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Rumor: Apple and Intel again mulling partnership to build A-series chips

post #1 of 65
Thread Starter 
A report on Thursday claims inside knowledge of reported negotiations between Apple and Intel, saying the chip maker may be looking to build ARM-based SoCs based for the Cupertino company's iOS device lineup.

Citing a person familiar with one of the tech giants, Reuters reported that executives have over the past year discussed a possible partnership in which Intel's foundries would be used to manufacture Apple-designed chips. A deal has not yet been reached, the source said.

Teardown A6 Close
Apple's latest A6 SoC powers the new iPhone 5. | Source: iFixit


This is not the first time rumors of an Apple-Intel partnership have cropped up. A report from May 2011 suggested that Intel showed interest in building Apple's A4 and A5 SoCs, though no action was taken and the idea was apparently shelved as the so-called Ultrabook initiative gained momentum.

Intel is supposedly looking to shift its strategy as PC sales continue to slump as mobile devices, led by tablets like Apple's iPad, continue to gobble up marketshare. The firm has been looking to expand its foundry business, most recently agreeing to fabricate silicon based on technology from chip maker Altera.

While an agreement to start production of ARM SoCs would likely undercut adoption of Intel's own Atom mobile processor, the move might be necessary to keep pace with a quickly changing market. The report also speculates that Intel's replacement for CEO Paul Otellini, who plans to retire in May, may further diversify the company's contract operations in a bid to keep manufacturing facilities working at full capacity.

As for Apple, a move to Intel is easier to imagine, as the Mac lineup already runs on x86 processors. It has also been rumored that the company wants to distance itself from current A-series SoC manufacturer Samsung, with which it is ensnarled in a worldwide patent struggle. The Korean electronics giant is also Apple's biggest competition in the mobile marketplace, with a variety of Android-based devices going jockeying for position against iOS products like the iPhone and iPad.
post #2 of 65
Head to head? You got to be kidding me.

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post #3 of 65
Interesting.. Intel stopped making their own PC motherboards recently.. They will still produce reference designs apparently, but it's obvious they are shifting strategy. Could be a win-win for both parties.
post #4 of 65

Intel is going to become a large-scale ARM licensee? Really?

post #5 of 65
Intel's market cap is 1.07 billion. Just saying.
post #6 of 65

Made In USA 

 

That would be awesome.

 

Go Apple, go go go...

post #7 of 65

Quite plausible, and frankly quite excitingly so, this rumour.

 

The perfect opportunity all round: for Apple, a high-volume, high build-quality chip heavyweight eminently capable of replacing Samsung for the fabrication of their in-house CPU and graphics chip designs. For Intel: at last a seat at the biggest game in town, and a chance to go head-to-head with mobile heavy hitters like Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia, Texas Instruments and Huawei.

 

This may be the perfect fillip to send Apple's share price rocketing upwards, and draw attention away from the Nosferatu-offspring that infest Wall Street with their ill-intentioned, misguided venom, and to a well run, well-moneyed organisation with no debt, best-selling products and great plans for more in the pipeline.

 

And yes, @AppleSauce007, made in USA...

 

 

Edited by airmanchairman - 3/7/13 at 4:19am
post #8 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post

Intel's market cap is 1.07 billion. Just saying.

You're about 106 billion off. :p

 

I don't think it would make much sense for Apple to blow most of its cash buying a strained chip manufacturer.  That's just not their core business and requires a ton of specialized expertise that isn't their norm.

 

I think Intel is a great partner for Apple- much better than TSMC.  TSMC was already almost booted by its two leading customers last year due to delivery issues.  Apple wants to become their biggest customer and put more supply on their hands?  Thats a pretty big risk and price to pay just to 'remove Samsung'.  Hate Sammy if you must, but they are great manufacturers and deliver.  Find a reliable supplier *first*, then drop Samsung.  Another factor would be that the Samsung processors are made in the USA for Apple.  Moving those jobs to Taiwan wouldn't be ideal (from both a PR and IP vantage).

Intel is good choice.  They do processors and manufacturing very very well.  The cost difference is likely a determining factor, but Intel is a little on the ropes with the PC market what it is and they have the capacity and skills to do it NOW.  Azalea, if even real, isn't even at the point of breaking ground yet.  That would mean 2 years of construction and 6 months to another year of flaky ramp-up production.

Intel/Apple makes a lot of sense for both.

post #9 of 65
This have been impossible before, since Intel didn't have fab capacity to accommodate Apple.

But Intel lost over 30% market share last year and their last report had that they used their fabs 50%.

