Apple Plans to Overhaul Entire Mac Line With AI-Focused M4 Chips

Apple, with the goal of boosting sluggish computer sales, is preparing to overhaul its entire Mac line with a new family of in-house processors designed to unleash artificial intelligence.

The company, which released its first Macs with M3 chips five months ago, is already close to producing the next generation — M4 processors — according to people with knowledge of the matter. The new chip will come in at least three main varieties, and Apple wants to update every Mac model with it, said the people, who asked not to be identified because plans have not been announced.

The new Mac is in the works at a critical time. After peaking in 2022, Mac sales fell 27 percent in the last fiscal year, which ended in September. Over the holiday period, revenue from the computer line was stable. Apple attempted to breathe new life into the Mac business with an M3-focused launch event last October, but those chips didn’t bring major performance improvements over last year’s M2.

Apple is also catching up in AI, where it is considered to be lagging behind Microsoft, Alphabet’s Google and other tech peers. The new chips are part of a broader effort to incorporate AI capabilities into all of its products.

Apple aims to release updated computers by the end of this year to early next year. The new iMacs will be a low-end 14-inch MacBook Pro, high-end 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro and Mac mini – all with M4 chips. But the company’s plans may change. An Apple spokesperson declined to comment.

Apple shares rose 4.3 percent to $175.04 in New York on Thursday, their biggest one-day gain in 11 months. By the end of Wednesday this year, they had fallen by 13 percent.

The move would mark a quick refresh schedule for the iMac and MacBook Pro, as both lines were just updated in October. The Mac mini was last upgraded in January 2023.

Apple then plans to introduce more M4 Macs throughout 2025. This includes updates to the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air by spring, the Mac Studio in the middle of the year, and the Mac Pro later in 2025. The MacBook Air received the M3 chip last month, while the Mac Studio and Mac Pro were updated with M2 processors last year.

The M4 chip line includes an entry-level version called Donan, a more powerful model called Braava, and a top-end processor codenamed Hydra. The company plans to highlight the AI ​​processing capabilities of the components and how they will integrate with the next version of macOS, which will be announced at Apple’s annual developer conference in June.

The Donnon chip is coming to the entry-level MacBook Pro, the new MacBook Air and the low-end version of the Mac mini, while the Brava chips will run on the pricier version of the high-end MacBook Pro and Mac mini. For the Mac Studio, Apple is testing versions with the still-unreleased M3-era chip and a variation of the M4 Brava processor.

The highest-end Apple desktop, the Mac Pro, is about to get the new Hidra chip. The Mac Pro remains the lowest-selling model in the company’s computer lineup, but it has a vocal fan base. After some customers complained about the specifications of Apple’s in-house chips, the company is considering improving that machine next year.

As part of the upgrade, Apple is considering allowing its highest-end Mac desktops to support half a terabyte of memory. The current Mac Studio and Mac Pro have a maximum capacity of 192 gigabytes—a much smaller capacity than Apple’s previous Mac Pro, which used Intel Corp. processors. Earlier machines worked with off-the-shelf memory that could be added later and could handle up to 1.5 terabytes. With Apple’s in-house chips, memory is more deeply integrated into the main processor, making it harder to add more.

Apple’s big focus this year is adding new artificial intelligence features to its products. The company plans to preview several new features at its June developer conference. A large number of those features are designed to run on the device itself rather than on a remote server – and faster chips will help drive those enhancements. Apple is also planning an AI-focused upgrade to this year’s iPhone processors.

The company’s switch to in-house chips was part of a long-running initiative known as Apple Silicon. The tech giant started using its own semiconductors in the original iPad and iPhone 4 in 2010 before bringing the technology to the Mac in 2020. The goal is to better integrate its hardware and software with the underlying components and move away from processors made by Intel. ,

So far, the effort has been successful, helping to boost performance and simplify the redesign of devices like the latest MacBook Air, iMac, and MacBook Pro. Apple’s Mac chips are based on the same underlying Arm Holdings PLC architecture as the processors in the iPhone and iPad, enabling thinner products with better battery life and less need for cooling fans.
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