Why the ‘real’ Apple M2 might not be ready until 2023

WWDC 2022 kicks off next week, and rumors have been circulating for months that Apple is announcing its M2 chip for new MacBooks. There’s a good chance Apple will release new MacBooks with updated silicon at WWDC, but it won’t be the full generational jump fans had hoped for.

The problem comes down to the wafer Apple will be basing the M2 on. The M1 is built on chipmaker TSMC’s 5nm manufacturing process and rumors have hinted that Apple is using the 4nm manufacturing process for the M2. According to Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo’ and nice ShrimpAppleProthat won’t be possible if Apple plans to release new MacBooks in the second half of the year.

TSMC delayed volume production on its N4P node — an updated version of the 4nm N4 node, which itself is an update of the 5nm N5 node — until 2023. True next-gen Apple silicon will likely arrive in 2023 on TSMC’s 3nm process, which is a generational improvement over N5 and its various derivatives.

Naming is currently the big question. Rumors have been swirling for months that Apple will launch new Macs at WWDC this year. Apple has updated all of its Macs (minus the iMac Pro and Mac Pro) with its own silicon, as well as some iPads, so a new MacBook Pro or MacBook Air would likely come with an updated Apple chip.

We don’t know what products Apple will announce at WWDC, or whether it will announce any products at all. However, there is a good chance that we will see the 2022 MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Both products were launched in November 2020 with the then new M1 processor. Both are almost two years old and need to be renewed for months.

Assuming one or both machines show up at WWDC, it’s not clear whether Apple will use M2 as the nomenclature for its silicon, or announce a new version of the M1. Since the launch of the M1 MacBook Air, Apple has introduced the M1 Pro, Max and Ultra. Rumors suggest Apple is also working on an M1 Extreme processor, though it probably won’t be an option for an efficiency-focused machine like the MacBook Air.

While we won’t really get next-generation Apple silicon until 2023, a refreshed MacBook Air is still a good possibility. Ming-Chi Kuo points out: that an “all-new design is already a big selling point for new ones” [MacBook Air]† Leaving the highly anticipated debut of the M2 series to the next 14″/16″ [MacBook Pro] can contribute more to Apple.”

Design has been a defining element of the next MacBook Air, at least according to several leaked renders and concepts. The updated design is rumored to be available in a variety of colors to match the 24-inch iMac, and features round white keys. It could also have a 1080p webcam and a notch like the 14-inch MacBook Pro.

For now, we can only wait. WWDC 2022 kicks off on June 6, and you can stream the keynote presentation on Apple’s events page.

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