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What if Apple’s new Mac chips are trash?

November 10, 2020, 5:01 PM UTC

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Apple’s reputation as a product hitmaker is nonpareil. So much so that it’s easy to forget the big whiffs—and yet the list of misses is long.

Remember those never-released AirPower charging mats? Those battery-preserving iPhone jam-ups? Bendy iPhone 6’s? How about the ill-fated G4 Cube, the Pippin, or the Newton? Or—I shudder even to mention it—Apple Maps?

These ghosts of Macs past haunt me as I gear up to watch Apple’s third virtual product event of the year today. The big reveal, as Aaron discussed yesterday: the first-ever Macintosh computers outfitted with chips of the company’s own make. (You can watch the broadcast, which starts at 1 pm ET, here.)

While forging a path independent of third-party silicon designers, like floundering Intel, could be good for Apple—especially, strategically, in the long term—the short term could have hiccups. This is a big switch, one that may lead to compatibility issues for app-makers and connected devices. Apple’s insistence that there will be “a smooth and seamless transition” to the new CPUs does not assuage my concerns; if anything, it makes me doubt Apple’s overconfidence.

After all, it wasn’t so long ago that redesigned MacBook keyboards ruined people’s lives. (Okay, gadget reviewers may have a penchant for hyperbole.)

I’m not the only one who fears the worst. Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research, opines for MarketWatch that Apple’s bold transition could end up benefitting its old rival, Microsoft. The software giant has for a decade been fine-tuning its code to run smoothly on a variety of chips across its own Surface notebooks as well as Samsung- and Lenovo-made varieties.

Microsoft “could be the big winner during this transition for the Mac,” Newsman writes. “With Microsoft Surface continuing to gain momentum for its ultra-high-quality notebooks, Mac faces more competition and will be under pressure to get this right— sooner than later.”

One hopes that Apple has sufficiently prepared for its major overhaul, which involves nothing short of transplanting the very brains of its devices. We’ll just have to wait and see what Apple has in store.

***

In September, McDonald’s reported the best month it’s had in a decade. In this episode of Fortune’s Reinvent podcast, host Beth Kowitt speaks with CEO Chris Kempczinski about how McDonald’s finds itself in a surprisingly good spot in the pandemic, thanks to the premium customers are now placing on speed, efficiency, drive-thru, and delivery. Listen to the episode here.

Robert Hackett

Twitter: @rhhackett

robert.hackett@fortune.com

THREATS

Duel role. The European Commission has charged Amazon with violating antitrust laws. The regulators, led by Europe's digital maven Margrethe Vestager, accuse the ecommerce behemoth of abusing its powerful, dual role as a merchant and marketplace operator. The company should not be allowed to hoover up non-public data from sellers so it can create low-cost, competitive products, the regulators say.

Highway rupee-ry. In addition to its U.S. antitrust lawsuit, Google is facing down an investigation opened by a foreign monopoly-buster, the Competition Commission of India. The Indian watchdog is investigating the usual: Whether the Google Play Store, a.k.a. the Android app store, unfairly favors Google Pay, the company's payments app. Like Apple's App Store, Google skims 30% off in-app payments, a tax that developers despise.

Breaking the bank. Three of the most senior executives at Japanese tech titan SoftBank were removed from the company's board after activist investor Elliott Management called for a shake-up. Departures include Rajeev Misra, head of the $100 billion and once-again-profitable-on-paper Vision Fund, and Marcelo Claure, SoftBank's chief operating officer. Meanwhile, the Vision Fund is thinking about relocating from London to Abu Dhabi, the Financial Times reports.

Piggybank piggyback. Speaking of SoftBank, let's check on some of its investments. The sequel to its Vision Fund—Vision Fund 2—just led a $250 million fundraising round for Tier, a Berlin-based e-scooter startup. Self-driving delivery firm Nuro is getting a $500 million cash injection. And Full Truck Alliance, a Chinese Uber for trucks, is raising $1.7 billion at a $10 billion valuation ahead of an initial public offering planned for next year. (Not so lucky for Ant Group, whose valuation could get slashed by $150 billion after last week's surprise suspension of its IPO...) 

Short-form resume. Kevin Mayer, who did a brief stint as the CEO of ByteDance's TikTok after losing the succession race at Disney, has a new gig. He's joining Access Industries, an investment firm founded by Russian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik, as an advisor on media businesses. 

This is what I will name my child someday.

ACCESS GRANTED

Virgin Hyperloop completed its first human passenger test in the deserts outside Las Vegas on Sunday. Two people safely rode in the vacuum-tube train at 100 miles per hour. (The hyperloop idea, conceived by Elon Musk and converted into a startup by some engineers, adopted the Virgin brand after British billionaire Richard Branson bought into the venture in 2017.)

Despite the successful test, it's unclear whether the project will ever become a reality of mass-transit. Here's Sara Luchian, Virgin Hyperloop's head of passenger experience, trying to convince the Verge that this crazy idea is not that crazy.

“This is not like some crazy, newfangled science fiction invention... This is something that reminds me of a place that I’ve been and I’ve used many times, that I would feel comfortable putting grandma in and sending her on a visit somewhere.”

FORTUNE RECON

Regulations could speed up, not slow down, A.I. progress by Will Hunt

Conservative social media site Parler shoots to the top of the download charts post-election by Aaron Pressman

Plant-based ‘McPlant’ burger launching at McDonald’s by Beth Kowitt

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 is open for business by Lucinda Shen

Stocks rise on game-changing news: A new President and a possible vaccine by Anne Sraders

Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee’s Solid data-privacy project enters the real world by David Meyer

Infectious disease experts are very excited about the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine by Katherine Dunn

(Some of these stories require a subscription to access.Thank you for supporting our journalism.)

ONE MORE THING

Stolen possessions once belonging to World War II code-breaker Alan Turing are returning to their rightful place at Dorset's Sherborne School in the UK, where the computing maverick studied as a child. (Oddly, the woman in whose Colorado home the historical items were found in 2018 changed her name from Julie Schwinghamer to Turing in 1988.) British Homeland Security informed the school's archivist that the missing items—including a letter from King George IV, presenting an Order of the British Empire award—would be restored "in due course."

Now that's what I call Turing completeness.