Apple M1 SoC and MacOS 11.x — Big Sur

By Larry Dignan, Nov 12, 2020 | Original zdnet article here.

This is how Apple’s move from Intel-based processors to ARM chips will affect software compatibility on the MacOS platform, as new Macs move, on Nov 12, from OS X/macOS 10.x 10 to macOS 11.x. (Big Sur).


Apple has been planning the transition away from Intel silicon to Apple Silicon in Macs for some time and officially announced their plans at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in 2020. The company has been using its own chips in the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch for years. Using Apple chips in Macs has plenty of benefits:

  1. By not relying on Intel, Apple can better control its component costs (better profit margins) and supply chain; see Intel’s delay to moving to its 7 nanometer process.

  2. Developers can more easily build an app that runs across all Apple hardware — compiling it as a Mac Universal app.

  3. Users will get a more "seamless workflow" across iOS, iPadOS and macOS devices.

  4. The M1 will help Apple stand out in a crowded market. As Larry Dignan wrote in his assessment of the M1 on ZDNet, "Apple Silicon is likely to be a differentiator. Apple can market its processors well and Apple fans are likely to buy-in."

There is one potential hiccup that IT departments and buyers will need to understand. Software written for Intel x86_64 processors that use complex instruction set computing (CISC) can’t run natively on arm64 processors that use reduced instruction set computing (RISC).

All of the apps that come with the latest macOS version, Big Sur (macOS 11.0), or that are made by Apple have been optimized to work with M1 chip. Safari, iWork apps like Pages, Numbers and Keynote, iMovie, Final Cut Pro, GarageBand, etc. will work just fine.

iPhone and iPad apps will also run natively on M1 Macs. Although how well iPadOS and iOS apps are able to utilize the larger screen of a Mac is TBD.

Then there are what Apple calls "universal apps" that include both a native binary version for Apple Silicon and one for Intel chips. When you download one of these apps, it will work on either an M1 or Intel Mac. During the launch event, Apple noted that Adobe would be making universal version of its apps available, starting with Lightroom in December and Photoshop early next year.

Big Sur can also run software written exclusively for Intel chips thanks to a new version of Rosetta. Originally introduced in 2006 when Apple was transitioning from PowerPC to Intel processors, Rosetta is a binary translator, which according to the company "allows users to run apps that contain x86_64 instructions on Apple silicon."

Rosetta is a stop-gap measure however. Apple want’s developers to eventually convert their existing Intel apps to Apple Silicon apps. And frankly, the speed of the Apple Silicon transition will depend on how quickly software developers jump on board.

macOS 11.x (Big Sur): The Cheat Sheet

By Jesus Vigo,m Nov 12, 2020 | Original Tech Republic article here.

At its "One More Thing" event Nov. 10, 2020, Apple announced the much-awaited Big Sur would release on Nov. 12, 2020, coordinating it with the release of its new M1 system-on-a-chip.

"Big Sur is engineered, down to its core, to take full advantage of all the capability and power of M1, delivering a massive boost in performance, astonishing battery life, and even stronger security protections," Apple said in its press release.

SEE: macOS 11.x (Big Sur): The Cheat Sheet (free PDF)

What is macOS Big Sur?

macOS Big Sur is a continuation of Apple’s operating system that powers its lineup of desktop and mobile computers. While it carries the macOS name, it is the first major version change in more than 15 years–officially dropping the 10.x and now going by 11.x.

While continuing to expand further upon some of the changes made in previous versions to unify the desktop experience with the best of its mobile OS–iOS/iPadOS — to create a user computing environment that is both powerful and unparalleled in its simplicity.

Technical requirements of macOS Big Sur

Unlike previous versions of macOS, Big Sur will not have any minimum set of requirements based on hardware components. Instead, Apple has released a minimum type of hardware based on its lineup of mobile and desktop computers and its release year(s) to serve as a guide.

Additional resources
  • Link to Apple Big Sur: Here’s what makes new macOS ‘biggest update to design in over a decade'(ZDNet)
  • Link to Apple says the new MacOS Big Sur update is its biggest design change in almost 20 years (CNET)


What are the main features of macOS Big Sur?

Control Center for Mac

Identical to its iOS/iPadOS counterpart, the Control Center has made the move with macOS Big Sur, providing one-click access to a series of functions to easily control many common connections and features, like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, playing music, or adjusting screen settings to better suit your work environment. Additional controls can be added to customize the experience based on your favorites.

