Apple Should License the M1 Chip for Affordable Mac Clones
Back in the dark days of Apple, the almost forgotten mid-1990s, there was a booming business of Mac Clones, licensed, Apple-ish systems running iOS 7 on RISC-based Power PC chips. The quality and designs were decidedly un-Mac-like, but the license business served as a lifesaving revenue bridge between Apple’s stumbling mid-1990s and the return of Steve Jobs.
Jobs killed the licensing business in 1997 and remade the Mac as a translucent and desirable objet d’digital art.
Since then, Apple’s maintained a vicelike grip on the tech and design specs for all Macintosh computers, repositioning them as bespoke, high-end, aspirational computers, systems that often offered less (at least in the way of specs) for more. Apple fans have long been willing to pay premium prices for Apple’s certain special something, but that’s also served to keep Macintoshes in the global market share minority.
2020, however, was an unusual year (I know, understatement) for Mac fortunes. According to IDC, Apple’s Mac business grew by 49.1% in Q4 of 2020. Granted the Mac still sits at just 8% of the global PC shipment market, but that’s up 1.2% from 2019. MacOS has approximately 16% market share.
With working from home and remote learning now a fixture, I’m certain Apple’s desktop business will continue to grow in 2021, and Apple will chip away at Lenovo, HP, and Dell’s formidable market positions.
But there may be another, faster way: Apple silicon.
Apple’s stunning success with its first homegrown desktop silicon since the PowerPC chip (which it built with IBM) is more than just an opportunity to pull its Mac line off the Intel platform.
Built under Apple’s direction by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Apple’s first chip, the M1, blew away even the sunniest expectations. In my latest benchmarks, and running macOS Big Sur 11.2.1, the M1’s Geekbench 5 numbers improved over my original tests and remain significantly higher than those of Intel’s latest tenth-generation Core i CPUs. We’re still waiting for the other shoe to drop on more performant Apple silicon; perhaps an M2 capable of powering iMac Pros and Mac Pros.