Autodesk finally goes Apple Silicon-native

After a long wait, Autodesk has announced updates for AutoCAD and Maya that will support Apple silicon natively.
3 April 2023
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Just under two and a half years ago, Apple announced that it would begin a transition from Intel processors in its Macs to Apple Silicon, AKA its take on the ARM architecture. On November 10, 2020, the first Macs built with the Apple M1 processor were unveiled and software developers needed to make the switch, if they wanted their offerings to run silky-smooth.

It wasn’t until March this year that Autodesk finally updated its popular professional applications, AutoCAD and Maya to run natively on M1 and M2 chips. In a blog post on March 28, Autodesk announced the upcoming release of AutoCAD for Mac 2024. For the first time, “AutoCAD for Mac 2024 and AutoCAD LT for Mac 2023 are now run natively on both Intel and Apple Silicon architectures, including M1 and M2 chips in the M-series chips.”

Alongside this change come the expected general performance updates such as automation tools and easier workflows. In the announcement, Autodesk claims that Apple silicon support “can increase overall performance by up to two times” compared to the 2023 version of AutoCAD.

The good news didn’t stop there for its subscribers. The next day, on March 29, the company also revealed that the 2024 update of its software Maya will bring Apple silicon support in addition to a slew of new features including the LookDevX material editor. Maya is a 3D modelling software chiefly used in game development, film production and visual effects.

As exciting as the updates are to graphics specialists, the changes have come late to the game. Contrasting software in similar industries, like Adobe and Unity, Autodesk’s efforts to enable support for Apple silicon have been publicly ongoing for a while: it announced plans for the change two years ago.

Apple silicon support catching on

An open-source competitor to Maya, Blender, beat Autodesk to the punch with its release of the 2.93.0 update. Mac users have been frustrated over the last few years with AutoDesk, especially given that despite assurances that the company was working on an update, Autodesk never explained why it took so long.

Another application that went silicon native recently, with its 2023.3 update was Protools by Avid, an industry-standard audio editor. The update will also provide a performance improvement across the application, making it more responsive. Previous versions have run on the Rosetta emulation platform, meaning users of M-based Macs had not been accessing the full value of the fast chips in their daily driver application.

As hardware develops, software providers have to balance the need to update code for new architecture with the fact that entire workflows rely on critical software – updates have to be solid, and backwards-compatibility is a must. Autodesk’s shift to supporting Apple silicon natively might be enough to keep its users on board for now, but already-annoyed users may have used the delay to move to faster-to-recompile platforms, like Blender.