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Opinion: Apple Should Have Gone With Intel Instead of TSMC

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the smaller-better-way-more-expensive dept.

Intel 229

itwbennett writes "Apple is planning to have its ARM processors manufactured by TSMC — a move that blogger Andy Patrizio thinks is a colossal mistake. Not only is TSMC already over-extended and having trouble making deadlines. But Intel was clearly the better choice: 'Intel may be struggling in mobility with the Atom processors, but Intel does yields and manufacturing process migration better than anyone,' says Patrizio. 'While TSMC wrestles with 28nm and looking to 20nm, Intel is at 22nm now and moving to 14nm for next year. This is important; the smaller the fabrication design, the less power used.'"

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Ultrabook II? (2, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#44178635)

Remember when Intel took the MacBook air design and turned it into the Ultrabook reference design for its Wintel PC OEMs? Why would Apple not want that to happen again, only faster?

Re:Ultrabook II? (3, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44178879)

Remember when Intel took the MacBook air design and turned it into the Ultrabook reference design for its Wintel PC OEMs? Why would Apple not want that to happen again, only faster?

hmmrhh. that's not the reason. apple is still happy buying the latest and greatest from intel.
the reason intel isn't fabbing arms is that they get better money out of fabbing haswell with their production capability.

Apple nor anyone else wants to pay Intel enough to go back to fabbing arm cpu's. they made some top of the line arm's back in the day, but the real money in arm wasn't top end but the bottom end and they got better things to do with their fabs.

Re:Ultrabook II? (2)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#44179055)

Intel execs have been saying they would go back to the future for the right partner. Apple is that partner. Somebody is going to fab Apple's chips and use the profits to invest in newer bigger fabs. Taking that food off their competitor's plate would be a win. With the PC downturn Intel has excess capacity and cutting edge silicon fabs depreciate rather quickly. But as I put above, giving your competitors too early a look blunts first mover advantage. That is why Apple is looking at TSMC in the first place. They think Samsung is sneaking a peak. Changing to Intel does not solve that problem.

Re:Ultrabook II? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44179355)

Apple nor anyone else wants to pay Intel enough to go back to fabbing arm cpu's. they made some top of the line arm's back in the day, but the real money in arm wasn't top end but the bottom end and they got better things to do with their fabs.

Do you seriously think Apple is not fronting the cash for TSMC's upgraded fabs? Paying cash up front to suppliers so that it can get first access to the newest parts is one of Apple's key strategies and it's the reason Tim Cook got to be the CEO.

If you ask me, Apple either knows something we don't about TSMC, or it wants to build TSMC up as a strategic move to counter Samsung, Qualcomm, Intel, and other companies.

Re:Ultrabook II? (5, Insightful)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44178923)

Ultrabooks have been around since the 90's. only thing that changed is that intel is now making decent ultra low voltage CPU's and they use flash memory instead of HDD. otherwise Sony used to make some PHB happy laptops in 2000 and 2001 that were thin. PHB's loved them for travel

Re:Ultrabook II? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178989)

Remember when Intel took the MacBook air design and turned it into the Ultrabook reference design for its Wintel PC OEMs? Why would Apple not want that to happen again, only faster?

What'd Intel do? Use rounded corners?

Re:Ultrabook II? (2)

Horshu (2754893) | about a year ago | (#44179557)

It's amazing what people will attribute to Apple.

Re:Ultrabook II? (5, Interesting)

asliarun (636603) | about a year ago | (#44179035)

Remember when Intel took the MacBook air design and turned it into the Ultrabook reference design for its Wintel PC OEMs? Why would Apple not want that to happen again, only faster?

I disagree. Copying a form factor is not really copying design. That's a bit like saying that every hatchback car today is a copy of the original Japanese hatchbacks or whoever first produced the design. While it is true at one level, it is too simplistic a statement to make.

Anyway - I think the biggest challenge for Intel is not its process technology (process shrinks are going to get a lot harder in every iteration, but that holds true for everyone - including Intel and probably more so for TSMC, Samsung, and others). It is actually not even an x86 vs ARM architecture thing - ARM architecture superiority has pretty much been debunked since Medfield's release.

The biggest challenge for Intel, IMHO, is that it is simply not used to (and not geared for) SOCs. Intel has always designed and manufactured discrete chips whereas the entire mobile industry prefers, nay wants, highly integrated SOCs. This is the one aspect where Qualcomm kicks everyone's butt. To put it another way, Intel's fight is not with ARM or TSMC or AMD. Intel's fight today is with Qualcomm. Intel *needs* to get the same level of integration in its SOCs as Qualcomm - otherwise no one will want a bunch of discrete chips from Intel even if Intel shouts itself hoarse about how much better its chips are. And this goes for Apple as well. If Intel can give Apple an SOC that integrates the CPU, GPU, modems and other chips (I'm actually not an expert here but I would say things like DAC, GPS, etc. - anything that is not MEMS), I have a feeling that Apple will find it very hard to say "no".

I don't mean to sound grand but I honestly feel that the future of semiconductors will be highly integrated one-chip SOC based solutions that are "cheap as chips".

Re:Ultrabook II? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44179485)

Fascinating post, thanks.

