updated 06:22 am EDT, Thu April 18, 2013
Intel will not fabricate Apple ARM-based chip designs
Intel CEO Paul Otellini has poured cold water on recent speculation that it will fabricate ARM-based chips for Apple, reports CNet. An earlier report by Reuters indicated that the two companies had entered talks on the possibility, however, Otellini's comments seem to suggest that a straight-forward chip fabrication deal is not on the table. In taking a question on the subject at Tuesday's conference call, Otellini answered with a point blank, 'No.'
From Intel's perspective on the subject, Apple while an Intel partner for its notebook and desktop chips, is also a competitor by designing its own chips based on ARM's competing designs. There must be "ground rules" that would help to ensure that Intel "would not enable a chip competitor." Suggestions that Apple could partner with Intel on mobile chip fabrictation have been based on Apple's irreparably fractured relationship with Samsung, coupled with Intel's inability to become a force in the mobile chip space to date.
At the same time, Intel has been busy expanding manufacturing capacity while also looking to utilize idle production lines for fabrication purposes. While most of the chips that Apple purchases from Intel are 'off-the-shelf' components, the two companies have partnered on custom chip packages that have been either Apple exclusives, or short-term Apple exclusives. Further comments by Otellini seem to keep the door open to this possibility to this type of Apple-Intel collaboration in the future. "It would be great if we could form a strategic relationship with a customer so that it went beyond just a single foundry transaction," said Otellini.
While there is no doubt that Intel is keen to capture a slice of Apple's mobile chip business, Apple has yet to utilize Intel's Atom line in one of its products due the performance per watt advantage that ARM's mobile chip designs have held over Intel's low power x86 architecture. However, Intel has started to dramatically close this gap with its latest Atom designs, which could pave the way for Apple to partner once again with Intel on chip designs. It seems that this will only occur in the mobile space if Apple chooses Intel's x86 architecture for future iPhones, iPads, or even a smartwatch. Otellini has also previously that Intel wants to produce mobile chips that Apple "can't ignore."