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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

At a Tuesday event Apple is expected to announce the first Macs to be powered by the same kind of Apple-designed chips already used for iPhones and iPads.

The big picture: While Apple will make a lot of noise about its move away from Intel processors, the more flawlessly the company executes the transition, the less consumers will even notice.

Yes, but: Pulling that off will require great tools from Apple and tons of work on the part of software developers.

Why it matters: Shifting processors could allow Apple cost savings and design flexibility down the road, but it creates short-term uncertainty for consumers and some headaches for the Mac ecosystem — plus an opportunity for Windows if the effort stumbles.

Apple has predicted the overall transition should take about two years and has promised to support Intel-powered Macs "for years to come."

Between the lines: Apple has to accomplish several things with the new Macs.

  1. Prove that the first of these new Macs can already offer a combination of battery life and power that exceeds its current computers. That's important because there will certainly be other trade-offs in the form of apps that either don't work at all or have to be run using emulation, which typically creates a big drag on performance.
  2. Demonstrate that outside developers are committed to moving key software over in a timely manner. The company is off to a good start, having already demonstrated early work from Adobe and Microsoft to get their mainstay programs natively running on Apple silicon.
  3. Show other Mac developers that it will be a manageable task for them to do the same.
  4. Convince enough buyers to snap up these initial Apple chip-powered machines to encourage those developers to move quickly.

Of note: Apple is moving to an architecture already well known to developers, since the processor belongs to the same chip family that runs in the iPhone and iPad. That should also make it easier than ever for mobile developers to bring their apps to the Mac.

History lesson: Such transitions can be tough, but no company has done this better or more often than Apple.

  • In the mid-1990s, Apple moved from the original Motorola chips that powered the first Macs to PowerPC chips, which were a joint IBM-Motorola effort.
  • Apple moved from the original Mac OS to the Unix-based OS X operating system in the early 2000s.
  • Apple shifted from PowerPC to Intel chips starting in 2005.

The bottom line: This is all about execution, but Apple has a lot of experience to rely on.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated Jan 27, 2021 - Technology

Apple's quarterly sales top $100 billion for first time

Credit: Apple

Spurred by strong sales of the latest iPhones, Apple reported it took in a record $111 billion in revenue for the three months ended Dec. 31, as the company crushed expectations.

Why it matters: The move showed even a pandemic didn't dull demand for Apple's latest smartphones.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 3 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.