First ARM-based Mac could be a 12-inch MacBook with butterfly keyboard

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12-inch-MacBook
The 12-inch MacBook could come back as the first macOS computer without an Intel chip.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s first ARM-based computer will be a very slim and light MacBook, according to a leaker claiming inside information and sources in Apple’s supply chain. The Mac-makers move away from Intel chips will begin with a 12-inch MacBook that supposedly will include the controversial butterfly keyboard.

The source for this unconfirmed info is Fudge, who also posts on Twitter as @choco_bit. According their profile, they “may or may not collect fun stuff that apple shouldnt [sic] leak.” They’ve been the source of a number of high-profile leaks in recent months, including an image supposedly showing widgets in iOS 14.

An ARM-based MacBook is an… ARMbook?

Fudge’s predictions about a 12-inch MacBook with an ARM processor come in the midst of a lengthy Reddit post about Apple’s multi-year transition away from Intel processors in favor of chips Apple designs itself.

Other sources point to a move to ARM chips too. Intel has been unable to consistently improve its processors for years now. That allowed TSMC, the company that makes Apple’s A-series chips, opportunity to surpass it.

There’ll be clear advantages for users. Benchmarks show that iPads are as powerful as some Intel-based MacBooks. But Apple’s ARM-based chips are much more power efficient. And adding built-in 5G wireless networking will be a snap.

Fudge sees Apple putting an A14X processor in its ARMbook. This will be an enhanced version of the chip also going in this autumn’s iPhone 12. He calls the resulting device an “ARMbook” just to differentiate it from today’s Intel-based Macs.

Going slim and light

The primary difficulty in switching from Intel processors to ARM ones is that software will have to be recompiled for the new chips. That’s going to limit the availability of third-party applications for the first ARMbook. That’s why Apple is choosing a 12-inch design, according to Fudge.

This won’t be marketed to power users, but to those who want a basic computer for the same tasks many people already use an iPad for: email, accessing the web, etc. This group won’t care that professional applications haven’t been ported to ARM yet.

A butterfly keyboard. Seriously?

According to this leaker, the ARMbook will be not just small but also super thin. And that’s why Apple is bringing back the butterfly keyboard. “It makes sense that this model could see the return of the Butterfly keyboard, considering how thin and light it is intended to be,” said Fudge.

He’s not the first to predict the return of the butterfly. Fellow leaker L0vetodream said in May that Apple is still trying to iron out the problems so it can be brought back.

This keyboard design was once part of every MacBook. By replacing the traditional scissor-switch mechanism keyboard with the butterfly keyboard, Apple was able to make its laptops thinner than ever. But Apple began phasing it out in 2019 after years of complaints from a small percentage of users that keys regularly stopped working when debris or even just dust got trapped under them.

The first MacBook with a processor designed by Apple could be announced as soon as Apple’s developers conference in June 22.