Apple's M1 chip has been a revelation since its launch late last year and has brought a radical increase in performance to the company's Macs over their Intel predecessors. Now it looks like the M1's successor is almost ready for the show.
According to Nikkei Asia, the chips went into production this month. The outlet reports that the chips could be shipped to Apple as early as July this year. Macs with these chips will go on sale in the second half of 2021.
Updated MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models are obvious candidates for these new chips, as are the Mac Mini and iMac (although the latter will likely be updated later as it has just been redesigned). Interestingly, the Nikkei Asia report states that the M2 could appear on "other Mac and Apple devices outside of the MacBook". That seems to suggest it could be built into iPad models – something that seems less surprising now that the iPad Pro runs on an M1 chip.
Nikkei Asia is tentatively calling the new chip the M2. Previous rumors had suggested that the chip could be referred to as the M1X, implying a more incremental upgrade over the M1. If the name M2 turns out to be correct, it would mean a much greater improvement in performance.
At the moment we don't know any of the main specifications of the M2. In late 2020, reporter Mark Gurman, who has a strong track record on Apple rumors, claimed that the company was working on the next generation of its Apple silicon chips. These could contain 16, 12, or eight high-performance cores, he claimed. In comparison, the M1 currently contains four high-performance cores. Even if the M2 is on the low end of Gurman's prediction, it would still be a potentially big upgrade over the M1.
If Nikkei Asia's July date is correct, there is little chance Apple will showcase the updated MacBooks at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June. It's already a dead certainty that Apple plans to completely overhaul the MacBook Pro 13 this year, so that appears to be a prime target for the M2 chips. If everything is done in time, WWDC could be the event to watch.