Fifteen years ago, Steve Jobs stood on the stage at Apple's Developers Conference to announce something that--at the time--seemed unthinkable to hardcore Mac users. Apple was switching from PowerPC chips to Intel x86 processors. A year later, the first Intel-based computers launched and it's hard to overstate how important that transition was to the Macs we know today.
Now, according to Bloomberg, Apple plans to announce at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that it's switching again, this time to ARM-based chips. Those are the same processors that power the iPhone and iPad. Before you wonder why Apple would stick a smartphone processor in a laptop, it's worth mentioning that it wouldn't be the first (Samsung and Microsoft already do) and that the A12Z and A13 chips in Apple's devices are as powerful as the processors in many laptops.
While it's not entirely clear when Apple might actually ship new laptops with these chips, it isn't likely to happen before 2021. There are a few challenges, mainly designing and building anything during the global pandemic.
More important, however, is the work required by software developers to redesign their apps to work on a completely different architecture. That's why Apple has to announce the change this far in advance, and the WWDC is the logical platform since it caters to the company's developers.
Those developers need time, otherwise the new laptops will have to launch without much of the software you depend upon to get work done. For example, the Microsoft Surface X uses an ARM processor known as the SQ1, which doesn't properly run 64-bit x86 software. It can run many of them in 32-bit mode using an emulator, but that requires a sacrifice in performance. Some apps, like Dropbox--which can't automatically sync files--don't even fully function.
The potential benefits of this change, however, are huge.
I already mentioned that the A13, which powers the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max, as well as the iPhone SE, is powerful. For many of the things you do every day, it's actually faster than the Intel Core processors that you find in most laptops. The iPad Pro, which actually has an older A12 chip, scores higher on Geekbench 5 testing than the Dell XPS 13 with a quad-core Intel Core i5 I reviewed earlier this month.
Not only that, but the chips also allow for slimmer devices, along with much better battery life. Both of those matter a lot when you're looking for something you can carry with you and get work done.
Ultimately, the perfect laptop for remote work is one that is powerful enough to handle whatever work you do, while portable enough that it's convenient to do that work anywhere. Weight and battery life are critical to that. At the same time, having a laptop that doesn't require you to compromise on performance is just as important.
Every laptop built is a compromise. Even the MacBook Pro, which is arguably the most powerful flagship laptop you can buy, isn't perfect. It's technically portable, sure, but carrying it around all day is a workout.
All of that changes with Apple's decision to build Macs powered by the next-generation A14 chips that we will likely first see in the iPhone 12. We will finally be able to fit the power of the MacBook Pro into the form factor and with the battery life of the MacBook Air, maybe with a larger display.
That sounds like the perfect laptop to me.