimate Macs at between 7% and 8% of the world PC market in Q4 2019. Still not a lot but almost double Gibson’s number (FYI net.marketshare lists MacOS as 9.7% of net traffic).

So, assuming the ARM move doesn’t change Mac market share much in either direction, about 8% of the x86 PC market is going away. Apple only uses Intel chips in Macs so that 8% of the total market is all coming from Intel. AMD has been steadily gaining on Intel and now has about 20% of the Destop/Laptop market. That means with Macs going to Apple Silicon, Intel is going to lose 10% of their PC business. Intel made $9.8 billion in PCs in Q1 of 2020. So, Apple moving to their own chips means $800 million to $1 billion less revenue to Intel every quarter. Plus Apple doesn’t buy INtel’s cheapest lowest margin chips so the margin impact will be greater still.

That may not be a big issue to you but to Intel, which is already trying to fight off AMD, I expect it is viewed as a serious problem.

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IMHO CPU architectures are basically fads. Remember when SPARC was going to run the Internet… ooops. Remember when Itanium was going to rule… well… let’s not make jokes. The thing is… in general, the hardware doesn’t end up making any big difference. To quote Steve Ballmer: Developers! Developers! Developers! It’s all about the software. Right now the fad is people are making software for the web, and I don’t really think the hardware running it makes much of a difference. So yay to Apple for having the balls to try something new… but who really cares when they’re so damned hostile toward Developers! Developers! Developers!

A major desktop platform based on arm with superior performance can be transformative. It will take a small but lucrative piece of the market from other manufacturers. Not those people who depend on legacy apps but the innovators who need top performance.
This segment of the market also acts as a live advertisement that is why all major manufacturers compete with Apple on high performance systems.
As long as everyone is on x86 the differences are small, now with arm, apple will have a competitive advantage that other people cannot copy because even if they have the cpu they do not have the platform unless they adopt Linux as their main platform which suits me fine.
In any case it will boost innovation so it will benefit everyone.

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I agree - this is huge

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