Re:Ultrabook II? (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | about a year ago | (#44179893)

I think that is probably why AMD is taking the direction they are... though on the lower end, their APU designs are pretty interesting, and I'm very interested to see if they come up with a platform beyond what the XBone and PS4 are getting.

Re:Ultrabook II? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44179201)

A decade before the MacBook Air existed, the japanese were making ultra-light and ultra-thin laptops back at home. The western countries are so full of shit.

Re:Ultrabook II? (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about a year ago | (#44179483)

http://www.ehow.com/facts_6860900_specifications-dell-latitude-ls.html [ehow.com]

So was Dell. The specs aren't on their website any more for it, but I had one of these. It was a great little laptop until the battery died and I didn't feel like spending $120 for a new battery when I could get a new computer for $300.

Re: Ultrabook II? (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about a year ago | (#44179723)

Oh yeah, the PowerBook 2400c and Duo 2300c, back in the 90's. The 2400c was mostly sold in Japan but I did run across a few in the US. The Duo 2300c is the lightest laptop Apple made until the MacAir.

Poor premise (4, Insightful)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#44178689)

Sounds like a silly premise. Who says Intel would even want to do it? Why would Intel want to go back into ARM fabrication when they are trying to beat ARM chips with Atom?

Re:Poor premise (3, Insightful)

tnk1 (899206) | about a year ago | (#44178729)

Yeah sounds silly.

On the other hand, why would Samsung want to make chips for Apple when Apple is suing them?

The answer to all of these questions is money. Lots and lots of money.

Re:Poor premise (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#44178773)

Doubtful. Intel makes way more margins on their chips than third party fabs do when making chips for others. They'd only end up making less money.

Re:Poor premise (4, Insightful)

iamhassi (659463) | about a year ago | (#44179019)

The blogger's entire article is is based on hearsay, rumors and speculation. No quotes from Apple, TSMC, Intel or any other company he mentioned in the article. No facts at all in the article. Maybe Intel turned Apple down? Maybe we should trust the judgement of a billion dollar company like Apple over a silly blogger's opinion? I'm sure there's many great reasons Apple didn't choose Intel.

Re:Poor premise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178731)

Who says the chips would be ARM, and not the already existing, fast, low power Atom SOCs?

Re:Poor premise (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#44178789)

Binary compatibility with the hundreds of thousands of apps in their store?

Re:Poor premise (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178847)

That's never stopped Apple before. "Oh, just a recompile away is a glorious land of milk and honey, here are the tools to do it, you have two months."

Re:Poor premise (1)

Deathspawner (1037894) | about a year ago | (#44179365)

When was it they last did that? During the PowerPC > Intel era?

Re:Poor premise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44179509)

To that extreme? Yes, PowerPC-> Intel.

But they've also done a lot of "Well, you existing stuff will still run, but we'll go out of our way to make sure it looks like ass unless you update" since then...

iPhone -> iPad
iPhone -> iPhone Retina
iPad -> iPad Retina
iPhone 4s -> iPhone 5
MacBook Pro -> MacBook Pro Retina

"Oh, yeah, sure you've followed all our developer guidelines, but we've altered them. Pray we don't alter them further..."

Re:Poor premise (1)

Hadlock (143607) | about a year ago | (#44179659)

Most of those are simple resolution changes. Android developers have had to deal with this since day one, iPhone developers were coddled in comparison as their aspect ratio was locked for something like five years.

Re:Poor premise (1)

Behrooz Amoozad (2831361) | about a year ago | (#44179587)

That is not always possible, there are cpu intensive applications that transcode video or maipulate images and have lots of assembly code here and there. It's not as easy as clicking on the recompile button.

Re:Poor premise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44179851)

Developers have been building on the Cocoa APIs for both iOS and OS X. It really is nothing more than a recompile to switch processing architectures as long as the API supports both architectures. That's the reason why Apple had a relatively easy time transitioning to Intel architecture in the last go-around, using Rosetta to handle any PowerPC specific routines that were still based on the Carbon API. Any software written for Cocoa could be compiled as a fat binary, containing both PowerPC and Intel executables in the application package.

Re:Poor premise (1)

jphamlore (1996436) | about a year ago | (#44178811)

Who says Intel would be willing to sell chips to Apple at the same prices Apple can spend on ARM?

Re:Poor premise (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178885)

You mean the ones that are getting the crap beaten out of them by ARM on a performance-per-watt basis?

Re:Poor premise (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44178899)

The article pretty much said the chips would be ARM.

When you look at the glacial pace of Apple development, you will notice that they do skin and paint very well, but technical changes very slowly. They did design some packaging modifications to ARM for their A4 and A5 processors (although industry sources say the work was actually done by the contract chip designer Intrinsity).

Apple probably aren't nimble enough to switch to Atom or Silvermont [gsmarena.com] or anything not ARM. It would set them back an entire year, or maybe two.

As long as their checks cleared the bank, I'm sure Intel would take the money,

Re:Poor premise (1)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#44178997)

Well, there is more to taking a major run then just the checks clearing. Generally it comes with a commitment which locks down plants and resources, sometimes for years, which might interfere with their roadmap. They probably have some gantt chart from hell they have to make every new business deal fit into and when things do not fit they have to put the capital up front to increase (or duplicate) capacity somewhere.