App integration

At its November 2020 event, Apple announced that all of Apple’s Mac apps are now Universal and runs natively for M1 systems. Existing Mac apps that have not been updated to Universal will run with Apple’s Rosetta 2 technology, which translates apps for systems that run Intel chips. Apps on the iPhone and iPad can now run directly on the Mac.

Notification Center

Though notifications were introduced in a prior version, macOS Big Sur’s redesigned take on notifications allows them to be grouped by app for easier management. Furthermore, widgets and notifications are now displayed together within the same window for a unified look at pertinent data at a glance. Additionally, widgets have been redesigned and may be resized to further customize information displayed in ways that work the way you do.

SEE: Apple iOS 14: The Cheat Sheet (free PDF)

Safari 14

Safari has been given major aesthetic, efficiency, and privacy overhauls to increase usability with intuitive customizations for each user, battery life adjustments to help users be their most productive (or binge their streaming content a little bit longer), and keep tabs of sites and web apps that are trying to keep tabs on you and your personal data by alerting you if passwords used for sites have been compromised. Safari now provides a weekly Privacy Report based on Intelligent Tracking Prevention to show you how your privacy is being protected based on which sites have been visited and providing a snapshot of how users are being profiled by trackers across the web.

At the November 2020 Apple event, it was announced that with the M1 chip, Safari is now 1.5 times faster at running JavaScript and nearly 2 times more responsive.


Messages has gained the ability to pin important conversations to the top of your chat list for easier access and response times. Pinned conversations sync across the Apple ecosystem with iOS/iPadOS 14-enabled devices and macOS Big Sur-supported devices. Another usability feature is Inline replies, which allows users to reply to specific messages directly, causing the messages to thread, making keeping track of replies so much easier.

Maps and Guides

Maps have been redesigned, allowing the navigation app to take advantage of larger screen real estate afforded by the higher resolutions found on newer Macs and 4K/5K monitors. A new routing for electric vehicles has been added allowing users to plan the perfect route to include charging stops along the way. Speaking of stops, Guides offers curated destinations of the best places to visit or your favorites spots. Guides may be made for you or by you and shared for easy access. Indoor maps are also available now, with detailed interior maps of popular areas, such as major airports.

App Store privacy

A major win for privacy advocates and a big step towards more transparency is the privacy information summary included for each app in the Mac App Store. Similar to labels found on other products consumers purchase, the privacy summary will include information on what types of data developers collect, how they collect it, and what they do with that data, including if it is used to track your movements across the web.

New language features

Several new bilingual dictionaries have been added to macOS Big Sur for easier translation between several languages, such as French to German, Polish to English, and Japanese to Chinese. Additionally, enhanced predictive input for Chinese and Japanese has been included for more accurate and contextual predictions. Rounding out these features, new fonts have been added, alongside upgrades to existing fonts for India, including localized message effects.

SEE: All of TechRepublic’s cheat sheets and smart person’s guides

Apple Silicon support

Apple announced its initial plans to switch from Intel CPUs to processors of its own design based on ARM architecture at WWDC 20. Apple developed its own series of processing chips, or silicon-on-chip (SoC), for the iPhone/iPad line when the devices were initially launched and has been using them ever since for those devices.

With the launch of its new products at the November 2020 event, Apple is replacing the existing Intel-based components with its own SoC, Apple M1. The transition is projected to last two years, eventually resulting in all of Apple’s devices running its proprietary SoC, starting with the first products, the MacBook Air with M1, MacBook Pro with M1, and Mac mini with M1. All these new Mac devices are being released in November 2020.

Similar to the transition from Apple’s previous PowerPC-based operating system, System OS 9 to OS X over 15 years ago, applications will require developers to rewrite their code in order for apps to work with the new SoC architecture. Apple now has Rosetta 2, an emulation app, that will emulate the environment as needed to allow apps that have not yet updated to run natively.

System security

In an effort to continue to harden macOS and protect user data, Big Sur expands on the system volume enhancements made prior by cryptographically signing the volume, which ensures that once macOS 11.0 is installed, the system volume creates a key that certifies the integrity of the volume. Any malicious attempts to tamper with it will likely fail to break the key; but should it fail, this would be easy to identify and recover from immediately.

Machine learning

Apple said the foundations of Big Sur are optimized to unlock the power of the M1 chip, including for Core ML for machine learning (ML), which it said is up to 15 times faster with M1.