LONDON – This is kind of obvious, but it seems worth stating explicitly.
We live in interesting times: if Intel Corp. wins foundry business making chips for Apple, which we have been told the company is pitching for, it would become a leading, if not the leading, manufacturer of ARM-based processors.
I don't mean leading in terms of volume, but in terms of manufacturing process geometry at 22-nm 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 mobile phones and industrial equipment, Intel making ARM architecture chips would be a strange development indeed.
Would Intel be covered by Apple's architecture license, or would it have to renew ARM licenses 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 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.
Related links and articles:
Intel vying for Apple foundry business
Analysis: Why ARM-AMD makes sense
Samsung gains on Intel in IC rankings