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Apple teases new macOS Big Sur & goes all-in on silicon SoC

23 Jun 2020

Apple is officially taking its Mac ecosystem into the silicon era, opening up new possibilities for developers to create apps across all Apple products.

Apple’s silicon design system-on-a-chip (SoC) is built for an architecture custom-designed for the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.  With the addition of Mac to the SoC ecosystem, the Mac will benefit from higher performance and more capabilities in areas such as app development and machine learning.

“From the beginning, the Mac has always embraced big changes to stay at the forefront of personal computing. Today we’re announcing our transition to Apple silicon, making this a historic day for the Mac,” declares Apple CEO Tim Cook. 

“With its powerful features and industry-leading performance, Apple silicon will make the Mac stronger and more capable than ever. I’ve never been more excited about the future of the Mac.” 

Apple Developer Program members can start moving their apps to Apple silicon today by applying for the Universal App Quick Start Program. The program provides access to documentation, forums support, beta versions of macOS Big Sur and Xcode 12, and includes the limited use of a DTK, which will enable developers to build and test their Universal 2 apps. 

The DTK, which must be returned to Apple at the end of the program, consists of a Mac mini with Apple’s A12Z Bionic SoC inside and desktop specs, including 16GB of memory, a 512GB SSD, and a variety of Mac I/O ports. Developers can apply to the program at a cost of $879.

Apple plans to ship the first Mac with Apple silicon by the end of the year and complete the transition in about two years.  The company will continue to support and release new versions of macOS for Intel-based Macs, with new Intel-based Macs in development. 

Apple teases new macOS Big Sur

Apple has also announced the next version of the macOS operating system, macOS Big Sur.

Big Sur’s most notable changes include a major overhaul of the Safari web browser, which features redesigned tabs, displaying favicons by default to easily identify open tabs, and giving users a quick preview of a page by simply hovering over the tab. Safari also features new personalisation options such as background images, language translation, and improved extension support.

 A new Privacy Report also provides visibility about how Safari tracks browsing activity.

Other notable updates in macOS Big Sur include Messages, which now has new tools such as conversation pinning and a redesigned search function, as well as Memoji customisation, and group messaging.

Big Sur users will also find that the Maps app has been redesigned, with features including Guides (to find places to go), plus Look Around for 360-degree views of a destination, and indoor maps of airports and shopping centres. Cycling and electric vehicle trips can now be routed on a Mac, and sent directly to iPhone to have when on the go.

Apple says macOS Big Sur offers more transparency and control over their data. Inspired by the convenience and readability of food nutrition labels, new privacy information detailed in the Mac App Store will help users understand the privacy practices of apps before downloading them, including the types of data the apps might collect — such as usage, contact information, or location — and whether that data is shared with third parties for tracking.

The developer beta of macOS Big Sur is available to Apple Developer Program members starting today, and a public beta will be available to Mac users next month. 

macOS Big Sur will be available later this year as a free software update.