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iPhone and the Future of Intel

Posted on Wednesday, May 2nd 2007

Intel did not win the processor design contract from Apple’s much hyped iPhone. Naturally, this is not news that makes the titan happy. Consequently, they have decided to compete against Apple.

“Virtually every computer and handset manufacturer is struggling to figure out how they’re going to compete with Apple’s iPhone,” Otellini said. “If we get the power and performance [of the Intel chip] right, it’s going to be a killer combination.”

The chip will meet the demanding power, space and performance requirements of handheld devices and will be available later this year, CEO Paul Otellini told analysts and investors at Morgan Stanley’s Technology Conference in San Francisco in March.

Apple has not disclosed who will provide the main processor for the iPhone. Speculations are rife that the winner is Samsung.

Nonetheless, Intel’s new initiative is a smart and important one, and could be a seminal one in driving their future. The iPhone, if successful, will drive all the computer and handset vendors towards a convergence device, including most of Intel’s top customers: HP, Dell, Lenovo.

Remember, I said, the iPhone is positioned against the laptop, not the cell phone, and therefore, Intel can pose the most important challenge to Apple, by powering all its competitors with a low-power, high-performance, mobile-ready chip that leapfrogs the market.

While we have so far said that the OS is going to become the biggest issue in the iPhone’s future, if Intel achieves significant innovation in the integration, power, and performance arena, the rules of the battle can be changed yet again.

Intel is THE company that can achieve this!

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If Intel succeeds at producing such a chip that leaps past the ARM processor Apple is using for the iPhone, why does that have to hurt Apple? Why can’t they just migrate to the Intel platform at that point? Apple has already proven that they have the capability to run OS X on any number of different platforms (PPC, x86, ARM, etc), which is one of it’s myriad advantages over Windows Mobile–which, name aside, has nothing in common with the desktop Windows.

David Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at 11:11 AM PT

No one need lose here; if Intel mints a great chip, I don’t doubt iPhone 2.0 could adopt it with a re-compile. OS X is very portable.

Tom B Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at 11:27 AM PT

Except, that Apple loses all the first-mover advantages, and the opportunity to differentiate in the chip dimension.

If Intel’s chip is free-for-all, then the entire battle moves to software.

At this point, I am sure Apple would like to preserve as many opportunities for competitive differentiation as possible.

Sramana Mitra Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at 11:31 AM PT

I’m sorry, but I still disagree. All indications point to Apple using ARM chips in the iPhone. That’s not exactly chip differentiation. Heck, the Newton used ARM chips a billion years ago, as do thousands of devices around the world. Apple’s software (OS X) IS the differentiator in the iPhone, not the chip. I don’t think Apple has anything to fear from competing based solely on software with OS X. Quick prediction: iPhone widgets are going to be THE huge differentiator between iPhone and everything else.

David Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at 11:44 AM PT


I don’t disagree at all on the OS point. In fact, if you have been reading the rest of the iPhone series, you will see that the point is well highlighted.

Apple is just now getting into the market. They will innovate, just like Intel will, and Samsung will. And I believe, they will also try to innovate on the chip front.

It’s perfectly okay to disagree, btw.


Sramana Mitra Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at 11:58 AM PT

What is the whole point of this article? If Intel comes up with a killer mobile chip, Apple will jump on it it. Not only that, it probably save Apple a lot of headaches if they use Intel. Here is their developing process for the OS used in iPhone: they take OS X Intel and take away all of the desktop parts not needed, add the mobile components, then recompile for whatever chip is used in the iPhone. If they use an Intel chip, they could probably skip the last step depending on what Intel comes up with.

Sy Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at 12:14 PM PT

Intel is just a chip. They are not the OS. They are not the UI. They do not do software.

If Apple wants to later, they could go that way. Let’s see if any other OS can scale and have the power that OS X will slay them with.

brock Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at 11:29 PM PT

Intel has dropped XScale and does not have any low power alternative of its own. They are desparately trying to get an LPIA (low power IA) chip to production but that is at least 4 years away if they can get there at all.

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