- Apple launched new ARM-based MacBooks earlier this week.
- ARM-based MacBooks will need Universal apps to support the architecture.
- Microsoft will be releasing the Universal build for Office apps today.
Apple is upping the ante against Microsoft with its first ARM-based MacBooks that are powered by the M1 chip. Microsoft has been selling ARM laptops for a while under its Surface brand but Apple is finally taking that route to show what it is capable of to shake up the PC market. But while all of those ambitions Apple has wish-listed, it is also taking some help from Microsoft to achieve them.
For ARM-based computers, the apps are required to support that architecture, which is fundamentally different from their x86-based (or x64-based) architecture that Intel chipsets have supported on Apple MacBooks so far. This means the app developers have to tweak their apps so that they are able to utilise the power from the ARM-based processor. Microsoft is doing the same for its Office apps for the Mac.
Microsoft is releasing a beta software build for its Office 2019 to make it compatible for the ARM-based MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini that will soon be out in markets. Although this is a beta build, the software update will culminate into an even faster set of Office apps that the newest MacBooks will leverage to get better productivity than on its Intel-based counterparts can deliver. This is going to ultimately result in Apple making progress in the PC world, even as far as matching Microsoft as far as ARM-based processors are concerned.
The programmes that are designed to run natively on the new ARM-based processors are called "Universal apps". Microsoft engineer Erik Schwiebert has confirmed that the Universal build for Office 2019 is coming "by the end of today", i.e., November 12. Although Schwiebert does not have a date for the release of the public version of Office 2019 Universal build.
This does not also mean that Microsoft is somehow undermining its own ARM-based laptops. Its Surface laptops are among the highest-performing laptops you can buy. It is just that Microsoft does not want to behave childishly over the compatibility of the most popular apps that almost all PC or Mac users rely on for documentation and presentation among others.
Microsoft has been offering the Office apps for Surface laptops for a long time now. But for Mac, it has offered regular Intel-based apps. The switchover to the ARM-based will benefit Microsoft in terms of the learnings it can gather to later utilise for bettering these apps for its Surface lineup. Not that this is particularly definite, but Microsoft has that opportunity with the new Office apps for Mac that it can turn in its favour.