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Apple to Overhaul Mac Lineup with AI-Focused M4 Chips

Apple Inc. (AAPL) is gearing up for a significant overhaul of its Mac lineup, aiming to rejuvenate sluggish computer sales by integrating a new family of in-house processors designed to emphasize artificial intelligence capabilities.

Sources familiar with the matter have disclosed that the tech giant, which introduced its initial Macs featuring M3 chips just five months ago, is already on the brink of mass-producing the next iteration - the M4 processor. According to these sources, the upcoming chip will be available in at least three primary variants, with Apple planning a comprehensive update across all Mac models.

This strategic move comes as Apple faces a critical moment for Mac sales. Following a peak in 2022, sales plummeted by 27% in the past fiscal year, with revenues from the computer line stagnating during the holiday period. Despite a prior attempt to inject vitality into the Mac business with an M3-centric launch event last October, those chips failed to deliver significant performance enhancements over the preceding M2 iteration.

Apple's push towards AI is in response to perceived lag compared to industry peers like Microsoft Corp.  (MSFT) and Alphabet Inc.'s Google (GOOG). The introduction of these new chips aligns with a broader initiative to embed AI capabilities across its product spectrum.

Introducing M4 Chips to Revitalize Mac Line
The tech behemoth aims to roll out the updated computers starting late this year, extending into early 2025. This rollout encompasses fresh iterations of iMacs, a 14-inch MacBook Pro at the lower end, high-end 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, and Mac minis - all powered by M4 chips. However, plans remain subject to change, with an Apple spokesperson opting not to comment on the matter.

The brisk refresh cycle for the iMac and MacBook Pro lines, both recently updated in October, signals Apple's commitment to swift innovation. The Mac mini received its last upgrade in January 2023.

Apple Preps for Mac Revolution with AI-Enhanced M4 Processors
Subsequent to these updates, Apple intends to introduce further M4-powered Macs throughout 2025. This includes revamps to the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air by spring, the Mac Studio around mid-year, and the Mac Pro later in 2025. While the MacBook Air recently transitioned to the M3 chip, the Mac Studio and Mac Pro received M2 processors last year.

The M4 chip lineup encompasses an entry-level variant dubbed Donan, more potent models named Brava, and a top-tier processor codenamed Hidra. The emphasis is on showcasing the AI processing prowess of these components and their integration with the forthcoming macOS update slated for announcement in June at Apple's annual developer conference.

Inside Apple's Plan to Revolutionize Macs with Cutting-Edge M4 Chips
The Donan chip is earmarked for the entry-level MacBook Pro, new MacBook Airs, and a low-end version of the Mac mini. Brava chips, on the other hand, will power the high-end MacBook Pros and a pricier Mac mini variant. For the Mac Studio, Apple is exploring versions equipped with both an unreleased M3-era chip and a Brava variant of the M4 processor.

The apex of Apple's desktop offerings, the Mac Pro, is set to receive the new Hidra chip. While the Mac Pro may trail in sales compared to other models, it boasts a fervent user base. In response to customer feedback regarding the specifications of Apple's in-house chips, the company aims to bolster this machine in the coming year.

Apple's Bold Step to Reinvent Macs with Next-Gen M4 Processors
As part of these enhancements, Apple is contemplating enabling its highest-end Mac desktops to support up to a half-terabyte of memory. Presently, the Mac Studio and Mac Pro cap out at 192 gigabytes, a far cry from the capacity of Apple's previous Mac Pro, which utilized an Intel Corp. processor. Unlike its predecessor, where off-the-shelf memory could be added later, the integration of memory into the main processor with Apple's in-house chips presents challenges for expansion.

In addition to hardware upgrades, Apple's focus this year centers on incorporating new AI features across its product ecosystem. The company intends to unveil a host of these features at its June developer conference, with a significant portion optimized to run directly on devices rather than relying on remote servers. Enhanced chip performance is expected to underpin these advancements. Furthermore, Apple plans to incorporate AI-focused enhancements into this year's iPhone processor.

Apple's transition to in-house chips is part of a longstanding initiative dubbed Apple Silicon. The adoption of its own semiconductors commenced with the original iPad and iPhone 4 in 2010 before extending to the Mac lineup in 2020. The overarching objective is to harmonize hardware and software while reducing dependence on Intel processors.

Thus far, this endeavor has yielded positive results, driving performance enhancements and facilitating device redesigns such as the latest MacBook Air, iMac, and MacBook Pro iterations. Leveraging the same Arm Holdings Plc (ARM) architecture as iPhone and iPad processors, Apple's Mac chips enable slimmer products with enhanced battery life and reduced reliance on cooling mechanisms.

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