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Steve Jobs once wanted Intel for iPad, picked size carefully

updated 03:15 pm EDT, Tue October 25, 2011

Jobs had to be pushed to use ARM in iPad

The hot-selling biography of Steve Jobs has revealed that the Apple CEO at one point wanted to use Intel's Atom chip for the iPad. He had contended that Intel was reliable for mobile chips, even when the iPhone was already shipping with ARM. Then-key executive and later Nest Labs founder Tony Fadell was not only adamant that ARM would be better but even threatened to resign on the spot at a board meeting where Jobs was making the case for the Atom.

Jobs in talking to Isaacson revealed that he changed his mind after Fadell presented evidence with the help of engineers, saying he didn't want to go against his "best guys'" advice. In hindsight, he added that going with Intel could have been a grievous mistake, since Intel was a "steamship" that couldn't change direction quickly. Pushing Intel to improve its mobile processors could have been dangerous, too, as it would have essentially given competitors the same advantages Apple wanted at the same time.

Choosing ARM ultimately helped define the market and even led Microsoft to add ARM support to Windows 8 after ignoring non-Intel architecture for more than a decade. Its buyouts of PA Semi and Intrinsity let it take a reference ARM design and customize it to get faster clock speeds and more cache than it would have had otherwise.

Although difficult to tell at the time iPad work started in earnest in 2008, Intel quickly became a liability in a tablet rather than an advantage. The iPad gets roughly twice as much battery life as an Atom tablet like the HP Slate 500 and, because it had faster graphics even in 2010, was much more responsive. Intel has been slow to adapt the Atom to mobile and will only just next year be producing an Atom that might be small enough for a phone or the kind of tablet Apple wants to build.

Size was also an important issue, Jonathan Ive added. He and Jobs together tried about 20 different sizes and aspect ratios, all of them put on a table in Ive's design studio, before the two eventually settled on the 9.7-inch, 4:3 ratio.

Jobs would later go on to trash seven-inch tablets, noting that the interface either got dense to use properly or lost too much information. Rumors have persisted that Apple had a seven-inch tablet in development that was cancelled after settling on the larger size. Outside of the possible success of the Amazon Kindle Fire, which is focused more on being an Amazon content device than a tablet, seven-inch tablets like the BlackBerry PlayBook have fared poorly.

One explanation sometimes given for the poor showings of 10-inch Android tablets has been Google's decision to use 16:9 widescreen as the official Android 3.0 and now 4.0 ratio. On tablets, the ratio leads to overly narrow portrait viewing and devices that often feel top-heavy when they aren't held in landscape. [via MacRumors]

by MacNN Staff



    Comment buried. Show
  1. facebook_Robert

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2011


    3.5" tablets have sold like hot cakes

    3.5" tablets like the iPod touch and the smartphone you use everyday have dominated the market.
    6" ereaders dominate the ereader space.

    9.7" dominates tablets because Apple dominates tablets and they only sell one size, if you don't count the more popular 3.5" iPod touch.

    There is no reason to say 7" tablets don't sell well, when the B&N Color Nook runs android, has an app store, has sold millions and is in every real way, a tablet.

    Yes, people use it to read books. I get that - it's also a 7" tablet. And now it looks like that success is being repeated with the Kindle Fire, considering its healthy pre-release sales which trump even the iPad's pre-release haul of 300,000 or so.

  1. Paul Huang

    Joined: Dec 1969


    A product cannot be considered...

    successful until it gets into the customers' hands.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    7-inch size

    Apple may come around, particularly if Amazon Fire sales begin to take a bite out of iPad sales. The biggest plus for 7-inch is that, for on-the-go is that you don't need to carry about a bag just for it. It'll fit in a man's coat pocket or a woman's purse. And for reading, it's much lighter and easier to hold than a 10-inch iPad.

    Apple needs to abandon its 'one size fits all' policy. That was right when their market share was in the single digits, but it's not right today. You can grow only so much with a limited range of products.

    For iPhones, they need a ruggedized sports model. For the MacBook Air, they need a long-life model that adds thickness for a longer battery life. The 5-7hours of the 11-inch model isn't enough. And a tourist model of the iPod touch with GPS and a decent camera should sell well. Quite a few people don't want to hassle with international cell phone contracts, iPhone or otherwise, when they travel overseas. They want something like an iPhone but without the phone.

  1. Paul Huang

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Ruggedized? There is the Otterbox case.

    More run time? Carry a charger or use a Dell-brick with a colostomy bag.

    iPod touch with GPS and a decent camera? It's called the iPhone 4S.

    Finally, there is the unlocked iPhone 4S for $649.

    Any questions?

  1. ggirton

    Joined: Dec 1969


    i Want

    something like the iPhone, but without the phone. Let's get the good camera in there too, guys.

  1. Bobfozz

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Apple worked it out...

    And the others rushed in where angels feared to tread. Tony Fadell was right and Steve DID listen to him. The others tried to do in 6 months what Jobs & Co. had worked years on. Sorry peanut heads, no go.

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