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Apple CEO Tim Cook, speaking at WWDC 2020. Screenshot: Axios

Apple used its developer conference to announce its transition to homegrown chips for the Mac, supplanting Intel, which has powered Apple's computer line for the past decade. It also announced updates to its phone, Mac, tablet and watch operating systems.

Why it matters: The shift will give Apple more control of its own destiny, but is likely to add short-term pain for users and developers alike.

Apple said the chip transition for Mac will add better performance, especially at lower power levels as well as the ability to more tightly integrate the software, hardware and processor.

The first Apple-powered Macs will show up before the end of the year, CEO Tim Cook said, with the overall transition expected to take two years. Apple also promised its software will support Intel-based Macs "for years to come."

  • The company is developing a new line of Apple chips to power the Mac, but said that having the company's computers, tablets and phones on the same fundamental chip architecture will add benefits over the long term.
  • Apple said all its own apps, including professional apps like Logic and Final Cut Pro are already designed to work natively on both Apple and Intel chips.
  • As for third-party support, Apple said Microsoft has Office running natively on Apple chips, while Adobe is also working on many of its key Creative Cloud apps, with some already up and running on Apple chips.
  • Apple showed Microsoft's Word and Excel, as well as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator running on an Apple chip-powered Mac.
  • Apple-chip powered Macs will also be able to run iOS apps.
  • Apple will also have a version of "Rosetta" to translate apps designed for Intel-powered Macs, allowing them to run on Apple chips. Apple promises more compatibility and better performance than past emulation, but this will be a key area to watch.
  • To help developers start their work, Apple is creating a special Mac Mini powered by an A12z processor.

Here's what else Apple announced on Monday:

iOS 14

The new version of Apple's phone operating system will include:

  • An "app library" to better view and find all the programs on the phone.
  • Multiple kinds and sizes of widgets, which can now also live on the home screen (a la Android).
  • Support for picture-in-picture, allowing phone users to watch a video while in another app, a feature previously limited to the iPad.
  • A new translation app that works completely offline using on-device machine learning to speak among 11 different languages.
  • Memoji will add support for more hair and hat types, more age ranges as well as face coverings, so even your avatar can wear a mask.
  • The maps app will support cycling directions (starting with LA, SF and NY and cities in China) and help for electric vehicles to plot routes with an eye toward charging stations.
  • Support for using your iPhone as a car key, using the same near-field communications technology used by Apple Pay.
  • App clips that let people get a small version of the app they need instantly, via NFC and/or a camera-scannable code.
  • A developer beta will be available this week, a public beta next month with a final version in the fall.
MacOS
  • Next version will be Big Sur, featuring what Apple says is biggest change to design since the debut of Mac OS X.
  • At first look, Big Sur appears far more iOS-like. (No surprise as iOS and MacOS move closer together)
  • Control Center comes from iOS to the Mac as an easier and more interactive version of System Preferences.
  • Notification Center also comes over from iOS, with widget support.
  • Safari gets foreign language translation as well as extensions that can be limited to specific times or web sites.
  • A developer beta will be available this week, a public beta next month with a final version in the fall.
iPad OS
  • A "Sidebar" in notes, files and photos makes it easier to access each app's actions.
  • Search has been redesigned to be more universal for querying the web, App Store and the contents of the iPad.
  • Scribble text recognition for using a pen to enter text. (Somewhere Bill Gates is screaming about how Microsoft was doing that 10 years ago.) Apple also had early handwriting recognition on the Newton, while the Palm handheld had its Graffiti text recognition.
  • A developer beta will be available this week, a public beta next month with a final version in the fall.
Watch OS
  • Apple Watch owners will be able to share watch faces with friends and download new ones from links on their phone.
  • Sleep tracking, including "wind down" feature for phone and watch that makes it easier to go to bed on time.
  • Apple Watch can automatically detect when you appear to be washing your hands and remind you do it for 20 seconds.
  • Support for dance, core training and cool down as workout types.
  • A developer beta will be available this week, a public beta next month with a final version in the fall.
Apple TV
  • Gains multi-user support for games.
  • Adds support for Xbox adaptive controller, letting more people with disabilities get in on TV gaming.
  • Apple TV+ coming to Sony and Vizio smart TVs starting later this year.
AirPods
  • Will be able to seamlessly switch between devices versus having to manually connect to each new device.
  • AirPods Pro are getting support for spatial audio, that is directional audio.
Privacy
  • A new option to share only approximate location with an app.
  • A clear indication of when an app is recording video or audio.
  • Apps will have to ask before tracking you across other companies' apps and websites.
  • New info showing an app's permissions and privacy policy from App Store.
Home
  • Apple is partnering with Amazon and Google on a new standard for home devices.
  • Easier connection to new smart devices and suggested automations.
  • Adaptive lighting automatically adjust color temperature of smart light bulbs, reducing blue light at night.
  • HomeKit-enabled cameras will use face recognition based on your on-device photos.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Sep 25, 2020 - Technology

Amazon wants to flood America with Alexa cameras and microphones

Photo: Amazon

In a Thursday event unveiling a slew of new home devices ahead of the holidays, Amazon made clearer than ever its determination to flood America with cameras, microphones and the voice of Alexa, its AI assistant.

The big picture: Updating popular products and expanding its range to car alarms and in-home drones, Amazon extended its lead in smart home devices and moved into new areas including cloud gaming and car security. The new offerings will also fuel criticism that the tech giant is helping equip a society built around surveillance.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Rahm Emanuel floated for Transportation secretary

Rahm Emanuel. Photo: Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President-elect Biden is strongly considering Rahm Emanuel to run the Department of Transportation, weighing the former Chicago mayor’s experience on infrastructure spending against concerns from progressives over his policing record.

Why it matters: The DOT could effectively become the new Commerce Department, as infrastructure spending, smart cities construction and the rollout of drone-delivery programs take on increasing economic weight.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden turns to experienced hands for White House economic team

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden plans to announce Cecilia Rouse and Brian Deese as part of his economic team and Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: These are experienced hands. Unveiling a diverse group of advisers also may draw attention away from a selection of Deese to run the National Economic Council. Some progressives have criticized his work at BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm.