New Macs shouldn’t surprise anyone. All of Apple’s Macs are due for an update and the company already told us a new Mac Pro will arrive by the end of the year.
Righting misfires like the Touch Bar and flat keyboard on the MacBook Pro are two easy wins, but the most exciting new feature for this year’s Macs could be something people will never see at all: a co-processor.
Most computers come with a single processor (also called CPU) made by either Intel or AMD. The processor is the brain that controls all of the other parts of the computer and handles all of its instructions.
The more powerful the processor, the more computing power you have. In a nutshell: You want a really powerful processor because you can crunch more things at once.
But as we’ve all learned from the Spectre and Meltdown exploits, a single processor also means a single point of attack through which your device could be compromised.
This is where a co-processor could make all the difference.
Since 2016, Apple has slowly added secondary co-processors into some of its computers. The revamped MacBook Pro has a “T1” chip that controls the Touch Bar, the Secure Enclave that securely encrypts and decrypts a user’s Touch ID fingerprint data, and also the microphone and FaceTime HD camera.
And last year, with the iMac Pro, Apple went even further. The iMac Pro has a “T2” chip that, in addition to controlling the microphone and FaceTime camera, is responsible for securely booting it up — the chip checks to see if macOS has been tampered in any way before letting the Intel processor take over — and encrypting the data that’s stored on its internal solid-state drive storage.
It’s all really, really techie and nerdy stuff that most people will never need to think about. But it all adds up to a much more secure computer that keeps hackers away.
A co-processor on Apple’s Macs could also pave the way for
to arrive on the platform.
But security isn’t the only benefit a co-processor would bring to new Macs. For MacBooks, battery life could improve significantly. In the same way that Apple gets more battery life out of iPhones without increasing battery capacity by offloading accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass data processing to motion co-processors, MacBooks could see battery improvements if the main processor isn’t constantly firing up to control less important background tasks.
Basically, by splitting up tasks between two processors — an Intel one for the heavy-hitting data-crunching stuff and an Apple co-processor for controlling background processes — new Macs could be more power efficient than they’ve been in years.
A co-processor on Apple’s Macs could also pave the way for Face ID to arrive on the platform. On the iMac Pro, the T2 chip already controls the FaceTime camera.
Here’s how it works according to according to Macworld:
Like its cousin processors that drive the iPhone, the T2 has an Apple-designed image signal processor that detects faces in order to properly set exposure and white balance, dynamically adjusts exposure, and a whole lot more—all in the service of producing a better image, just like what happens when you shoot photos or video with your iPhone.
With the T2 already packing this kind of intelligence borrowed from iOS devices, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine a newer, more powerful Mac co-processor that borrows from the iPhone X.
Windows 10 already has Hello sign-in, which lets users log into their computers with their face. If Apple were to include Face ID login on a Mac, it’d do so only if it could make it extremely secure. A co-processor would be the only way Apple would do it.
It’s easy to get caught up in new features you can see and compare to previous models such as the screen, ports, and keyboard. But maybe it’s time we appreciate the inner beauty that’s actually working to protect us.