Apple has released the first of its new Macs with the company’s specially designed M1 Arm processor. But you’d never know when looking at the new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro or Mac mini, all of which look almost identical to their Intel-based predecessors.
And that decision feels like an informed decision. Apple has made some major internal changes here, including a new logic board and a fully integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC) that replaces most of the discrete components in these new Macs. It would have been relatively easy to make more substantial external changes.
The fact that Apple hasn’t made any changes speaks to the way Apple wants you to perceive these computers. The hardware may be new, but the new Macs are still, well, Macs. Buy a new MacBook Pro or MacBook Air and it still looks the way you’d expect. The design, keyboard, and even the wide macOS software (aside from some UI changes in Big Sur) are all familiar to anyone who’s ever used a Mac. There is no radically new form factor, no Face ID login system – not even a touchscreen.
The indication here is that Apple is easing the move to Arm and still wants everyone to think of these as Macs first and foremost. These are still MacBooks and Mac minis, not an iPad with a keyboard or without a display.
Rather than a revolutionary new design, the changes Apple promises (at least to begin with) are improved performance and battery life – two areas that can have a major impact on the day-to-day experience of a computer. If Apple only delivers all-day battery life and faster exports for Final Cut Pro, it has already managed to outperform the old models.
Simply put, the biggest problem with the current line of MacBooks wasn’t that the aluminum design wasn’t sleek enough. It’s almost encouraging to see Apple focus on getting the new setup to work properly before it starts repeating again to keep them looking good too.
Apple is also coming off its best quarter ever for the Mac, with $ 9 billion in sales of its computers (which it even sold to customers aware that Apple was about to launch its first Arm-based models) . Apple doesn’t have to introduce new designs for the sake of the new. As the saying goes, “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,” and at this point it seems that both Apple and customers are quite happy with the current Mac designs.
In addition, there are likely to be bigger changes to the Mac lineup in the future. Apple is lagging behind in some aspects of modern laptop design, such as smaller bezels, flexible form factors and the aforementioned touchscreen. (The Touch Bar certainly doesn’t count.) The current 13-inch design that Apple used on the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air is years old. And there are already rumors of larger screens, new Mini-LED technologies and more.
The cycle actually resembles Apple’s last major architecture change. When Apple switched from PowerPC chips to Intel in 2006, the first laptops and desktops released with the new chips looked almost identical to the previous ones. Newer, slimmer models soon followed, taking advantage of the new capabilities of the Intel chips: the aluminum iMac in 2007, the unibody MacBook Pro and ultra-thin MacBook Air in 2008, the slimmed-down Mac mini in 2010.
But it took Apple time to get to the point where it was ready to release those redesigned Macs. Time for developers to find out how they handled new software changes for the new architecture. And time for the rest of us to build confidence in the new chips, with the assurance that the apps we needed would be ready and that our new computers would work properly.
Keeping the design the same allows Apple to be more careful with the new M1 chips – making these models more of a bridge between the Intel Macs that came earlier and what lies ahead for Apple in the future. There are also many limitations around the new Apple silicon chips that Apple is still working on, such as support for more than 16 GB of RAM or discrete and external GPUs, which the company will likely have to resolve before tinkering with new designs.
It is definitely too early to tell what the The next next-gen Macs can look like. But if Apple can deliver on the performance and power promises it has already begun – and to be clear, that’s very much in the air right now – then the future of Apple’s silicon hardware looks pretty bright. .