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Intel determined to make mobile chips Apple 'can't ignore'

updated 11:00 pm EDT, Fri May 11, 2012

Plans to use size, technology to beat rivals, woo Apple

Intel CEO Paul Otellini has made it clear to investors and reporters that the company will continue to angle for more business from Apple in mobile devices, saying his mission was to "ensure our silicon is so compelling [that] they can't ignore us." Intel is already responsible for the chips in all of Apple's desktop and notebook products, but has longed to replace ARM-based processors as the heart of its mobile lineup, Forbes reports.

There can be little doubt that, at the time, Apple's eventual decision to go with ARM processors was the right one. Stories have circulated of iPod and iPhone architect Tony Fadell threatening to quit Apple in 2006 if the company went with Intel for its forthcoming iPhone, which CEO Steve Jobs was said to have favored. While Intel's chips may not have been energy-efficient enough in 2006, the chip giant has focused obsessively on energy-efficiency and size in the years since then, gaining much ground after a late entry into the mobile device field.

The company has invested heavily in chip fabrication plants and engineering resources to constantly improve its size and efficiency over that of rivals. It soon plans to ship chips fabricated on a 22nm process and has 14nm scale chips in the pipeline for as early as 2014. The current smallest chips available from rivals are 28nm and only available in limited quantity.

Apple has turned mostly in-house for its latest series of mobile chips, but the processor is based on a licensed ARM design. The current A5X is based on a ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore using a 45nm design, but the latest versions of the iPad 2 now being sold gain some 20 percent battery efficiency by using a version of the A5 chip based on a 32nm design. The iPad maker has not given any indication that it would steer away from ARM, but is always open to genuinely better parts.

Ironically, even Microsoft has found ARM's chips worthy of support. Windows 8 will include support for ARM devices, signalling the rise of ARM as a powerful mobile computing platform.

Intel's efforts are being rewarded with more use of its chips in non-Apple mobile devices, including Windows Phone models and future products from Lenovo and Motorola Mobility. Non-processor Intel chips are also widely used in mobile phones and other devices for wireless radios and other functionality. While it is beginning to find success in mobile markets outside of Apple, Intel would clearly like to be more involved with the market leader, Apple, in future iPad, iPhone and other mobile device products. [via Forbes]

by MacNN Staff



  1. kirsch

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Wow that's a small chip!

    > It plans to ship chips that are as small as 22 nanometers wide

    Uhm, that would not be the width of the chip, dear Electronista writer.

  1. nowwhatareyoulookingat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    not the first for Microsoft

    Microsoft has supported non-x86 chips before, such as PowerPC, several CPU's for WinCE.

  1. bsaxton

    Joined: Dec 1969



    " the first time the company has endorsed a non-x86 type chip as a main processor" Why are you making up stuff??

  1. que_ball

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Go for it

    If Intel can make a chip so vastly superior to the current ARM lines that sounds like it would be good news.

    I encourage them to try. As long as they play fair and don't try to play dirty business games like they have done in the past when trying to kill off x86 competition.

    But the groups making and developing the ARM chips aren't exactly going to stand still either. Competition is good.

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