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X86 Exodus? Apple's M1 Chip Lures PC Users to Arm-Powered Macs

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Apple executives said Wednesday that roughly 50% of the Mac and iPad sales in the second quarter of 2021 were to people who'd never owned those devices before. Much of that growth has been attributed to the M1 system-on-a-chip, the release of which led the Mac to enjoy the best financial quarter in its decades-long history.

Apple CFO Luca Maestri revealed the stat during an earnings call, 9to5Mac reported, and was followed by Apple CEO Tim Cook announcing that 66% of Mac and iPad sales in China were to new customers during that same time period. Both figures show that Apple's products have started to appeal to new customers.

It's not hard to guess why that would be the case for the Mac. Apple released new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini models featuring its custom silicon in November 2020. Those models were all well-reviewed and—to some enthusiasts' surprise—actually flipped the price-to-performance ratio in Apple's favor.

The M1 chip outperforms much of its x86 competition in various benchmarks even though it's more power-efficient and, in the MacBook Air's case, might be throttled if it starts to get too hot. But in many types of workloads, that combination of performance and power efficiency is essentially unrivaled in notebooks equipped with x86 processors.

The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro also feature high-resolution displays and longer-than-expected battery life. They don't beat every notebook in every benchmark—especially when it comes to gaming—but we noted in our review of the MacBook Pro that it was "putting every other laptop on notice." And, well, people noticed.

Even more people might consider a Mac or iPad now that the M1 is available in the latest iMac and iPad Pro models. Apple's planning to bring the rest of the Mac line into the fold by the end of 2022 as well. Those devices are expected to offer better I/O, support for additional memory, and other power user features.

Here's the bad news: Maestri and Cook said the global chip shortage is likely to affect the supply of its Macs and iPads in the second half of 2021. Cook said that “We expect to be supply-gated, not demand-gated,” when it comes to sales of those products later this year. That's a testament to these products' newfound popularity.

Intel can have Justin Long. Apple has the satisfaction of watching its longest-running product line surge in popularity—even among people who've never purchased it before—practically the moment it switched from x86 processors to custom silicon. And that's all with the first chip it designed for something other than mobile devices.