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Intel seeking slice of Apple chip fabrication business

updated 05:58 am EST, Thu March 7, 2013

Intel in talks with Apple on mobile chip fabrication

Intel has been in discussions with Apple to fabricate its ARM-based A-series designs, reports Reuters. Executives from the two companies have been investigating the possibility of a contract manufacturing deal that would get Intel into the mobile space, while helping Apple extricate itself from its ties with Samsung. The report follows a similar rumor that first surfaced in mid-2012, which suggested that Intel was targeting Apple's mobile chip business, albeit with its own x86-based designs.

At the time, Intel CEO Paul Otellini was aiming to get Apple to adopt its low-power Atom-class mobile chips, not fabricate Apple's ARM-designs. Until recently, Otellini's mission has been to "ensure [Intel's] silicon is so compelling [that Apple] can't ignore us." Eight months further along and that possibility still seems unlikely given the overall performance per watt advantage that Apple is able to achieve from its custom A-series designs. While the UK-based ARM Holdings designs compete directly with Intel's x86 architecture, and notwithstanding the fact that Intel sold off its ARM-based Xscale operations to Marvell, fabricating Apple A-series chips still gets Intel into the mobile market.

In addition to offering Intel economies of scale by potentially utilizing idle foundry time, it gives it a sizeable chunk of Apple's multi-billion dollar chip fabrication business; even if it doesn't stand to make as much money from such a deal by selling its own x86 chip designs to Apple. It could be considered a 'Plan B' option for Apple's business, but one which still makes sense for Intel, especially given its apparent inability develop a competitive mobile chip in the six years since the iPhone, and later the iPad, reshaped the mobile device landscape.

Apple and Intel already have a close working relationship. In the years since Apple switched from IBM PowerPC chips, the two companies have collaborated on 'tailored-for-Apple' x86 chip and motherboard designs. The two also collaborated on Intel's super high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology. While this may have been strained by Intel's inability to have Apple integrate one of its low-power chips into shipping product, Apple's fractured relationship with Samsung lends substantial credibility to a possible hook-up on mobile chip fabrication.

by MacNN Staff




  1. qazwart

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-10-01

    comment title

    I'm glad that Intel is swallowing a bit of its pride in order to pursue this market. Intel certainly can do this quite profitably too.

  1. demani

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-26-05

    Great tech too

    Given Intel's advanced processes, just the move to a smaller process would see battery life benefits, and give Apple a leg up without designing anything brand new (of course I'd expect they would do that as well). That could put Apple way back in the lead again.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    As long as

    they don't throw the baby out with the bath water, it seems like a good idea.

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