Apple started rolling the M1 Apple Silicon processors into their computers in the fall of 2020. On April 20 of 2021 Apple did something kind of unexpected. They put the same in one processor that is in their laptops and their new iMac into the iPad Pro. This move reveals a lot about the way Apple sees it's future manufacturing processors and building manufacturing efficiencies into their product lines.

Now that the iOS, iPadOS and macOS can all run on the same architecture, Apple can put the M1 processors and their future siblings into any of the devices that run those operating systems if they choose to and if the size of the device allows for it. The fact that they could squeeze M1 into the slim iPadPro reveals just how physically tiny that deployment footprint can be if they really want to.

The M1 is a powerhouse of a processor with a truly different design than anything we've seen before in a desktop processor from Apple. The decision to integrate components into the main processor, rather than attaching those components to buses on the motherboard, speeds up access to those resources and makes the system smaller, lighter, and more energy efficient. It's a huge win on many levels for end users.

For administrators, and the folks who need to advise people on what to buy however, this move has required a rewiring in our brains as well. Gone are the days of upgrades down the road. The Mac you buy today is the Mac you have until you replace it. You think you need 8 gigs of ram today? What about in 3 to 5 years? In the old days, (and still today if you are a Windows user) you could buy a reasonably capable system today for less money, and then upgrade to more capabilities later when you needed and could afford them. That is not going to be the case for Mac users, probably ever again. We have to wait and see how the rest of Apple's product line goes here, but the integration of components into the main processing unit means you don't have an upgrade path for the graphics processing unit (you never did with laptops and iMacs anyway, so no loss there really) and the RAM. Storage is still separate though, so there is some hope to be held out for storage upgrades in the desktop lines at least. We'll see once they ship and we get to see some take apart's.

There are some other limitations of the M1 all inclusive architecture. Despite a very capable integrated GPU in the main processor, M1 Mac systems, whether mobile or desktop, can only be attached to 1 additional display, and at the time of this writing, in color managed workflows those displays cannot be used in RGB color spaces, which is a major problem for professionals who use Photoshop and other color manageable applications in a color corrected environment. (Not you, I understand that this problem seems like a small thing, but these professionals are the reason why movie posters for your favorite movies look so great, and a million other things as well.) Link to ImageScience Article.

So, we have a ludicrously awesome product line up, Apple is pushing forward with yet another set of evolutions in computing, and what remains for users is to enjoy the products, and for consultants and sysadmins to learn the difference between the past the present and the future so we can guide everyone else through this successfully. Good luck out there everyone!

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