Re:Poor premise (1, Informative)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#44179515)

Fragmentation is an Android feature. There's no compelling reason to change to any other chip, so why would Apple do it?

Over the 30 years of the Mac they've changed architecture twice. But only when the old architecture was dying. ARM is the most popular mobile CPU architecture in the world. There's no reason to change iOS devices away from it. Even if other architectures were more attractive (and they're not).

Re:Poor premise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178767)

Because it pays big time?

Re:Poor premise (2)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#44178813)

Nope. Intel makes more margins on chips made for themselves than third-party fabs do.

Re:Poor premise (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44178907)

Because it pays big time?

it doesn't pay big time, because apple doesn't want to pay the premium necessary.

That's the entire reason why apple didn't go to them. I'm pretty sure they asked and that Intel would fab them gladly for a ridiculous fee, but Apple calculated that not even their fans would pay 100 dollars extra on top of everything else they already have going for a part they can't even see on a platform where judging speed and battery use differences in 20% region is actually pretty hard.

Re:Poor premise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178817)

Because Intel invests a significant amount of change into their fabrication facilities, and they are the best on the planet. While Intel is trying to compete with chip designs, they can make money off their investments in their fabrication plants and roll that back into more R&D and profits. An inability to take any opportunity to make profit and worries over self cannibalization are for short sighted people.

Re:Poor premise (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#44178913)

Intel makes more margins making chips for themselves and they already run near max capacity. They gain nothing from being a third-party foundry.

Re:Poor premise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178829)

But you *must* consider it seriously, after all it was suggested by "blogger Andy Patrizio".. I'm going to write a blog saying that it was a huge mistake to consider Intel as the correct manufacturer. Freelance Tech Journalists, he posts on here regularly, which suggests to me he's less technical than he thinks he is.

Re:Poor premise (5, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#44178873)

The silliest premise is that some blogger knows more about the issues with different chip fabs than Apple does. For that blogger to say Apple made a mistake, before we've seen any results from the deal? Stupid. Simply click bait.

Re:Poor premise (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#44178905)

Sounds like a silly premise. Who says Intel would even want to do it?

..or would use one of their 22nm FABS for it?

Seems to me that Intel charges a high premium for all 22nm-based chips, so they wouldnt use a 22nm fab without getting big bucks in return.

Re:Poor premise (2, Insightful)

Guspaz (556486) | about a year ago | (#44178975)

There's a lot of misinformation in these comments...

1) Intel does have a foundry business. They will make chips for third parties. They call this "Intel Custom Foundry", and they've already got clients using ARM chips (Netronome for example).

2) Apple is a huge potential customer, to the extent that Intel doesn't currently have enough foundry capacity to make both their own chips and Apple's chips (Apple sells almost as many iOS devices as Intel does chips). Getting the contract to make Apple's SoCs would be a huge win.

You can bet that Intel would rather that THEY were manufacturing Apple's ARM chips than TSMC.

Re:Poor premise (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#44179853)

You can bet that Intel would rather that THEY were manufacturing Apple's ARM chips than TSMC.

Me too. I would love to see more merchant fab in the US. I'm tired of it going overseas, and Intel is consistently ahead of everyone else in fab tech.

This also proves what a crock comparative advantage is (with the possible exception of things like agriculture). Since the US has some of the highest labor costs in the world, we should have a comparative advantage in capital intensive industries with high value added per worker. There are few things that's more true of than fabs, but more and more fab capacity has gone overseas. You don't suppose Taiwan did something that most economists would call stupid, and engage in industrial policy, do you?

Re:Poor premise (2)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#44180047)

You can bet that Intel would rather that THEY were manufacturing Apple's ARM chips than TSMC.

I wouldn't be so sure. You're missing two things:

  • Volume. Intel has a foundry business. However, from what I've read, most of its customers are small, fabless chipmakers that deal in fairly low volume. Apple is not a small, fabless chipmaker. In fact, without doing the math, I rather suspect it to be one of the world's largest fabless chipmakers. Apple sold something on the order of 300 million iOS devices last year, each of which contained a custom CPU (and might even contain other custom parts—I'm not sure). I don't have sales numbers for Intel in 2012, but as best I could determine, that's roughly as many CPUs as Intel sold in 2011. Total. Now granted, you can stamp out a lot more A6 chips per wafer than Core i7 chips (somewhere around seven times as many, by my quick-and-dirty math), but that would still be a huge order.
  • Priority. Intel builds their own chips, and one would assume that their chips would take priority over manufacturing for a third-party contract job. Presumably, a large-volume manufacturer like Apple would want that priority to be inverted.

Mind you, I'm not saying you're not correct, but I don't think it's as clear-cut as you're implying.

Re:Poor premise (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about a year ago | (#44179057)

That's pretty much it. It's not in Intels long term strategic interest to have ARM chips fabbed on the best possible process, that would make them look more competitive with Intel processors. If they had massive surplus capacity in an older process then sure, I suppose they could sell that to someone, but why not just sell the equipment and move the people on to better things?

