Should Apple Save Intel by Adopting the Atom?

Should Apple Save Intel by Adopting the Atom?

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Should Apple bailout Intel? That’s the thinking of one analyst who suggests the Cupertino, Calif. tech giant help the chip giant leap from aging PCs to the future of smartphones and tablets. Apple, which already uses Intel Core 2 Duo, i5 and i7 cores in laptops and desktops, could adopt Intel’s Atom core.

“In our view, Intel would pick up Apple’s volume, driving revenue growth at good (not great) gross margin,” Piper Jaffray analyst Gus Richard tells investors Monday morning. Meanwhile, “Intel would also benefit from becoming a key supplier in smartphones and tablets and drive growth,” he adds. But what’s in it for Apple, which reportedly is looking for an alternative to the Intel chips in its laptop and desktops?

Richard plays Apple’s well-known control-freak card. The company, which has a storied history for controlling its products, as well as the message, would “maintain control of its microprocessor architecture,” reasons the analyst. Recently, talk has risen about the possibility of Apple moving to the ARM architecture, possibly as soon as 2013 for the MacBook.

Last week, Richard again argued for the switch to Intel, writing the chipmaker “has no market share in the next wave of computing” and getting in on the tablet revolution would revive a dominance similar to that of Wintel and PCs.

But, again, what’s in it for Apple? After all, tablet users seem to be happy with ARM, Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg said last month. There’s also that nasty rumor about Atom not being powerful enough for the iPhone or iPad. That’s one reason Apple reportedly rejected Intel.

In the end, the likelihood of an Intel-powered iPhone or iPad seems alive only in the minds of those hoping to save the sagging fortunes of PC chipmakers. Intel can survive in a post-PC world if it can develop mobile chips with real oomph. As for Apple and the Atom, well, the Atom chipset is connected in the public’s mind with low-powered, low-cost netbooks. We all know what happened to those, right?

[Barron’s]

  • 300AShareMakesMeSmile

    Hell, no! Keep that Atom for those crappy Windows netbooks. Go ARM, Apple and stay with it. I can’t wait to see the first quad-core ARM processors in Apple’s low-end notebooks. Keep Intel on the Mac desktop, but put those low-powered ARM processors on the light, mobile devices.

  • Davegan

    It seems that if Apple was able to land Intel as their Fab shop, using their technology to make Apples already good A-Series chips even better. Then Intel would gain a huge customer, for iDevices. A win for Apple & Intel!

    I don’t see Apple going away from Intel, at the most they may make an iBook (Macbook Air) & iMini (Mac Mini) with the option of Intel or ARM – a type of hybrid in options. But the rest of their line (Macbook Pros & Mac Pros) will stay all Intel, just like their other iDevices will stay all ARM. Apple needs to keep the door open to Intel as Ivy Bridge looks very promising over ARM.

  • Graham Briggs

    Does Intel want to sell dual-core premium low-power Atom with graphics and the supporting chipset for under $25? And that doesn’t even meet the tiny size of Apple’s A5 chip, which includes the CPUs, the graphics, the chipset and the RAM in a tiny package. And ARM has a solid roadmap to higher performance, works brilliantly for Apple currently. There’s simply not need for Apple to change, the analyst’s article is just hot air to get hits.

  • huyett

    I didn’t think that MacBooks had battery issues (8 hrs) with i5 & i7. Why would they go away from their A series chips when they produce them in house? For a company that loves owning the supply chain it seems like we’d see an ARM macbook air / pro before we’d ever see an ATOM.

  • CharliK

    Jobs will do what Jobs will do. Which probably won’t include the Atom

  • John Marshall

    Common sense tells me Apple wants to put ARM in the desktops/notebooks for the inevitable switch to iOS. Forget Wintel, it’s Armple (?) now.

  • One2Three

    If it wasn’t for Intel and its agreement to make cpu’s for Apple for those early Intel based and current macs and macbooks, Apple would still be in the hole of RISC processors, and G4, G5 niche
    madness. Developers would not of been so ready to produce programs for the mac. Intel deserves a chance, to impress the Apple Empire.

About the author

Ed SutherlandEd Sutherland is a veteran technology journalist who first heard of Apple when they grew on trees, Yahoo was run out of a Stanford dorm and Google was an unknown upstart. Since then, Sutherland has covered the whole technology landscape, concentrating on tracking the trends and figuring out the finances of large (and small) technology companies.

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