The only reason why Intel would agree to do this with Apple is if Apple signs a new 5 year deal to use X86 chips in their computers. This would hinder wide adaption of ARM in ordinary computers.

If Apple released and ARM based computer: that would show the industry that ARM now is read.

(I personally hope that X86 disappears. They don't even have real 64 bit, but 64 bit extentions. I used real 64bit CPUs in 1995 and a pure 64 bit OS in 1997 Solaris 7)
post #10 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post

Intel's market cap is 1.07 billion. Just saying.

 

Everything is clear now. :smiling:
post #11 of 65
I just wonder what stops Intel from gaining Apple's R & D then adding the same technology to another Apple rip off product marketed through Wintel channels? I sincerely hope Apple's legal team have Intel in a headlock.
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post #12 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

Intel is going to become a large-scale ARM licensee? Really?

intel has been a large-scale ARM licensee for many years already

post #13 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

Intel is going to become a large-scale ARM licensee? Really?

Intel had/has an ARM license post the Marvell divestiture, just never used it. I could have sworn I read they transferred it last year though. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post

Intel's market cap is 1.07 billion. Just saying.

What are you saying? Intel's market cap is ~108 billion. Accidental decimal?

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post #14 of 65
Intel has a Major hardon for Mobile.
Expect them to do something about it in 2013. Maybe this is it.
They know that their Atom processors have not been "it".

This seems like a big shift but a Very good idea for the company.
post #15 of 65
surely any new Apple SOC will be based on a Samsung design. I do not really see this happening as is. Apple are more likely to use a Mediatek or Qualcomm design with TSMC or Intel doing the silicon run.
post #16 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

I just wonder what stops Intel from gaining Apple's R & D then adding the same technology to another Apple rip off product marketed through Wintel channels? I sincerely hope Apple's legal team have Intel in a headlock.

 

Amen. The "...and boy have we patented it" statement by Steve in 2007 at the iPhone announcement was obviously misinterpreted by Google and Samsung.

post #17 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by JackTheRat View Post

Amen. The "...and boy have we patented it" statement by Steve in 2007 at the iPhone announcement was obviously misinterpreted by Google and Samsung.

Their legal teams use the "Forgiveness is easier to obtain than permission" form of approach to these things where Apple IP is concerned.
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post #18 of 65

deleted


Edited by MacRulez - 7/21/13 at 4:30pm
post #19 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by JackTheRat View Post

 

Amen. The "...and boy have we patented it" statement by Steve in 2007 at the iPhone announcement was obviously misinterpreted by Google and Samsung.

patents are for specific implementations of an idea, not an idea by itself

post #20 of 65
I see another Samsung/Google in the making as now Intel will have the technology knowhow to build new designs of their own chips. It's one thing for a Fab company, but Intel manufactures their own chips and those chips goes into devices that compete against Apple.

"As for Apple, a move to Intel is easier to imagine, as the Mac lineup already runs on x86 processors."

That makes no sense at all. It might be easier as Apple currently buys chips from Intel, but being the Mac is x86 has nothing to do with the ARM.
post #21 of 65
Unless this deal was zealed and done two years ago, otherwise the chance of next SoC coming from Intel is pretty slim. And in terms of Low Power SoC design intel just isn't up there against TSMC.

The rumors suggest that may be Intel is start talking to Apple again. Empty Fab Space is expensive. And Ultrabook, Netbook never caught on, PC market has been shrinking for a long time and it is actually shrinking faster then they could imagine. If it wasn't for DataCenter and HPC's huge profit margin i did expect Intel have agreed to the deal already.

And If Atom never really worked out, ( It is actually quite good on 32nm LP ) Then Intel could at least fill up their Fab Space with a Customer that is never going to compete with them. ( Apple )
post #22 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by aBeliefSystem View Post

surely any new Apple SOC will be based on a Samsung design. I do not really see this happening as is. Apple are more likely to use a Mediatek or Qualcomm design with TSMC or Intel doing the silicon run.

 

Huh? Why would Apple go backwards? Up until the A5 the A-Series chips have been based on designs by a partnership with Intrinsity (Apple) and Samsung. The A6 SoC is a completely custom Apple design... The CPU core isn't even an ARM reference design, just based off the ARM ISA.

 

A4; Intrinsity, Apple and Samsung

A5; Apple and Samsung

A6; Apple

 

Maybe you didn't hear that Apple bought two CPU design firms: P.A. Semi and Intrinsity? P.A. Semi designed completely custom Power Architecture CPUs and Intrinsity customized ARM cores. Both companies worked to make CPUs more power efficient. From these Apple has designed their own ARM core base on ARM's armv7 ISA called Swift.

Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #23 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by ksec View Post

Unless this deal was zealed and done two years ago, otherwise the chance of next SoC coming from Intel is pretty slim. And in terms of Low Power SoC design intel just isn't up there against TSMC.

Irrelevant. It is very unlikely that Apple would use an Intel design when they have their own. All they need is fab space. I don't know how long it takes to get an existing design transferred to a new fab, but that's the time frame - not SoC design.

There would undoubtedly be some minor designs to the existing design to make it work better with Intel tech. Intel would own those design changes (unless their agreement said something different), but would not gain access to Apple's SoC design.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mjtomlin View Post

Huh? Why would Apple go backwards? Up until the A5 the A-Series chips have been based on designs by a partnership with Intrinsity (Apple) and Samsung. The A6 SoC is a completely custom Apple design... The CPU core isn't even an ARM reference design, just based off the ARM ISA.

A4; Intrinsity, Apple and Samsung
A5; Apple and Samsung
A6; Apple

Maybe you didn't hear that Apple bought two CPU design firms: P.A. Semi and Intrinsity? P.A. Semi designed completely custom Power Architecture CPUs and Intrinsity customized ARM cores. Both companies worked to make CPUs more power efficient. From these Apple has designed their own ARM core base on ARM's armv7 ISA called Swift.

That's what people keep missing. Intel would not gain access to Apple's IP (unless Apple chose to give it to them). Intel would be acting as a fab for Apple's designs. They might need to do some modifications to make the existing design work in Intel's fabs, but the basic design would be unchanged - and remain Apple's property.
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post #24 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by ksec View Post

Unless this deal was zealed and done two years ago, otherwise the chance of next SoC coming from Intel is pretty slim. And in terms of Low Power SoC design intel just isn't up there against TSMC.

The rumors suggest that may be Intel is start talking to Apple again. Empty Fab Space is expensive. And Ultrabook, Netbook never caught on, PC market has been shrinking for a long time and it is actually shrinking faster then they could imagine. If it wasn't for DataCenter and HPC's huge profit margin i did expect Intel have agreed to the deal already.

And If Atom never really worked out, ( It is actually quite good on 32nm LP ) Then Intel could at least fill up their Fab Space with a Customer that is never going to compete with them. ( Apple )

And Apple always needs a 'We can always take our business to Intel...' plausible negotiation ploy.   

 

As for Intel 'stealing' IP and putting into the x86 line... 1) most of the An series IP that is magical/secret sauce, is so optimally tied to iOS and/or the rest of the HW in an iPhad, it wouldn't assist Intel in any other ARM or x86 line specifically... HOWEVER, 2) if Apple could nudge the x86 line to be more power efficient, more GPU optimized for OSX, that would be a good thing for one of the largest Laptop and high margin desktop computing makers... wouldn't it?

 

An Intel... with expanding Fab capacity due to lack of market growth, a need for high margin sales, and a need to continue funding it's die shrinkage  (remember, it's on a path to 22nm this year... an enticing path for a next gen A7X SoC).  

 

I see this as enough win win to stamp the rumor 'PLAUSIBLE'

post #25 of 65
As things currently stand Apple needs Intel more than Intel needs Apple. Except for those under utilized fabs. Apple does not need Intel's newest process. They would be happier on the highest yield and lowest cost fabs. Intel dropping out of making their own motherboards means they have less use for the older fab processes that were used to make motherboard chips. The move to system on a chip is already killing that business. So what will Intel do with its older fabs that have already been depreciated? I can certainly see Intel making an Arm processor for Apple on the 22nm node in high volume while making it's own chips on the 14 nm node. Apple is Intel's biggest customer for consumer chips. Improving that relationship may be the way forward for Intel. Intel is cash dependent. They are spending 18 billion dollars this year on research and development. Without new markets like cell phones they will be stranded with the most expensive factories in the world and no markets.
post #26 of 65
Why would Apple go backwards? Up until the A5 the A-Series chips have been based on designs by a partnership with Intrinsity (Apple) and Samsung. 

 

This post misses the point. The chips fabricated by Intel would still be to Apple designs. Intel is a generation ahead of other chip fabricators.

 

What Apple gains out of this is access to Intel's 22nm technology instead of 32nm which is where Samsung is at on the existing A series chips. When they made the shift from 32nm to 22nm  Intel estimated the benefits to be 50% less power consumption and up to 37% better performance.

 

Not a bad result from changing chip fabricator

post #27 of 65
ARM on an MacBook would be an unmitigated disaster unless Moore's law quadruples. Not to mention the complete rewrite required for all software.
post #28 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggf View Post

This post misses the point. The chips fabricated by Intel would still be to Apple designs. Intel is a generation ahead of other chip fabricators.

