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Is Apple silicon just too good?

Right now, it seems Apple does not need any further competition – they are fighting the enemy within…Apples silicon!

Apple silicon - too good?
image courtesy of author

Apple Silicon – a change for the good?

So, what was it, a little over two years ago that Apple announced their vision to move away from Intel, in favour of their own processors – Apple silicon.

The initial roll-out was cautious, and slow.

The M1 odyssey began in November 2020, with the 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Air & Mac mini models. And not to be accused of resting on their laurels, in spring 2021, Apple then added the M1 silicon to the newly designed iMac and the iPad Pro as well.

Early reviews were staggered at the efficiency, speed, and power that these chips were able to deliver, even in their very earliest iterations. Tasks that used to push, even well-decked out Intel Macs, were now being summarily performed at a breeze by Mac’s with Apple silicon inside. M1 Apple silicon, already, seems fairly pedestrian, but we all aware of the road those ‘humble’ beginnings set us on.

They set themselves a two-year transition over to Apple silicon, that would mean every model across the range would have to be packing Apple Silicon, there by freeing themselves of any future ties to Intel. Now, they would now be responsible for their own destiny from start to finish. Hardware, processor, and software. A perfect scenario for the Cupertino tech giant.

That was just the start though

We all knew more would surely be more to come – the basic M1 being a mere apéritif. M1 Apple silicon was simply the fancy biscuit on the butler’s tray for what lay ahead in our personal, computing journey. The mains were next.

The derivatives of M1 have been mind-blowing, with the M1 Pro, M1 Max and M1 Ultra chips all now available across varying Macs. The reaction, pretty much across the board, has been universal. The likes of Jon Prosser, and Luke Miani are saying this current line-up of Apple silicon Macs are some of the best-ever produced, and likely to go down in Mac history.

M2 was launched at this year’s ‘Dub-Dub’ spring event. At present, M2 Apple silicon, is only available in the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the long-awaited, re-designed, MacBook Air. We are witnessing the familiar path being trodden with M2. For now, it is only available with either 8GB, 16GB, or 24GB of unified memory and up to 2TB of storage. More oomph will clearly follow, later this year, one would assume.

All of that is great for us…but where does that leave Apple?

Never missing a trick

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Apple ecosystem, and how upon reflection, it all seemed to have been worked out years ago – the best way to keep us in their walled-garden. I only reference this, to emphasise my next point; Apple rarely make marketing errors.

They may have made the odd mistake with hardware over the years, sure. But marketing, and politely, ever so politely, convincing us of the need to purchase the next new thing, has rarely been an apple that has dropped far from the tree (apology for the pun). They are pretty much past-masters of that art.

And that got me thinking – what will they do with us now?

Money matters

An obvious statement for us all, and equally true for Apple themselves.

From the outside, it seems as if the advent of Apple silicon has been great for us, but long-term, can it be great for Apple too? Sure in the short term, the adulation, glory, rave-reviews and increased sales, have been stellar, but what next?

Clearly, all our needs vary and the point at which we will want or need to change Macs or iPads will differ. But, looking at my situation this year, is probably not a bad baseline from which to view this.

I had eeked the very last drop out of my Intel 27-inch iMac and 15-inch MacBook Pro. I had never owned an Apple silicon Mac, but unless everyone was reporting fibs, then I’d clearly notice the benefits. And yup, I have not been disappointed. I am glad I waited as long as I did, but equally glad I have now made the change.

I now have two Apple silicon Macs that tend to my needs every day, in one way or another. Today I am writing this on the M1 Max MacBook Pro, but to my left sits the M2 MacBook Air. They are capable of all my tasks, so my question is this.

Has Apple shot themselves in the foot?

Convince me then…

Why should I change? Not just now, but over the next 5 or 6 years, how much more power will I need? Assuming I take decent care of the internals etc, the power of these Apple silicon machines should see me through for years to come. I spec’d them well at point of purchase, to future-proof myself.

The switch from Intel to Apple silicon will surely be a once in a generation leap. And once that leap of faith has been made, why change again?

Again, for me, it is possible, a lower end, M3 MacBook Air for example may find its way to my studio. But that would be a decision based on supplying relevant content for you guys, not based on the need for change.

As for the higher end stuff – hell, guys, I’d love to write a review on the soon-to-be announced Mac Pro or M2 Max MacBook Pro when that is out. However, withstanding a lottery win, I just can’t see that becoming a reality. Just like you, I have to buy these bits of kit from my money, so choices have to be made wisely. Much as I may wish, a kindly team at Apple sent me review units…the truth is, that is a long way from becoming a reality.

Affecting the bottom line

The recent fiscal returns, released from Apple, actually bore out some of what I’m reporting about today.

Their most popular Mac, by sales volume, is the MacBook Air. Those figures took a hit in the last quarter, as customers were smart enough to know a new MacBook Air with M2 Apple silicon was just weeks away from being announced. In turn, that affected the financial report, that Apple posted to the waiting Wall Street analysts, and didn’t look great.

Investors much prefer growth to flatlines. Sure, there were other factors contributing to the slowdown – chip supply, the economy, and the war to name but three.

Not for a moment am I suggesting that I’m brighter than the boffins over on Apple campus, but surely, this flatline growth could be an omen of things to come.

The economy is slowing – I don’t think anyone can deny that. Couple that truism, with the very real cost of living hike we are experiencing, and it means there will surely be less disposable income. Historically, Apple has pretty much been able to ride-out economic shockwaves & downturns.

This time is different, though. The world is different, and so are our requirements and aspirations. There are fires to fight near home first & foremost.

Many of these issues, are outside of Apple’s control. But very much within Apple’s control is the fact they have just given us that once-in-a-lifetime ‘leg up’ the Apple pole.

Wrapping up

Even for someone as keen as me, about wanting to use, and write about the latest Apple gear, I would be thinking twice about making any major investments on a Mac over the next few years.

With Apple Silicon, they have given us something special. Hereafter, it will be a case of diminishing returns – surely? Yes, the M3 Max may end up having slightly quicker multicore benchmark numbers, or may be seconds quicker at rendering a 4K video. But enough to tempt me to spend another £3500?

And, due to the uptake & success of Apple silicon, the residuals, and second hand market will be strong as well. Whilst there may be no serious Apple silicon savings to be made, there will be savings none-the-less. And right now, every penny counts. As for a recent Intel Mac’s – there you’ll have bargains a-plenty. So, Apple also has the used & second-hand market to deal with as well.

Has Apple just given us the best at precisely the wrong time – for them, at least?

There is a saying among comics – that the art of great comedy is…timing. That adage could also be true for Apple through these next couple of years.

Tim Cook will want to leave his command of Apple on a high. He is a numbers man, so let’s see what tricks he has up his sleeve.

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