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

Apple's market value has risen by nearly $1 trillion since September

Data: FactSet; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Apple's market cap is screeching toward $2 trillion, less than a year after rising above the $1 trillion mark again in September 2019.

What happened: The company first gained 13-figure status in early August 2018 but saw its valuation sink to a mere $709 billion following the market downturn of late 2018.

Updated Aug 6, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: Ethical tech in crisis

On Thursday August 6, Axios Cities author Kim Hart hosted a conversation on how technology companies are responding to the pandemic, featuring former U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil and Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth.

DJ Patil unpacked how tech companies are building ethical and responsible tech centered on privacy and transparency during a time of crisis.

  • On the issue of misinformation during a pandemic: "It's no small statement to say [misinformation] is life or death. And so platforms have responsibility right now to figure out what is the right level of action at a bare minimum. It's creating stricter standards for how and what is allowed on their platforms."
  • On his concerns with the lasting consequences of quickly developing COVID-19 response technology: "It's easy to say this technology can be beneficial. But I have very serious reservations about it being deployed. What happens once it's deployed? Do we keep that in place after a pandemic? Those are the questions that we should be prepared to answer right now."

Kenneth Roth discussed different contact tracing models, highlighting the Bluetooth-based contact tracing system designed by Apple and Google.

  • On apps that use Bluetooth technology rather than location data for contract tracing: "Not relying on location data is a huge step forward in terms of privacy...[The app] did not identify infector, [it] simply told somebody that you were near somebody who was infected. They didn't put the data in a central database that the government might use for other reasons."
  • On the responsibility of Big Tech when it comes to moderating what contract tracing apps are allowing in their stores: "When you have problematic uses of technology of this sort, Google and Apple shouldn't participate. They should say we're not going to let you put apps like this on our stores if you're going to be using it this highly abusive way."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with
Chief Ethical and Humane Use Officer at Salesforce Paula Goldman who discussed Salesforce's work on ethical tech development.

  • On having clear priorities in developing ethical technology: "Even though there's no definition of responsible tech for a pandemic, we need to think about things like privacy. We need to think about how vulnerable groups [are] being affected."

Thank you Salesforce for sponsoring this event.

How small businesses got stiffed by the coronavirus pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The story of American businesses in the coronavirus pandemic is a tale of two markets — one made up of tech firms and online retailers as winners awash in capital, and another of brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop shops that is collapsing.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic has created an environment where losing industries like traditional retail and hospitality as well as a sizable portion of firms owned by women, immigrants and people of color are wiped out and may be gone for good.