Today, November 10th, 2020, Apple announced three significant new macOS-based hardware products and the upcoming release of a new version of the macOS operating system—macOS 11.0 Big Sur.

These three new hardware products (the MacBook Air, the low-end MacBook Pro 13-inch, and the Mac mini) are based on an ARM processor (generally designated by Apple as “Apple silicon” and specifically as "M1") new to macOS and designed by Apple. They are not the Intel processors Apple has used exclusively on macOS devices for the last 14 years. Apple continues to sell many Intel-based products, including a mid-range MacBook Pro 13-inch and a different Mac mini.

Informations Systems & Computing (ISC) and others at Penn will test these new products over the next few months, both for compatibility with University apps and services and for overall performance. At this time, no ARM-based macOS devices are approved for general University use. All current Intel-based macOS devices remain approved, and we expect Apple to support them for at least a product life cycle.

macOS 11.0 Big Sur is essentially two separate operating system releases; macOS 11.0.x (Intel) and macOS 11.0.x (ARM). Working in collaboration with many across the University, ISC expects to approve macOS 11.0.x (Intel) for general use within a few weeks following its release on Thursday, November 12th (update—macOS 11.0.1 and above was cleared foor general use on December 1st, 2020). Testing and approving macOS 11.0.x (ARM) will take far longer—perhaps several months. That testing will, by definition, interlock with the evaluation of the new ARM-based hardware.

With the upcoming release of macOS 11.0, it’s also time for an important reminder about older macOS versions. Given Apple’s usual support practice, the security patch released in September 2020 for macOS 10.13.x was likely the final one they will make available. Where possible, systems running macOS 10.13.x should be upgraded to macOS 10.14.x or later. Systems incapable of running macOS 10.14.x or later—now at least five years old and generally more than eight years old—should be considered for retirement.

ISC will be following up in more detail in many of these areas over the next few weeks.