Exclusive: Apple to adopt Intel's ultra-mobile PC platform

in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Apple Inc. will form a closer bond with once-rival Intel Corp. early next year when it begins building a new breed of ultra-mobile processors from the chipmaker into a fresh generation of handheld devices, AppleInsider has learned.

The two firms have been rubbing the sticks ever since the Spring of 2005, when Apple agreed to use Intel's desktop and mobile class processors to further the development of its Mac product line, leaving behind an ailing relationship with PowerPC chip supplier IBM.

In the months that followed, Intel went on to form an internal 'Apple Group' comprised of engineering and sales staff who serve to aid Apple's engineers in Intel-related product development, while pitching to the computer maker new technologies from its own internal skunkwork operations.Â*

By last March, the two industry heavyweights were admittedly on to something when Deborah Conrad, vice president and director of Team Apple at Intel, told a group of CNet reporters that Apple's way of looking at the world was making Intel "think different" about its own business.

"That's really what's interesting about Apple, is they look at our technology in a very Apple way," she said, adding that when it came to the prospect of future gadgets other than the iPod, her team got "very, very excited."

The pair's first foray into this extended venture appears to have been the Apple TV wireless set-top-box, which employed a down clocked Intel Pentium M "Crofton" chip at its core. But what's on tap next promises to push the envelope in a completely different direction -- ultra-mobile PCs.

People familiar with the matter tell AppleInsider that Apple will soon emerge as one of the largest supporters of Intel's "Menlow" Mobile Internet Device (MID) platform -- the same platform the Santa Clara-based chipmaker has been harping about for the past several months.

More specifically, those same people say, Apple has taken a liking to the upcoming 45-nanometer (nm) "Silverthorne" chip, agreeing to use it in not one but multiple products currently situated on its 2008 calendar year product roadmap.Â*

Introduced at this year's Spring Intel Developer Forum (IDF) with availability slated for early 2008, Silverthorne is aimed specifically at cell phones, ultra-mobile PCs and other MIDs. The chip is expected to be as fast as the second-generation of Pentium M processors, but use only between half a watt and 2 watts of electrical power -- about one tenth as much as a typical notebook chip.

For his part, Intel chief executive Paul Otellini has gone on record in placing the advancements due with Silverthorne in the same light as those delivered by the original Pentium microprocessor way back when.

"The importance of the new Silverthorne chip is only comparable with the 8088 processor or Pentium,Â? he told the German-language Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in a June interview. Otellini added that his firm plans to deploy a whole "product family" of 45 nm Silverthorne chips in the near future aimed at capturing the "top 10 to 20 percent of the cellphone market.Â?

While those people familiar with Apple's product roadmap did not specify in which products the company planned to utilize the Silverthorne processors, two seemingly apparent contenders appear to be the second-generation 3G iPhone and the much rumored Newton successor / ultra-portable slate computer.

Silverthorne side by side with a penny.

That's because, in addition to its extremely favorable power envelope, Silverthorne can fit onto a scant 74mm by 143mm motherboard -- paving the way for lighter, sleeker industrial designs. What's more, Intel in September announced plans to offer ultra-mobile PC builders such as Apple the option to build WiFi, 3G, and WiMAX technologies into their Menlow-based chip packages, such as Silverthorne.

While embedded support for these features threatens Apple's ongoing relationship with several component makers like South Korea-based system-on-a-chip (SoC) supplier Samsung -- whose chips power both the iPhone and new iPod touch -- it presents several cost- and space-saving opportunities for iPhone-like gadgets going forward.

Speaking at the Spring IDF, Otellini said Silverthorne focuses more on cost-efficiency than any of his company's recent designs, which should help Intel boost margins while simultaneously making ultra-mobile computing more affordable worldwide.Â*

A Silverthone wafer based on Intel's new 45nm Hi-k low power microarchitecture.

"Silverthorne is the most cost efficient processor since the 286," he said, wielding a 300mm wafer containing a whopping of 2500 of the 45nm processors. "But it is about 100 times faster."

Otellini promised that the average price of a Silverthorne-based product would be approximately $100, which in itself suggests numerous inexpensive devices for Apple. However, several pricier products are also expected to sport the technology alongside added features.

It remains unclear whether Apple will be ready to divulge details of its own Silverthrone-based products at next month's Macworld Expo, or if those announcements will be reserved until a later date to coincide with general availability of the Intel chip.

Nevertheless, Apple's decision to adopt the Menlow platform further suggests a longer-term strategy that would indeed see the electronics maker step up to that platform's successor, Moorestown, in 2009 or 2010.

Intel shows off iPhone-like concept device running on Moorestown platform | Image courtesy of DailyTech.

At the most recent Fall IDF, Intel executives flaunted an unnamed Moorestown processor, describing it as the 'chip the iPhone would have wanted.' Similar to Silverthorne, the 45nm design bundles an integrated memory controller, video encode/decode engine and graphics processor all on a single SoC.

During an ensuing demonstration, executives whipped out an iPhone-like ultra-mobile PC in apparent homage to Apple, explaining that the Moorestown-based device could run constantly for 24 hours between charges.