Re:Poor premise (1)

Shoten (260439) | about a year ago | (#44179631)

Sounds like a silly premise. Who says Intel would even want to do it? Why would Intel want to go back into ARM fabrication when they are trying to beat ARM chips with Atom?

Good point...and there's another thing the blogger doesn't seem to really understand: that far and above, the heaviest source of power consumption in a tablet or smartphone isn't the processor, but the screen. By a very large margin, at that. Sure, you can save power by going with a tinier fab scale, but it's getting near the point of diminishing returns, and logic that throttles usage in different ways has been giving better returns anyways when it comes to processing.

As for TSMC being overextended, that actually makes them appealing to Apple in many ways. The blogger doesn't seem to recognize that Apple has more cash than King Solomon at this point, and that they have a habit of financing entire fab plants for their vendors in exchange for bottom-dollar exclusive pricing deals on what the plants produce for them. This would make TSMC *extremely* cooperative in negotiations for a deal. Intel, on the other hand, has regained a point of primacy in the mainstream processor market and probably isn't as interested in melding with Apple.

Re:Poor premise (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | about a year ago | (#44179703)

Yeah... Altera is the first company that Intel has sold excess manufacturing capacity to in years (if ever?), and in that case, Altera's primary products are in a market that does not compete with Intel's at all, and if anything, complements Intel's products in some cases.

Intel selling manufacturing for a competing CPU design is highly unlikely.

It appears that Intel primarily scales their fabs to meet only their own demand - there is only extra if one of their product lines experiences significantly less demand than expected. You can sell available spare capacity to a low-volume customer like Altera - but Apple? Highly unlikely even if they weren't being asked to produce a competing product.

Does the CPU matter? (1, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | about a year ago | (#44178707)

People are buying the platform, and it only comes from one vendor. It's not like with Android where you can compare different hardware specs. Apple will produce a single product at a given price point with a given set of hardware specs, and that's what people will buy. Not saying this is a good or bad thing, just that it's a thing.

Re:Does the CPU matter? (1)

DaHat (247651) | about a year ago | (#44178765)

Apple is the most keen to come out and say "this is our greatest _____ we've ever built" while touting the longer battery life, faster CPU speed, etc (yes many companies say similar, however Apple is the most explicit I've ever seen).

Apple also has a history of pushing limits and going for the best components they can... so the choice of TSMC over Intel does seem odd.

Note the above is being said by a PC only person.

string.Replace("greatest, "best") (1)

DaHat (247651) | about a year ago | (#44178797)

Hit submit too soon... replace "greatest" with "best"... I forgot my Apple lingo for a moment.

Re:Does the CPU matter? (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44178945)

but apple will say it about anything. regardless of what it actually is.

but look at it this way, have you seen intel doing massive discounts on their cpu's lately? do they seem like they have plenty of excess capacity? would apple pay the same for a manufactured soc as they are paying for a haswell? no.

Re:Does the CPU matter? (1)

tuffy (10202) | about a year ago | (#44178903)

It's not about switching to Intel CPUs, it's about switching to Intel for fabbing Apple ARM CPUs.

But in general, swapping out a whole new CPU would mean a lot of application migration which is best avoided.

Re:Does the CPU matter? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44179091)

Yes the CPU matters.

Especially switching from something like ARM to something like Atom. That is a big switch. Its not as simple as just recompiling the Operating System. There are all sorts of hardware differences to deal with.

Stepping from one ARM CPU to the next ARM CPU is a much smaller step.

That is why Apple won't switch to an Intel design at this time. It would set them back over a year. (I wouldn't be surprised to find Apple hard at work with Intel chips in their skunk works).

While you are correct that there are some people who will buy it regardless of what it built with, those days are fading, as many people are fed up with the slow pace of change in the Apple phone arena, and Apple wouldn't want to incur the delay penalty of a switch, when they can accomplish the same goals with their current hardware.

People or pundits? (1)

danaris (525051) | about a year ago | (#44179319)

While you are correct that there are some people who will buy it regardless of what it built with, those days are fading, as many people are fed up with the slow pace of change in the Apple phone arena, and Apple wouldn't want to incur the delay penalty of a switch, when they can accomplish the same goals with their current hardware.

Many pundits are fed up with the "slow" pace of change in the Apple phone arena, because they need new clickbait twice a day. I have yet to hear from anyone who actually owns an iPhone that they're anything of the kind. Most people buy a new phone every 2 years or less frequently. The current iPhone is a significant improvement over the 2-year-old iPhone I have now.

Or are you trying to say that "many people" know or care about things like NFC, fingerprint scanners, or other check-boxable features that most people who don't read Slashdot have never heard of and wouldn't care about if they did? Because the actual numbers of iPhone sales don't seem to bear out that kind of view...

Dan Aris

Re:People or pundits? (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | about a year ago | (#44179765)

Are you trying to use common sense and logic? On the Internet? Here at Slashdot? What did I tell you about doing that again??!

Re:Does the CPU matter? (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year ago | (#44179469)

The CPU alone does not matter at all. It might be the infrastructure around it.
Since 5 or more decades the "CPU problem" is tackled by the compiler. Yes, compiling C or C++ for one CPU or the other is as simple as switching the compiler. Seems you missed that innovation.

