Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) has had an uneasy relationship with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) for some years now. The mobile device company chose to design their own power efficient processors for the iPhone, and then the iPad. That move meant they passed over Intel for the contract, something that hit the firm’s business.
Now however Intel is moving into the tablet market with the launch of Windows 8 and into the smart phone market on the Windows platform that leaves them directly competing with Apple, something that will cause difficulty for the firm going ahead.
Intel still supplies Apple with all of the chips for their laptop and desktop computers. If rumours prove to be true that could be changing. Apple has not yet updated its iMac series of desktop computers. Some believe that part of the delay might have to do with the introduction of computers running on ARM processor technology much like the firm’s mobile devices.
Meanwhile Bernstein Research released a report recently which suggests that Intel might move into the fabrication of Apple’s mobile chips. This would give Intel an opportunity to learn more about mobile chip fabrication while giving Apple much needed extra capacity in the chip production field.
The ties between the two companies are certainly complicated. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has shown recently that its love of complication is waning. The firm has begun to phase out its use of Google’s services, using Siri to replace search, and more recently replacing Google maps in iOS 6.
If Apple holds firm on that strategy Intel may be the next firm to lose out from Apple’s simplification of its competition battle lines. Intel is inexorably tied up with Microsoft’s Windows platform. The firm supplied the specifications for the Ultrabook format that many see as copying the Macbook Air’s design.
Apple has also shown, through huge patent battles, that it does not treat well those it sees as having infringed its technology. Apple won’t attack intel directly but it could go after manufacturers of the Ultrabook devices, particularly after having receive a wide reaching patent on wedge shaped notebook design.
Another push for a switch in technology comes from the integration of Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems. Integration of the two would be much simpler if both systems utilized the same underlying processor technology. As of WWDC we know that this is a prime directive in Apple’s strategy going forward.
Apple used processors from PowerPC up until 2006 when it changed to Intel architecture. It has experience in changing its processor technology smoothly and efficiently. It would not be a big leap to do that again. Apple’s OSX update in 2009, dubbed Snow Leopard, removed all support for PowerPC devices. This was in fact, the third such processor migration for the company.
We know that Apple has the ability to change the processors it works with. We also know that the company has at least some motivation to move away from Intel who they compete with. It is still an expensive proposition and one that would shake the PC world.
Apple could very well decide to change its underlying processor technology. If it does we may see that in the new iMac, which will probably be released sometime later this year. If there is no update then this speculation will be dispelled for a while but it will keep cropping up.
Apple has no need to stick with Intel for much longer. The firm has gotten into processor design and should be able to introduce a reasonable piece of hardware to replace Intel’s technology. When this might happen is anyone’s guess but don’t be surprised if the change comes before too long.