What Apple gains out of this is access to Intel's 22nm technology instead of 32nm which is where Samsung is at on the existing A series chips. When they made the shift from 32nm to 22nm  Intel estimated the benefits to be 50% less power consumption and up to 37% better performance.

Not a bad result from changing chip fabricator

Exactly. The advantages would be huge. One of the nice features about microprocessors is that moving to a newer technology often decreases the size of the chip - so the improvement in energy efficiency and performance can sometimes be essentially free (more chips per wafer).
Quote:
Originally Posted by gwlaw99 View Post

ARM on an MacBook would be an unmitigated disaster unless Moore's law quadruples. Not to mention the complete rewrite required for all software.

Agreed. I just can't see Apple switching to ARM for MacBook Air or Pro.

However, what I could see is an iPad professional. Essentially, an iPad with attached keyboard in clamshell configuration. Think 'netbook done right'.
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post #29 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by gwlaw99 View Post

ARM on an MacBook would be an unmitigated disaster unless Moore's law quadruples. Not to mention the complete rewrite required for all software.

 

Like most everyone else and the article itself, this is about Intel fabbing ARM SoCs (Apple's A5, A6, A7, etc) for use in iPhones, iPads, etc. Nothing to do with Macintoshes, laptops or desktops.

 

But many a company can design an ARM chip competitive with Intel's chips if given the same TDP targets. An ARM chip with a 15 W TDP will be competitive to ULV Intel x86 chips if given all the same development resources. But, there's really no point and no gain in doing that as x86 is just fine and basically the highest performance CPUs in the market at TDP from 10 to 100 Watts.

 

Apple certainly wants quad-core Core i7 performance in a 5 W package. This way they can make a 10 mm thick (at it's thickest point) iMac without any fans, light, and cool to the touch, while outperforming today's iMacs. If Intel can't get x86 down to 5 W and outperform today's quad-core i7s, say in 2014, then I can see Apple wanting to try it themselves.

post #30 of 65

Apple probably "needs" Intel as much as Intel "needs" Apple.  As in not really but there are a lot of advantages if they cut a deal.  

 

Apple needs a reliable supplier not named Samsung.  There are none better than Intel.

 

Intel needs a significant design win for Atom.  There are none better than Apple.

 

Intel doesn't want to fab ARMs but may near term to get a 14nm Atom design win on the iPad or iPhone.

 

Apple doesn't want Atom but a couple years at 14nm while Samsung trails a process node or two behind means smaller, more powerful CPU/GPUs that have much more battery life.

 

The Medfields are middle of the pack competitors against ARM SoCs.  The 22nm Merrifields should do better. 

post #31 of 65
Keep in mind Intel was once had an arm license . Their xscale processors were arm.

This would be good for both companies. apple would hopefully get access to Intels latest processor shrink and Intel would get the profit from making all those apple arm processors.
post #32 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by gwlaw99 View Post

ARM on an MacBook would be an unmitigated disaster unless Moore's law quadruples. Not to mention the complete rewrite required for all software.

 

I was thinking maybe apple can do what the windows 8 ultrabooks are doing. Make the MacBook screen an ipad and the keyboard the MacBook part. if you undock the ipad from the keyboard it becomes an ipad and when docked it becomes an osx MacBook.

post #33 of 65
I really hope Intel and Apple can reach some kind of agreement soon. Intel's foundry's are state of the art! They're already mass-producing 22nm parts while almost everybody else is still on 45nm, 32nm or 28nm at best. There's a lot of hype over TSMC's 20nm process coming out next year, but by then Intel will be on 14nm! Imagine the power efficiency of an ARM based SoC at 14nm! Ideal for something like a potential iWatch - as rumours are, the main obstacle to such a device are power consumption issues. This could help solve that. Or you could go the other way and increase process performance by upping the clock-speed and/or adding more cores for more performance at the same power consumption as current designs. This is a potentially great partnership! I hope it works out.
Edited by 1983 - 3/7/13 at 9:34am
post #34 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by majortom1981 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by gwlaw99 View Post

ARM on an MacBook would be an unmitigated disaster unless Moore's law quadruples. Not to mention the complete rewrite required for all software.

 

I was thinking maybe apple can do what the windows 8 ultrabooks are doing. Make the MacBook screen an ipad and the keyboard the MacBook part. if you undock the ipad from the keyboard it becomes an ipad and when docked it becomes an osx MacBook.

 

Here's an interesting article about the WinRT Tablet:

 

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/03/windows-rt-is-a-lemon-heres-how-microsoft-could-make-lemonade/

 

It mentions something like what you suggest.