Re:Does the CPU matter? (0)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44179525)

The CPU alone does not matter at all. It might be the infrastructure around it.
Since 5 or more decades the "CPU problem" is tackled by the compiler. Yes, compiling C or C++ for one CPU or the other is as simple as switching the compiler. Seems you missed that innovation.

I believe I covered that when I wrote:

Its not as simple as just recompiling the Operating System. There are all sorts of hardware differences to deal with.

How in gods name did you ever read that as suggesting the problem centered around the compiler? Skip reading comprehension class while in the 5th grade?

Re:Does the CPU matter? (0)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year ago | (#44179949)

No you did not cover that when you wrote what you wrote, as you implied switching the compiler is _no option_.
If you want to point something different out, then perhaps you should go back to school and learn how to write comprehendable sentences? Your post sounded as if switching the processor leads to all kinds of problems, which it obviously does not.

Re:Does the CPU matter? (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#44179697)

That only means the source can be the same (or at least have a few differences, dealt with by #ifdefs). But the fact that the executable binaries are incompatible does make for all sorts of things that matter. Fat binaries. Incompatibilities. Emulators. Using byte-code systems rather than native. All sorts of things. It's doable - Apple's done it twice on the Mac. But its certainly not without issues. It certainly does matter.

Android manages to exist on multiple CPUs. But then it's also one of the most fragmented systems there is, with developers deciding not to develop for it as a result. So that's no advert.

Re:Does the CPU matter? (0)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year ago | (#44179891)

We are not talking about fat binaries or interpreters/emulators.
If I compile a C file for an intel pc running linux, it just runs ... no magic involved.
If I compile the same C file for an arm running linux, it just runs, no magic involved.
You need a bit of "magic" if you access external systems, as byte order etc. micht vary.
My parent was of the oppinion that simply compiling it again womt work. This is wrong.
The problems are elsewhere. E.g. if you use a different processor, you might need a different "chipset" to access the ram and other periferals. Now as you have a different chipset your old SOC for mobile networks won't be easy attached. So you consider to use a different one.
Now you have to write new drivers to access that new SOC.
But bottom line most of the code of your OS you simply recompile and thats it.

Re:Does the CPU matter? (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44179475)

i have an iphone 5 and a Galaxy S3 that i use both daily. there isn't one thing my iphone doesn't do that i do with my Galaxy that is paid for by my employer

there is no slow pace of change with apple since the other guys aren't doing anything spectacular either.

Re:Does the CPU matter? (1)

Shoten (260439) | about a year ago | (#44179745)

People are buying the platform, and it only comes from one vendor. It's not like with Android where you can compare different hardware specs. Apple will produce a single product at a given price point with a given set of hardware specs, and that's what people will buy. Not saying this is a good or bad thing, just that it's a thing.

This is only true because of continual improvement by Apple, however. Reputation does have a certain momentum (or, if it's a bad reputation, inertia) but it's not a perpetual motion machine. Produce a platform that performs badly, and people will notice; there aren't enough fanbois out there to keep Apple in the green if they produce a substandard product. And to be honest, I don't think that people know how to compare standards anymore between competing platforms in the same product space anyways. It used to be that you simply looked at the numbers for processor speed, RAM and storage, and the higher numbers were better. Now, the means used to describe a platform's components are less transparent ("Atom?" "Snapdragon?") and all over the place, and the bottlenecks move around based on how you build your systems.

This is not a tech issue (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178737)

Intel supplies most of Apple's CPUs, yes?

To give one supplier most or all of your business gives them a HUGE advantage over you.

Just look at what happened to everyone who tied their business to Microsoft or IBM.

This is a business strategy issue - not a tech one.

Personally, I think Apple should take their cash and make their own processors, allowing for their OS to have a firmware component and thereby boosting performance and security.

Re:This is not a tech issue (1)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#44179037)

There is that possibility too. Never underestimate the value of having a business relationship already in place with an alternative to your biggest vendor.

Re:This is not a tech issue (3, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | about a year ago | (#44179259)

Personally, I think Apple should take their cash and make their own processors, allowing for their OS to have a firmware component and thereby boosting performance and security.

No. Even Apple isn't THAT stupid.

There are well established players in the fab market. Why the hell would Apple spend years and BILLIONS, breaking into, then playing "catch up", getting an "also ran" up and going?

The company's FAR more agile this way.
One major issue on a prospective fab line (that they own themselves) could set them back years and uncountable quantities of money.
If that happens with a fab partner, they just go and shop their business around to another fab.

Then there's the fact that Apple just flat out DOES NOT WANT that kind of low-level engineering business. They a boutique "gadget" supplier. And they really don't want to be anything else.

Re:This is not a tech issue (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about a year ago | (#44179291)

Intel supplies most of Apple's CPUs, yes?

Intel supplies all of the CPUs used in Apple's desktop and laptop computers, yes.

Personally, I think Apple should take their cash and make their own processors

Is that "Apple should take their cash and build their own foundries" or "Apple should take their cash and buy an existing foundry"? In either case, it's "Apple should continue to invest in foundries to update to new processes", and, in either case, I'm not sure how easy that would be.

