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Intel ARM-ed for Apple deal?

Posted: 09 May 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel-Apple foundry deal  ARM-based processors  Intel-manufactured A5 processors 

Intel Corp. could well become a leading, if not the leading, manufacturer of ARM-based processors if it wins Apple's foundry business, which we have been told the company is vying for.

I don't mean leading in terms of volume, but in terms of manufacturing process geometry at 22nm, and probably in terms of performance and power consumption. Otherwise why else would Apple do a deal? It would be an interesting marriage of an architecture much heralded as power-efficient and a manufacturing machine much vaunted as excellent in execution.

It would also be interesting to know where the volume ARM crown resides, with TSMC and all its fabless customers, or perhaps with Samsung? And TSMC and others are catching up with Intel fast on process technology so by the time Intel starts making chips for Apple, if it does, it could be a co-leader.

Given that Intel and ARM plus its ecosystem are eyeballing each other across the electronics battleground, from servers and notebooks to cell phones and industrial equipment, Intel making ARM architecture chips would be a strange development indeed.

Would Intel be covered by Apple's architecture licence, or would it have to renew ARM licences it has held in the past? How would the likes of Samsung and TSMC feel about Intel joining the ecosystem? And if Intel-manufactured A5 processors are so good for tablet computers, does that put a dent in Intel's claims for some of its processors?

Given that Apple is using Intel Sandy Bridge processors inside MacBooks, it is clear that many types of microprocessor can and should co-exist in the increasingly broad computing field. There's just less architectures than there were and less companies able to manufacture them.

- Peter Clarke
  EE Times

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