  • Reply 1 of 179
    dave k.dave k. Posts: 1,306member
    Cool! Can't wait to see the products that are developed.
  • Reply 2 of 179
    "Rubbing sticks?"
  • Reply 3 of 179
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,368member
    I said this was going to happen, as usual, some argued with me about it.
  • Reply 4 of 179

    two seemingly apparent contenders appear to be the second-generation 3G iPhone and

    So there's already a first-gen 3G iPhone out? Seems technology is even outpacing the blogs.
  • Reply 5 of 179
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post

    I said this was going to happen, as usual, some argued with me about it.

    Foolish mortals! (All in fun mel, )
  • Reply 6 of 179
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post

    I said this was going to happen, as usual, some argued with me about it.

    Well, sure...over 11,000 posts and you are bound to be right on a couple of them!

    Just kidding

    The MacWorld rumor mills seem very quiet this year...guess we'll just have to wait and see if something is coming out of all this in time for unveiling next month!
  • Reply 7 of 179
    So is the power savings here big enough to offset the increased consumption of 3G radios?
  • Reply 8 of 179
    what speed these CPUs run?
  • Reply 9 of 179
    That image looks exactly how I imagined apples forthcoming 7 incher to look like, except the device in the image is a bit longer.
  • Reply 10 of 179
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post

    I said this was going to happen, as usual, some argued with me about it.

    Well, it seems pretty obvious to me. Remember when Steve honoured the Intel CEO with this "Ive designer thingy" on stage at Macworld? Otellini said that the Mac transition to Intel was just the beginning and that they're working on other future products.

  • Reply 12 of 179
    That's an impressive range for power consumption. With Intel's clout, ARM might have cause for some serious concern once those hit the market.
  • Reply 13 of 179
    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

    "Rubbing sticks?"

    making fire, heat.
  • Reply 14 of 179
    xamaxxamax Posts: 126member
    If one looks beyond and above as a Steve eagle, one can easily see the man has planned to fill the space between the iPod and the MacBook with plenty of handheld/portable devices, of which the iPhone was just the 1st and the iPod Touch the 2nd out the door.

    I guess this means - taking from the article's between the lines sense of timing - Macworld 2008 will be nothing short of bombastic (for the lack of a more strident term), if not for the products themselves, at least for the announcements our Lord is going to provide us, humble servant followers

    I am very excited for the prospective of getting a 3G Wifi 7incher and also for the boost this will mean for poor little AAPL that has been suffering so much from headless day traders

    I don't really get the comment about lack of rumors - there are so many possibilities already rumored:
    • Mac Nano replacing Mini and Apple TV;

    • 13" ultra portable;

    • 3G iPhone (this is the 2nd generation \) and maybe EDGE 16GB version for the iPhone's current price or cheaper, maybe putting the 8GB version 'on sale' 'til stocks end - but I guess the boss will avoid that since he's had a lot of bad press out of lowering that specific model's price before;

    • 7incher "iPhoney tablet portable" whatever that can run all Mac OS X apps and fit in a pocket (yes, that one in the last pic fits in a pocket, did you notice?!)

    Finally, I would like to say that you can take more meaning out of this article because AppleInsider is probably lowering the key a bit more to avoid possible liability in view of Apple's treatment over ThinkSecret! In short, they <comment of rumors and possibilities> when it is quite obvious they probably have gotten confirmation on a lot of things but cannot blow the horn as they would just love to

    AAPL Insider rulez!
  • Reply 15 of 179
    I think Silverthorne is most likely to see use in a revised AppleTV, which uses an Ultra-Low Voltage Pentium M now.

    A more powerful CPU would allow the AppleTV to play 1080p video (its graphics chip, a Geforce Go 7300, is not the bottleneck there).
  • Reply 16 of 179
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,368member
    Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

    Well, sure...over 11,000 posts and you are bound to be right on a couple of them!

    Just kidding

    The MacWorld rumor mills seem very quiet this year...guess we'll just have to wait and see if something is coming out of all this in time for unveiling next month!

    I do my best.
  • Reply 17 of 179
    xamaxxamax Posts: 126member
    Originally Posted by green-bee.salsa View Post


    Intel Menlow based UMPC.

    Indeed, great pointer!

    I am drooling right now and more realizing that Apple will design something much nicer looking than that thing
  • Reply 18 of 179
    an ultra portable.. thats seemed probable since news first broke about this family of intel chips, how long ago is that?


    PS Brendan "Ireland" will be along shortly having crapped himself at the news Step AWAY from the sherry before posting mate, looks like your xmas has come early.
  • Reply 19 of 179
    zunxzunx Posts: 620member
    Make it small (about 5 inches), running the full Mac OS X 10.5.x, full high-quality video out (wired and wireless, as for portables) and here is an order for thousands for our students and teachers. Think of it as the computer in your palm; the ultimate presentation remote for NATIVE Keynote and PowerPoint presentations. We just cannot wait!
  • Reply 20 of 179
    kolchakkolchak Posts: 1,398member
    Hot diggity damn! I was thinking about picking up an iPhone in the next couple of months (I don't care about 3G), but 24 hours of use with a device only slightly larger than that? I'd buy that for a dollar. Or even $1000.
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