Apple said it plans to ship the first Mac with its own silicon by the end of the year and complete the transition in about two years. Apple even showed Microsoft Word and Excel running on macOS Big Sur via a MacBook with Apple's A12Z SoC before demoing Photoshop and Lightroom.
The new release of macOS and iPad OS takes the iPhone software and optimizes it for iPad by adding a suite of device-specific features, like a universal search feature that fuses web search, in-app search and on-device search all into one, and enhanced functionality for Apple's stylus, the Pencil. Universal 2, a new binary that works on Intel Macs and Apple Silicon Macs can use the binary for all of their users. Apple will no longer make use of Intel processors for their future products, but rather will move to their own developed SoCs based on ARM architecture. But Apple CEO Tim Cook also says that more Intel-based Macs are in the company's pipeline. Rosetta 2 lets users run existing Mac apps that software developers haven't updated to the new Mac platform.
All of Apple's apps on Big Sur will run on Apple's custom chips, too.
There may have been nothing that will blow away a Mac or iOS user in these releases, but the incremental improvements have an increasingly powerful idea in common: the fact that devices are created to work together smoothly, making product transitions more efficient. This marks a huge shift away from Intel, the chipmaker Apple has relied on for the past 15 years. Rosetta 2 on Apple Silicon Macs offers fast performance and translates your apps at install time.
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Apple is talking about a "whole new level of performance" for the Mac with the transition as well as more innovation through custom technologies on the chip including security and graphics. Well, presumably an app problem, but Apple promises the process has been streamlined and should be relatively painless for developers.
While Apple announced the change from Intel to ARM today, it gave only a general timeline for the switch.
iPhone and Apple apps will now also run natively on the desktop, with no recompilation or other adjustments needed. iPhone apps will now be available in the Mac App Store.
As usual, developers must submit to a confidentiality agreement that states program participants can not "publicly write about or review" the Developer Transition Kit, or share or display the unit without Apple's prior written approval.