Or is that "Apple should do their own chip designs"? Anandtech suspects they're already doing that. [anandtech.com]

allowing for their OS to have a firmware component

If by "firmware component" you mean on-chip firmware, how is owning your own foundry, rather than having another foundry fab your design, a requirement for that? Or does this mean that "Apple should take their cash and build their own foundries" means "Apple should do their own chip designs" rather than "Apple should do their own chip fabrication"?

and thereby boosting performance and security.

What sort of firmware customization are you talking about here?

Intel isn't a foundry (3, Insightful)

mozumder (178398) | about a year ago | (#44178753)

They make their own chips, and you buy what they make.

Apple isn't going to be able to get Intel to fab their custom chips for them. That isn't Intel's business model.

Intel sells their own CPUs. They don't sell your CPUs.

They just happen to have the best fabs.

Re:Intel isn't a foundry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178957)

Exactly. Even though the manufacturing process might lag a bit, ARM is still technologically a better solution than the Atom.

Re:Intel isn't a foundry (2)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44178999)

last year there were stories floating around that Intel wants to go into the foundry business. only because their manufacturing is so efficient that especially with the new processes being able to turn out so many CPU's per wafer they will have spare space in their fabs not producing revenue

Re:Intel isn't a foundry (5, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | about a year ago | (#44179013)

Intel *is* a foundry. They make chips for third parties. They have a whole "Intel Custom Foundry" division dedicated to this. They make chips for Cisco, Netronome, Altera, etc. Some of those chips even have ARM processors.

Re:Intel isn't a foundry (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44179505)

Yes, Intel is a foundry. And yes, they have customers (I believe it's up to 5 right now). But, ask yourself this question: How many of those customers have successfully taped out working designs?

The answer: one (I won't say who but you can probably find out). And they aren't selling their parts yet.

There is a reason that Apple chose TSMC... Intel's level of support for their foundry business is poor right now. It turns out that their fancy process is a bitch to design for. Which makes sense since it's just gotten off the ground. I don't blame Apple one bit for choosing TSMC. They will probably be able to tape out 2-3x faster.

Intel is *almost* a foundy (2)

erice (13380) | about a year ago | (#44179779)

Intel *is* a foundry. They make chips for third parties. They have a whole "Intel Custom Foundry" division dedicated to this. They make chips for Cisco, Netronome, Altera, etc. Some of those chips even have ARM processors.

Intel is inching into the foundry business. [electronicsweekly.com]
They are *not* making chips for Altera. They have a deal with Altera to make chips at 14nm but Intel doesn't even have a production 14nm process yet. The Cisco deal was only signed in January. No word on when they expect to ship. Their shipping customers (Achronix, Tabula, Netronome) are all startups with limited volumes. Apple needs huge volume. I don't think Intel is ready for that yet.

Re:Intel isn't a foundry (1)

optikos (1187213) | about a year ago | (#44179501)

If Intel has ceased be a foundry to 3rd-parties' custom silicon, then someone had better tell Intel's first foundry customer: Achronix [achronix.com] FPGAs, currently the first 20nm FPGAs on the planet and on track to perhaps be the first 14nm FPGAs on the planet.

Intel was not an option (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about a year ago | (#44178801)

Intel's high end fabs are tasked to capacity with their own chips near as I know. They are probably not interested in taking on outside orders for ARM chips.

Now I suppose Apple could switch over to x86, but I doubt they'd be willing to do that given that they own a big stake in ARM. Also at this point Intel doesn't have x86 processors suitable for phones. They may make such a thing in the future but they do not now.

So ya, Intel would be the best option... if they were an option. They have fabs above and beyond anyone else, they spend billions in R&D on it and as such are nearly always a node ahead and have good yields. However, their fabs are for them. Their 22nm fabs are busily cranking out Haswell and Ivy Bridge chips. They are not for rent for cranking out ARM chips, unless something has changed since last I looked.

Re:Intel was not an option (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#44178929)

IF the Atom processor is the wrong processor for Apple, regardless of the market Intel curently demands, Intel will correct any problems. They're big, but not too big to listen to their biggest customers.

Re:Intel was not an option (0)

sribe (304414) | about a year ago | (#44179269)

IF the Atom processor is the wrong processor for Apple, regardless of the market Intel curently demands, Intel will correct any problems. They're big, but not too big to listen to their biggest customers.

What makes you think the problems can be fixed? The x86 architecture is a poor fit for modern CPUs. The necessity of dealing with variable-length instructions in the context of pipelined execution requires a tremendous amount of logic devoted to speculative instruction decode, and there is nothing Intel can do to eliminate that.

Re:Intel was not an option (2)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#44179479)

Yes. That's why RISC killed the x86 stone dead.

Re:Intel was not an option (0)

sribe (304414) | about a year ago | (#44179917)

Yes. That's why RISC killed the x86 stone dead.

Intel kept up with/ahead of RISC by keeping ahead of the industry in process shrink, maintaining a higher power budget, and devoting tremendous resources, both design and silicon to offsetting the handicaps of the x86 architecture. Just because they were mostly successful does not suddenly mean those handicaps exist. The proof of it is quite simple: look at an x86 block diagram and see how much of the silicon is devoted to decoding the obsolete ISA into something the core can actually use.

