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Mike Kreuzer

ARM chips and Big Sur, AKA whither the Mac, a story in tweets

23 June 2020

When I first saw rumours of Macs with ARM chip Macs I was pretty excited. Apple hardware quality has been a sore point for me – the 13" MBP keyboard, and 16" MBP with its kernel panics – but in contrast to that the Apple silicon story has been a marvel of the modern age. (Seriously.) Apple's chips are amazing & keep getting better.

My thoughts back in April were:

8:28 AM · Apr 24, 2020

Option 1: these things are so insanely fast games flock to 

Option 2: web dev on ARM Macs has to be done in containers, so may as well happen in WSL/Docker on much cheaper Windows boxes

Option 3: both, OS swapsies

Game developers have for the most part abandoned Macs. They might come back… maybe. Option 2 though, web developers abandoning Macs, option 2 seems more and more likely to me.

The more I thought about it the more problems occurred to me. While some of what I feared hasn't come to pass, I'd still qualify that with a worried "yet". Some of what I feared would happen hasn't happened… yet.

1:21 PM · Jun 10, 2020

A short thread summarising this lowly user’s  fears:

ARM Macs seem inevitable -- next year, the year after, but soon

They likely won’t run Unix tooling, so will be useless for web dev

They won’t be able to switch into windows to play games or to do work there either...

These Macs may be fast, but may only run sandboxed apps, or even only App Store apps. An iPad with a keyboard, not a Mac.

And the apps likely won’t even be built for the Mac. You’ve seen iPhone apps running on an iPad? Catalyst? shudder


This may all be wrong. Or take years. Or be overly influenced by my endlessly crashing 16” MBP

Maybe the emulator will be amazing. Maybe only low end Macs get these chips for a time. Maybe something else

I am taking WSL2 on Win10 a lot more seriously now though

One of my last tweets before WWDC was worrying some more about the UI and permission dialogues.

4:14 pm · 22 Jun 2020

Catalina = Vista - permission hell
2020 10.16 = Win 8 - too iPad
2021 10.17 = Win 8.1 - walk that back
2022 10.18 = Win10 - workable

From what I've seen so far the "giant phone" interface is pretty much as bad as I thought it would be, but more importantly to my mind, there's the locked down nature of iOS.

MacOS 11/10.16 Big Sur looks laughably like iOS to my eyes, but isn't any more locked down than Catalina that I've heard. But does anyone think that's going to be the case in few years time when MacOS and iOS are fully merged, because that merger seems inevitable now and I can't see Apple loosening their iOS reins.

Being forced into an App Store matters, just look at the Hey controversy, and the many more cases like it that haven't had that kind of coverage. Apple looks to be walking back some of its App Store review process (scroll down on that page… more), but the threat of being removed is always there.

After WWDC this morning my thoughts about my future as a Mac user boil down to two simple benchmarks.

6:33 am · 23 Jun 2020

Two things are going to decide this for me, & it’s really only the 1st one I don’t know the answer to

Linux in virtualised on the Mac, vs Linux in WSL2 on Win10, which is less painful
A ton of shitty iOS apps on the Mac, vs the back catalogue & current programs on Win10

iOS apps on the Mac aren't any kind of drawcard for me, they're a major turnoff, and if as I wondered back in April it's cheaper and easier to run virtual Linux boxes on a Windows machine, why wouldn't I? (That "which is less painful" is missing a question mark.)

As for the big picture – well I don't know, why would I – but all of this makes me fear (that word again) for the future of the Mac. Maybe the Mac will stay an open platform, and maybe the likes of SwiftUI will mean a resurgence in Mac apps. Maybe. Or maybe the icy grip of the App Store will close… if it did you could still make native apps, sure, but why would you? And once they're gone the platform's gone, it'd only be a matter of time. A Mac with only Apple's own apps, electron apps & iOS ports would be an evolutionary dead end.

The WWDC keynote was only a few hours ago as I write this, I still need time to absorb all of this, but I've used the word fear four times now in this post so yes, "I am taking WSL2 on Win10 a lot more seriously now…"