The project is not new, Apple has been working on this for years, and Intel knew about it. Our knowledgeable contacts have confirmed the MacBook 2021 will use a 5nm variation of A14X chip for iPad. Of course, as always, complete discretion is obligatory as Apple is not kind to people who share information outside of its dome.
Kalamata might be the codename, and the fact that Apple is using Big Little approach with eight high performance cores codenamed Firestorm, and four energy-efficient Icestorm cores is hardly a surprise.
Having its own homebred chip was always the plan. Apple did this years ago with phones as this was the right way to do it, Samsung copied it, and so did Huawei, the big guys have their own chips and can finetune them for the egosystem.
A14X roots eight plus four cores
Now this will be the case for Apple Macbooks that will have to rely on A14X modified chips for 2021 notebooks. Since Intel will be out of the picture, the audience will only be able to compare 2020 Apple machines versus the new 2021.
It takes some time to fine tune and bring new architectural challenges so 2022 and later will be the timeframe when the real stuff will start surfacing.
Non-Apple notebook manufacturers will have Tiger Lake chips from Intel that are expected for the "back to school" period. Tiger Lake is 10nm+ and brings Willow cores that will have better AI, have better IPC, and significantly better GPU compared to Ice Lake. Intel's 10nm+ may be comparable to TSMCs 7nm. It is hard to compare them.
Apple's MacBook will have to fight the next generation Golden Cove, most likely at Intel's 7nm, but this is something we will have to confirm. Intel is experimenting with Lakefield first of many Big Little cores based on X86, and, apparently, it will pursue this path for notebooks of the future.