Apple’s ‘Scary Fast’ Mac event casts shade over Qualcomm

While most of the world is otherwise occupied on Monday, Apple will introduce “scary fast” technologies during an evening non-public event at its Cupertino headquarters in Apple Park. While Mac users will be delighted, it will be the company’s processor competitors who must prepare for a fright.

Why so? Because in the hours since the announcement of the event, the “Apple Web” seems to have agreed that the most likely product to be announced will be M3 Macs.

That’s going to be yet another slap in the face for competitors, who are only now snapping at the heels of Apple’s M2 processor with chips that aren’t even in production yet.

Apple’s Mac fleet steams ahead

Qualcomm this week made waves with news of its Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 chips, which will reportedly deliver similar speed benchmarks to those you get from the M2 (though they still don’t compete with M2 Pro, Mac, or Ultra chips).

While they are likely to deliver a big boost to Windows on ARM, the challenge is that, unlike Apple, the operating system developer does not make the processor, and the hardware that runs those chips will impose additional compromise.

Apple, on the other hand, has the whole stack — hardware design, processor design, and OS. It also has all the experience in optimizing its systems to run on chips that it acquired during the PowerPC/Intel Mac years. Don’t underestimate that advantage, as it is reflected in real-world performance, no matter how competitive competing processor benchmark figures become.

And none of those competitors yet have any serious response to those 3nm M3 Mac chips we expect the company to introduce. Instead, they are playing catch-up with last year’s news — and Qualcomm’s new processors aren’t actually in production yet. (Apple, meanwhile, booked most of TSMC’s output  this year.)

All in all, Apple’s Halloween spell will cast a dark shadow across Qualcomm’s summit in Hawaii this week. No wonder it has created a horror-movie inspired easter egg on the event page. Take a look.

Nothing has changed

We’ve seen this before, of course. Apple’s iPhones still deliver speed and efficiency gains the industry consistently fails to match, giving the company a regular one-to-two-year advantage in mobile device performance.

That advantage is now also apparent on the Mac, meaning it can no longer be dismissed as slow and clunky. Instead, it has become the best choice for all but the most niche use cases.

That’s why Apple’s news will be terrifying to competitors, as the M3 introduction will give Apple at least another 12 to 18 months in which it will be offering the best systems in the world on which to run Windows, Linux, or Mac. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with M2 Macs — I remain completely thrilled with my 15-in. M2 MacBook Air.

With PC vendors pinning their hopes on the upcoming Windows upgrade as Windows 10 finally times out, Apple, already ascendant in enterprise sales, will have a super-strong marketing message to convince business users to dump Windows in favor of more mobile business-savvy Macs. Particularly as the computational performance per watt translates into real-life carbon and energy-cost reductions when deployed at scale, in addition to the productivity, staff retention, and cost-of-ownership gains Apple’s platform now provide.

Why, other than the need to support legacy applications, would any business choose to stick with platforms that are already behind the curve?

Scary fast – what to expect

With all that preamble, here is what to expect at the event, which takes place while most of the company’s global customer base sleeps. (While no one has seriously speculated on this, the choice of time may also hint at a US focus for the launch. At present, the sole US-only product we expect from Apple is the Vision Pro.)

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo anticipates Apple will introduce new 14-in. and 16-in. MacBook Pros equipped with M3 chips, though supply may be limited. There is a chance the company might upgrade the iMac/iMac Pro, but potentially not with an M3 chip.

In previous speculation, we’ve learned to expect M3 chips will offer up to 12 to 16 CPU cores, 40 GPU cores and 36GB to 48GB of RAM. That’s what’s coming to the MacBook Pro and new iMacs, according to a summer report. In comparison, the M2 Pro offers 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, and 16GB RAM.

Apple’s broadcast-only event will take place October 30 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. It will be followed two days later by the company’s fourth-quarter  financial announcement on Nov. 2.

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