Re:Intel was not an option (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44179585)

"The necessity of dealing with variable-length instructions in the context of pipelined execution requires a tremendous amount of logic devoted to speculative instruction decode, and there is nothing Intel can do to eliminate that."

Maybe they should consider developing their own compiler!

Re:Intel was not an option (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about a year ago | (#44179323)

I would guess the main problem for Atom is that the power consumption is higher than ARM. Intel is working on this but after many years they still are not quite as power efficient as ARM. Maybe in the future it will be comparable. But not now.

Re:Intel was not an option (1)

HardYakka (265884) | about a year ago | (#44178937)

Of course it is an option.

Intel's profits have been sagging for a few years due to the drop in PC sales, which is their core business. They have been unsuccessful for the most part in cracking the mobile device marker despite a lot of effort.

Investors have been pushing management to take some of their world class factories and make money fabbing chips for other companies, something that would have a big impact on their bottom line since their manufacturing technology is a generation ahead of everyone else and therefor would command a premium.

Intel has already signed fab agreements with other companies and it has been common knowledge for a while that Intel and Apple were in talks about just such a deal: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Foundry-manufacturing-Apple-Intel-14nm,21400.html [tomshardware.com]

Not heading in this direction would have caused shareholder revolt.

Re:Intel was not an option (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44179159)

Intel's high end fabs are tasked to capacity with their own chips near as I know. They are probably not interested in taking on outside orders for ARM chips.

No, what they are interested in is taking on outside technology. They'd want the right to make their own chips based on Apple's technology, whether they licensed or created it being irrelevant. Intel has never been able to make an ARM chip worth beans. XScale was fast, but it was power-hungry; it scaled up but not down. They won't be interested in fabbing for Apple alone, they'll want to be actively involved in production of a chip which they will then fab for Apple. That might actually be necessary to utilize their latest processes, anyway.

ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178803)

does Intel even fab for third parties? of course it would have been apple's first phone call if they did, even before using Samsung.

How do we know Apple didn't try? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178881)

The post makes no mention of what the negotiations or considerations Apple or intel had - just that they spoke, at some point, about something. Intel walked away from their own ARM licence in the past and has not been known to fab many outside designs. Intel fabbing ARM chips for Apple would be quite a coup given their process advantage. Maybe even to the point of antitrust investigations if intel were not more inviting of manufacturing other competitor's cores.

It is all about volume.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178947)

Apple requires a huge number of wafer starts to accommodate their sales. Intel's existing 22nm volume, plus Apple's volume would exceed their built out capacity. Intel would undoubtedly require Apple to commit to a long term (eg 3-5 years) of 22nm volume purchases to offset their build out costs. Plus absolutely everything about Intel's flow is unique and different, you have to retool your entire design just for Intel. Samsung and TSMC are much closer, though still significantly different.

There are two interesting question sin all of this:
1) Where is the TSMC capacity for 20nm going to come from? Apple+Qualcomm alone is already a mind boggling level, let alone all the other 20nm customers TSMC has signed up..
2) Will Samsung have significant excess capacity at 20nm now? Will TSMC customers diversify toward Samsung?

Where does this shite come from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44179027)

We all know that Intel wasn't even an option. They're simply not in the business of fabricating third-party designs, for anyone.

What kind of ignoramuses write this shit? Do these writers get paid to write such nonsense?

Maybe I'm working in the wrong industry.

Re:Where does this shite come from? (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about a year ago | (#44179351)

We all know that Intel wasn't even an option. They're simply not in the business of fabricating third-party designs, for anyone.

Actually, that's exactly what Intel Custom Foundry does.

not always better to go smaller. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44179061)

This is important; the smaller the fabrication.... the more static power used.
At 22nm, you hit v_sat before threshold anyway. The sweet spot for power is actually about 130nm.

Pricing and conflicts of interest (1)

blackC0pter (1013737) | about a year ago | (#44179077)

Going with Intel would have been too expensive and would have been a terrible conflict of interest. Intel would gain early access to all their designs and could use it against them with their atom designs. They were avoiding the same situation they were previously in with Samsung. At first Samsung didn't really compete with Apple but things radically changed and using them as a foundry gave Samsung early access to Apple designs. Intel might not really compete with Apple now in mobile but that is surely going to change as Intel improves their low power chips. This also gives Apple the flexibility to consider migrating more platforms to ARM. So sticking with a company that doesn't venture outside of the foundry business is a safe business decision and Apple can use their leverage to speed up the R&D to make them more competitive with Intel (TSMC recently decided to accelerate migrations to 20nm and 16nm, I wonder who pushed that...).

My guess (1)

Anarchduke (1551707) | about a year ago | (#44179113)

Is that apple is saving money per chip by going with TSMC. I don't know that its true, but companies always have a strong motivation to attack the bottom line rather than go for quality. Steve Jobs was exceptional because he wanted quality in his products even if they ended up costing more. The exceptional part being that he was good at resisting the lure of cheaper components.

article is wrong on all counts (2)

edxwelch (600979) | about a year ago | (#44179185)

From the article: "While TSMC wrestles with 28nm and looking to 20nm, Intel is at 22nm now and moving to 14nm for next year. "
TSMC's 28nm process is, in fact, widely considered a big success. Although it didn't ramp up initially, quite as a fast as their customers wanted, that only lasted a few months at start of 2012. Look a bit closer you see changing nodes has problems for all manufactures (even Intel).
20nm is in fact ahead of schedule. The likes of Altera are going to have to wait 2 years before they start producing chips on Intel's 16 nm process. While Apple will have 20nm early next year.

