Rumor mill: The new M1 Macs have not even been out for a year, but rumors say that Apple's follow-up SoC is already in mass production. Products featuring the new chip could ship as early as the second half of the year, just in time for the still rumored but redesigned MacBook Pros.

Rumors have surfaced that the second generation of Apple silicon is already in production at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC). Nikkei Asia claims insiders familiar with the situation say the first allotments could ship as early as July. This timeline makes sense considering Apple has indicated that it wants to complete its transition away from Intel chips by the end of 2022.

The MacBook Pro (13-inch), MacBook Air, and Mac Mini made the swap last year, and last week, Apple introduced a completely redesigned 24-inch M1 iMac. However, that still leaves three other models of iMac (21.5-inch, 27-inch, and Pro), the 16-inch MacBook Pro, and the Mac Pro that still need to make the transition from Intel silicon. With the new SoC, tentatively called "M2," arriving this summer, Apple could see its next big step in the phasing out the x86 architecture, with M2 MacBooks coming in the second half of 2021. These could possibly be the redesigns that REvil leaked schematics of in its ransomware attack on Quanta last week.

"It's now an irreversible trend that Apple will eventually use only its own chips in its computer products. Macs have their own ecosystem as well as user base because they run on Apple's own operating systems instead of Microsoft Windows," IDC analyst Joey Yen told Nikkei. "So far, Apple has made a successful debut, and the integrated experience has also been satisfying based on general customers' feedback."

The new Apple SoC combines CPU, GPU, and AI processors on TSMC's N5P (5nm-plus) process. They take three months to manufacture, so the July forecast is about right if production has already begun.

Of course, take the news with a grain of salt as usual. Apple and TSMC both unsurprisingly declined to confirm or comment on the report.

The insiders did not offer up any details about the M2's performance but consider the performance gains of the M1 to get an idea. Apple claims its first-gen SoC delivers "up to 3.5x faster CPU performance, up to 6x faster GPU performance, and up to 15x faster machine learning" over the latest (as of last November) Intel laptop chip. It's a good bet Cupertino is shooting for similar gains, but realistically they probably won't be as dramatic.

Image credit: Nanain