With the launch of the M1 processor and the inclusion of the ARM-based silicon into the new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, Apple has achieved more than set up the Mac for a new germination. It’s helped Microsoft join it. The Surface Pro X saw its processor updated this year, and Windows 10 on ARM can expect to get a significant boost thanks to Apple’s decisions.
First up, and perhaps the biggest influence on the Pro X’s reputation, is the lack not just of killer apps, but the keystone apps used by many.
So many of the Surface Pro X reviews included a list of apps that the reviewer believed was key that would either not run natively on Microsoft’s ARM platform, or would only run under emulation with the associated impact on performance and battery life. And yes, I’m looking at everyone who wanted Photoshop.
Although Adobe was on stage at the launch of the Pro X in 2019, it took until November 2020 for any of the creative cloud apps debuted as ARM native apps. That Photoshop appeared in beta for both the macOS and Windows 10 ARM platforms just a few days after the firs ARM-based MacBooks were launched will have been noticed by many.
Compared to the rest of Windows 10, the footprint of the ARM devices such as the Surface Pro X is tiny. Contrast that to Apple’s ‘all-in’ move, which will see every new Mac running on the ARM-based family that is being marketed as ‘Apple Silicon’. Working with the former could be seen as a passion project, working with the latter is a necessity.
And that significant push from Apple will, like a line of dominos, support Windows 10 on ARM as well.
I’m intrigued to see what Google’s next move will be. With so many of its services reliant on Chrome, it is in its interest to have Chrome available for as many platforms as possible. Right now there are no native ARM builds for macOS or Windows 10… ish.
The building blocks of the Chrome browser are available for ARM. Microsoft’s own Edge browser is built around Chromium, the open source software project sponsored by Google. The Chromium browser project also has regular ARM builds that allow yo install the Chromium browser directly (contrary to popular belief you can install ARM apps from outside the Windows Store).
Chrome for Apple Silicon showed up briefly last week before being pulled for technical issues. No doubt it will be back. I doubt that Google will want to leave Windows 10 on ARM without its own browser while covering off Apple’s ARM ambitions.
It’s much harder to ignore two major platform running on ARM than a smaller subset of one platform. With Apple in the room, Microsoft will get a lot more attention.
And then there’s the hardware itself. Consumers may not pour over the detailed benchmarking or chip specification, but they understand that a laptop will have more battery life, that it will be lighter, and it will run ‘faster’. Apple has certainly got that message over with the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro machines. Putting aside Microsoft’s Surface family for the moment (even though it can offer an extra two to three hours over the Intel-based Surface Pros), the likes of Dell, Lenovo, and HP, are all going to be looking at the reaction to the new Macs.
While they are not going to be able to commit to switching over every single product in the way that Apple has, then can certainly introduce ARM variants, or potentially a new line of ARM machines that will offer the same benefits over the Intel machines. Which will create a virtuous cycle of more ARM machines.
Microsoft showed the way last year in its own quiet way. Now Apple, with all of its pomp and circumstance behind the new machines has not only legitimised Mcirosoft’s decision, but created some friendly rivalry that should push the two ARM platforms forward to reach new highs. After all these are but the first iterations from the two companies.