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Apple to Launch ARM Macs, New AirPods in Next 12 Months: Top Analyst

Well-regarded analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro and 24-inch iMac powered by Apple's own silicon to arrive in late 2020 or early 2021.

Ahead of Apple’s  (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report annual World Wide Developer conference today, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is predicting that Apple won’t take too long to roll out Macs powered by its own processors.

Kuo wrote in a weekend research note that Apple plans to launch a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro and a 24-inch iMac in late 2020 or early 2021. The Macs are said to be the first to be powered by Apple-designed processors that -- like Apple’s A-series mobile processors, among many, many, other chips -- rely on the ARM CPU instruction set, rather than Intel  (INTC) - Get Intel Corporation Report processors relying on the x86 instruction set.

Kuo, who has a fairly good track record when it comes to Apple product scoops, added that Apple will discontinue its Intel-powered, 13.3-inch MacBook Pro after launching an ARM-powered model. By contrast, he sees Apple refreshing its Intel-powered iMacs in Q3 2020 before launching a 24-inch, ARM-powered iMac, which he says will have a brand-new form factor.

Apple’s MacBook lineup currently includes both 13-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, as well as its 13-inch MacBook Air. Its Mac desktop lineup contains 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs, a 27-inch iMac Pro, the Mac Mini and the Mac Pro. Gradually migrating this product line to ARM-based silicon could both yield cost savings and improve power efficiency, while also potentially making it easier for iPad developers to write macOS apps.

It will take Apple 12-to-18 months to fully transition to an ARM-powered Mac lineup, Kuo forecasts. He sees an ARM MacBook featuring a brand-new form factor entering mass-production in the second half of 2021, and (without specifying if the system is ARM or Intel-powered) a MacBook featuring a mini-LED display launching in the first half of 2021. Relative to LCDs, relying on traditional LED backlighting provide improved contrast and brightness, as well as better power efficiency.

Kuo’s report arrives ahead of Apple’s 2020 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote, which starts at 1 P.M. Eastern Time on Monday. Apple is widely expected to use the keynote to unveil its first internally-designed Mac processors, as well as kick off its efforts to get macOS developers to rewrite their apps to run natively on ARM-powered silicon.

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In April, Bloomberg reported that Apple is working with long-time manufacturing partner Taiwan Semiconductor  (TSMC)  to roll out three Mac processors that will be based on the A14 system-on-chip (SoC) set to power its fall 2020 iPhone lineup. It added that (like Apple’s A-series SoCs and many other mobile processors) the Mac processors will feature a mixture of high-power and energy-efficient CPU cores.

Also reported by Kuo over the weekend: Apple plans to launch third-gen AirPods in the first half of 2021. The AirPods will reportedly feature a design similar to that of the $249 AirPods Pro, which were back-ordered for several months after launching last fall.

Ahead of the third-gen AirPods launch, Kuo sees AirPods shipments rising 65% in 2020 to 93.8 million. AirPods Pro shipments are expected to come in at 44.7 million, and standard AirPods shipments at 49.1 million.

Prior reports have indicated that Apple plans to launch the AirPods Studio, a pair of high-end, over-the-ear headphones, later in 2020. The AirPods Studio will reportedly cost $349 and pack sensors that can detect whether the headphones are on a listener’s head or neck.

Apple shares were rising 2.2% to $357.28 in mid-day trading on Monday.

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