A page on Apple’s website has revealed that several features of macOS Monterey, the new version of the software that runs on Macs, won’t work on older Macs with Intel processors.
Rather, those features require the Apple-designed M1 chip (or presumably its forthcoming successors) found in new Macs the company has introduced since late last year.
That means the following Macs in Apple’s current lineup are required to use its features:
- 13-inch MacBook Air
- 24-inch iMac
- Low-end configurations of the 13-inch MacBook Pro
- Low-end configurations of the Mac mini
The clarification appears in fine print on Apple’s “macOS Monterey Preview” page. Meanwhile, some of the features listed are linked to a footnote that reads “Available on Mac computers with the M1 chip.”
These features include:
- Live text in photos, where users can interact with text in images as if it were another text
- Improved city maps for San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and London
- The detailed globe view for Apple Maps
- The video effect in portrait mode
- Natural text-to-speech in Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Finnish
- Unlimited/continuous keyboard dictation
Some of these (Live Text, for example) are likely explained by the fact that the chipsets in Intel Macs don’t have a viable equivalent to the 16-core Neural Engine NPU present on Apple’s M1. This part of the M1 focuses on machine learning tasks and is drastically faster at those tasks than anything else in the Intel Macs.
Apple has placed a lot of emphasis on features enabled by machine learning. A few months ago, we interviewed John Giannandrea, Apple’s chief of AI, who had defected from Google to Apple to lead the development of features like handwriting recognition on the iPad. During the interview, Giannandrea anticipated that ML on the device would be at the heart of many new features in the Apple ecosystem in the future. And without a viable NPU, Intel Macs are left behind.
Aside from the improved image quality of the 24-inch iMac’s M1 ISP-powered FaceTime camera, this is the first time we’ve seen an example of the M1 Macs offering more than improved performance and energy efficiency.
This revelation comes at a time when only a portion of the Mac lineup has been updated with Apple Silicon. All of the company’s high-end laptops and desktops still have Intel chips, such as the 16-inch MacBook Pro or the 27-inch iMac. That is expected to change this year with the introduction of a new M1 successor with a 10-core CPU and a 16- or 32-core GPU.
We thought we might see those new Macs at Monday’s WWDC keynote, but Apple didn’t announce any hardware in the end. Supply chain reports seem to indicate that the bottleneck holding back the new Macs from hitting the market could be the production of Mini LED displays.
List image by Samuel Axon