 

It also states that Windows 8 RT is the complete Windows 8 OS ported to ARM -- but MS intentionally  precludes recompiling legacy Windows apps for ARM -- doesn't allow them in the app store (which is the sole source for WinRT apps).  

 

If you have an iPad (invisible OS and no accessible File System) being switched between a OS X LapTop display and a standalone iOS computer -- you have quite a few considerations -- to name a few:

  1. App Parity between OSes
  2. OS API/Framework parity
  3. Afore mentioned invisible OS and  File System
  4. Difference in UI/UX
  5. Power/battery requirements.

 

Certainly, Xcode has the capability to compile for both platforms.  The Simulator allows iOS apps to [mostly] run on OS X.  But there is no app parity for things like iWork, iLife, Siri, Maps...  And the API/Framework differences between iOS and OSX.

 

So, there is work that needs to be done by Apple before 3rd-party developers could do a reasonable job of implementing dual iOS/OSX apps.

 

That said, I think Apple could do this if they were so motivated.

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post #35 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by majortom1981 View Post

 

I was thinking maybe apple can do what the windows 8 ultrabooks are doing. Make the MacBook screen an ipad and the keyboard the MacBook part. if you undock the ipad from the keyboard it becomes an ipad and when docked it becomes an osx MacBook.

This is what I'm hoping for as well.  But to get there, Apple would probably need to design an SoC using ARM 64-bit, which won't happen till late this year, at the earliest, but most likely some time next year.  Imagine using the 13" rMBP screen to make one units.  Would be sweet.

post #36 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by majortom1981 View Post

I was thinking maybe apple can do what the windows 8 ultrabooks are doing. Make the MacBook screen an ipad and the keyboard the MacBook part. if you undock the ipad from the keyboard it becomes an ipad and when docked it becomes an osx MacBook.

[...]

 

That said, I think Apple could do this if they were so motivated.

I don't think Apple is motivated at all to make a hybrid device. They already have a lightweight notebook line. They want you to buy both devices.

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post #37 of 65
Originally Posted by mstone View Post
I don't think Apple is motivated at all to make a hybrid device. They already have a lightweight notebook line. They want you to buy both devices.

 

Until such time as the iPad becomes a replacement for both.

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post #38 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by majortom1981 View Post

I was thinking maybe apple can do what the windows 8 ultrabooks are doing. Make the MacBook screen an ipad and the keyboard the MacBook part. if you undock the ipad from the keyboard it becomes an ipad and when docked it becomes an osx MacBook.

[...]

 

That said, I think Apple could do this if they were so motivated.

I don't think Apple is motivated at all to make a hybrid device. They already have a lightweight notebook line. They want you to buy both devices.

 

Yeah, that's what they want today...

 

But things change:

  • MS or MS OEMs could be successful with their hybrid devices.
  • The latest x86 CPUs are more than powerful enough for most computer uses.
  • At some point, ARM CPUs (and iOS) will be good enough for all but the high-end power users

 

Apparently, Apple is cannibalizing MacBooks with iPads -- and that's OK!  But if some other platform (Win, Android, Chrome, Linux) threatens to cannibalize...

 

The secret is to have the capability, and the timing of when to release it.

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post #39 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by majjo View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by MacRulez View Post

But...but...TSCM has more than enough capacity and expertise, no? 1wink.gif

Seriously, I think this is just Part 1 of a two-part story.  The second part will be when Apple switches to the post-Haswell line coming from Intell in late 2014, faster and more energy-efficient than ARM will be able to do for years.

Think different.

 

This is my feeling as well as the deal as presented really didn't make sense from Intel's standpoint.

My guess is that for this to happen, Intel is going to wasn't something like the next iPad on atom. With atoms power efficiency already on part with the latest ARM SoCs, and apple having tight control of the software on the iPad, this could actually be possible.

 

I could see Apple making an Atom (or other x86) model of the iPad -- but not the only model.

 

We are in the middle of a revolution -- from kb/mouse multiple overlapping windows -- to touch/voice single window (post pc).

 

It isn't clear, yet, how all this will turn out -- and it would be difficult for Apple to offer only an x86 iPad -- and not be able to run OSX apps on it.

 

 

One way to ask the question:  Does a tablet need more than 1 window on the screen at the same time?  If so, how many?  Should they overlap?  Should they be resizable?  Should the apps in the background windows keep running?...

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post #40 of 65
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

It has also been rumored that the company wants to distance itself from current A-series SoC manufacturerSamsung, with which it is ensnarled in a worldwide patent struggle.

 

Ya think?

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