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Apple debuts new Mac computers with in-house chips

At its third hardware refresh event this year, Apple Inc. debuted its first lineup of Mac computers equipped with its own processors.

The company unveiled new MacBook Air, Mac mini and MacBook Pro models equipped with its first-ever M1 chip designed to balance power efficiency with performance. The event comes after Apple noted in June that it would start replacing Intel Corp. chips used in Mac laptops and desktop computers with a highly mobile processor, similar to the one that currently powers the iPhone and iPad. The complete transition from Intel chips is expected to take two years.

"We love the Mac; it's in our DNA," Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the Nov. 10 event.

M1 chip

The M1 chip's core architecture is similar to that found in Apple's mobile devices and provides 2x better performance compared to traditional processors, the company said. A revamped engine is also used in the new chip to facilitate more advanced machine learning capabilities. The M1 processor boasts a host of new security features, including better encryption and run-time protections to detect and block potential computer attacks faster.

Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives noted in a report that the M1 chip announcement "signals Apple [is] taking more control of its hardware ecosystem," which he expects to work in Apple's favor as more people rely on Mac computers to work and learn remotely amid the pandemic.

New Macs

Apple's new MacBook Air, starting at $999, is 3.5x faster than the previous iteration and features sharper graphics. The device also includes improved battery life and a fanless design to provide users with a quieter experience.

The new Mac mini, a desktop device sold without a display or keyboard, starts at $699 and comes with a stronger neural engine designed to provide developers and engineers with improved machine learning features.

Finally, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, retailing at $1,299, provides 11x faster machine learning performance and the longest-ever battery life in a Mac device, Apple said. Like the MacBook Air, the device is available at a discount for education customers.

Each of the Mac devices is available for pre-order. They will be in stores next week.

Though often taking a backseat to the iconic iPhone, demand for Apple's laptops and tablets has surged in recent months amid COVID-19. For the just-ended quarter, Mac sales grew nearly 30% year over year to $9 billion, while iPad sales were up about 46%, reaching $6.8 billion from $4.66 billion a year ago.

By comparison, iPhone sales revenue for the quarter declined 21% year over year to $26.44 billion, compared to $33.36 billion in the year-ago period.

MacOS Big Sur

Also at the Nov. 10 event, Apple took the wraps off its new Mac operating system, dubbed MacOS Big Sur, which is compatible with the revamped M1 chip. Big Sur is 1.9x more responsive than previous operating systems, and it provides users with "the most advanced security of any personal computer," said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering.

Notably, the operating system provides automatic high-performance encryption services and additional run-time security protection.

Big Sur will be available Nov. 12

The Nov. 10 event comes roughly one month after Apple released its first 5G iPhone, and about two months after the company debuted its latest smartwatch and refreshed iPads.