Re:article is wrong on all counts (2)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about a year ago | (#44179387)

I think that 28 nm is actually a reason why Apple went with TSMC instead of Intel. Samsun is expected to have their 28 nm line up soon so Apple will have two suppliers for their chips. If Apple went with Intel they are at the mercy of one supplier. As far as I know Intel is using their 22 nm lines on Ivy Bridge and Haswell not ARM. They do make ARM chips but use other (older) lines.

Re:article is wrong on all counts (1)

edxwelch (600979) | about a year ago | (#44180035)

I understood Apple is going straight to 20mn at TSMC - skipping 28nm completely

If Apple still needed to worry about Microsoft... (2)

jcr (53032) | about a year ago | (#44179207)

Apple could buy or merge with Intel, and then announce "x86, end of life, ten years. Merry Christmas, AMD." That would be the end of Microsoft, since nobody ever wanted Windows on anything other than x86.

Meanwhile, if Apple used Intel's fab for all of their processors, they could reduce their power consumption at a much faster pace than they're already doing. I'd love to get 20 hours of operation per charge from an iPad.

-jcr

Re:If Apple still needed to worry about Microsoft. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44179623)

I want to write some sort of intelligent reply to this garbage, but.....
 
fags

Why would Intel want to do that? (1)

sjbe (173966) | about a year ago | (#44179255)

"Apple is planning to have its ARM processors manufactured by TSMC — a move that blogger Andy Patrizio thinks is a colossal mistake.

Why would Intel want to manufacture ARM processors? They might make some money in the short term but the real profits are in owning the intellectual property behind the design. Intel would basically be subsidizing their biggest competitor. It would be akin to asking Microsoft to start their own linux distro or like Apple switching to Android. It makes their product undifferentiated and kills their margins.

Intel always has the option to start making ARM processors in the future but they'd be pretty foolish to do it at this point.

Who says Intel would cooperate? (1)

sribe (304414) | about a year ago | (#44179309)

Intel gets high margins on much the x86 line. What on earth makes this douche assume that Intel would be willing to accept Samsung's margins in order to enable Apple to shift even more of the consumer market away from x86???

Does Intel manufacture for others? (1)

BLToday (1777712) | about a year ago | (#44179357)

Oh they don't. Then why would they manufacture for Apple? Intel's real edge is not processor design, it's manufacturing know-how. Watch PBS's Silicon Valley and understand that Intel is less about designing great processors and more about beating the competition with better processor fabrication. Intel is at least 12 months ahead of everyone and so why would they give that lead up for Apple.

Re:Does Intel manufacture for others? (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44179693)

Kudos on topping off the annoying habit of placing interrogative body text in the subject line by getting the answer wrong anyway [xbitlabs.com]

Blogger's ramblings (2)

GrBear (63712) | about a year ago | (#44179681)

I love the summary.. some random dude (blogger) that writes stories on the Internet has an opinion and thinks mega-billion company is making a mistake.. and this is news on Slashdot nowadays.

How low Slashdot has fallen..

An Appropriate Summary (1)

rabtech (223758) | about a year ago | (#44179785)

Intel *does* make custom chips for outside people, contrary to what some people are saying. They sub out spare capacity, especially in older fabs. They just don't make them on their newest foundry processes (the ones that would be actually useful to a company like Apple) for a variety of reasons, the chief one being the newest processes are generally full to capacity. Even if there were some space available it wouldn't be near enough to satisfy Apple's demand for A-series chips. You have to remember, an A-series chip requires on the order of 150,000,000 units in the first year.

Apple has the cash hoard to get into the foundry business if they wanted, but it would take at least a decade to hire engineers and gain the experience necessary to cost-effectively produce stuff like 14nm 3D transistor chips, assuming you can navigate the patent minefield.

The only way such a deal would work is if Apple funded a new Intel foundry to produce Apple chips in some kind of long-term deal, but that would probably require Apple to spend double on the processors to give Intel the fat margins they want to even consider the idea.

I fully agree that in some magical world where this kind of deal happens it would give Apple a permanent advantage in the phone space, as no one would be able to come close to the performance and performance-per-watt of an A7-type chip made on Intel's latest 22, 14, or 10nm process; it would make all other phones look like a joke.

It just isn't going to happen.

Idiot (1)

multimediavt (965608) | about a year ago | (#44179885)

the smaller the fabrication design, the less power used

Ummm, no. The smaller the design the more leakage current you get and the more power is wasted as heat. Who is this idiot that wrote this completely clueless "opinion"? Intel does have a foundry unit, but they don't make lots the size that Apple would need with the fabs that Apple would want to use. The third parties aren't getting lots on 10 million finished parts per quarter at 22nm from Intel. Not unless those third parties are buying Intel branded parts.

Will they just get over it already... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#44180011)

I want workstation class ARM processors back. 16 core 4 processor behomith Motherboards to give us on the desk the performance we should have had a decade ago.

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