Intel wants to be inside the iPad

Intel wants to be inside the iPad

Summary: Intel's expertise in miniaturizing transistors could certainly be beneficial to Apple when it comes to shrinking down the processor die size and slashing battery consumption.

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You know those little 'Intel Inside' sticker that adorn PCs? Well, CEO Paul Otellini has plans to make silicon "so compelling" that Apple will put 'Intel Inside' the iPad.

Speaking during a Q&A session on Thursday at Intel's annual investor day in Santa Clara, California, Otellini was bullish about the company's ability to produce chips that Apple can't ignore.

"Our job," said Otellini, "is to ensure our silicon is so compelling ... in terms of running the Mac better or being a better iPad device, that as they [Apple] make those decisions they can't ignore us."

The A5X processor that currently powers the iPad 3 is system-on-a-chip -- SoC -- part that combines a dual-core CPU at 1 GHz and a quad-core PowerVR SGX543MP4 GPU into a single package. This SoC was designed by Apple and manufactured by Samsung at its plant in Austin, Texas.

But there are problems with the A5X. It is manufactured using 45 nanometer architecture -- architecture that Intel and AMD were using for desktop CPUs back in 2008 -- and over the three incarnations of the iPad the size of the die has increased dramatically. The current A5X is 310 percent larger than the A4 processor that powered the first-generation iPad.

Intel could help Apple change this. Its current line of Ivy Bridge processors is built using 22 nanometer architecture, but the company plans to have mobile processors based on this size of architecture available next year, with 14 nanometer architecture coming in 2014.

Intel already has a mobile processor based on the Medfield 32 nanometer architecture, called the Atom Z2460, which runs at 1.6GHz.

Smaller architecture not only means a smaller processor die, but lower power consumption and less heat. These are two features that are very important when it comes to mobile devices and mobile computing. Intel's expertise in miniaturizing transistors could certainly be beneficial to Apple when it comes to shrinking down the size of the silicon and slashing battery consumption.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons, Intel.

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Topics: Intel, Apple, Hardware, iPad, Mobility, Processors

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43 comments
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  • Intel does not want to be just a manufacturing plant, and Apple wants to use

    ... their own chips.

    If Cook will keep Jobs' legacy, Apple will not turn iPads to Intel's chips -- that would be nonsensical, considering the fact that Intel wants to sell their chips to [i]everyone[/i]. By having their own chips, Apple got over year-long competitive advantage with iPad: only now super-overclocked Mali-400 GPU or Adreno 225 GPU matched A5 GPU speeds. And Apple came up with A5X, which is twice faster than fastest competition.

    So the only way for Intel to get iPad business is to agree to be only contracted manufacturer. Just like Samsung is now. Or just like the same Samsung in displays along with LG Display, Chimei Innolux, who are contracted manufacturers that do not own design, and hence produce unique screens for Apple and not able to use the technology to produce anything for themselves or to Apple's competitors.
    DDERSSS
    • You mean like the Mac ;)?

      "If Cook will keep Jobs legacy, Apple will not turn iPads to Intel chips"

      You mean like the Mac ;)?

      Apple tends to use what they think is best in the long run, and they're open to changing technologies if they need to.

      So I wouldn't count Intel out of this game. After all, they're already an active supplier for Apple's Mac line of products.

      The question is, of course, whether Apple thinks Intel is the best bet in the long run. And that's really anybody's guess.
      CobraA1
      • just hoping

        intel doesn't squeeze apple to get into the iPad. you think apple likes lawsuits? this would make lawyers heads spin really fast
        richvball44
    • Nice spec sheet

      [i]only now super-overclocked Mali-400 GPU or Adreno 225 GPU matched A5 GPU speeds. And now Apple came up with A5X, which is twice faster than fastest competition.[/i]

      A finer list of bullet point ghz specs has never been repeated quite so nicely as this.

      For people who are only interested in gigaflops and ghz, get the A5X. It has twice as much giga stuff as the closest competitor. Now you just have to pray that no one remembers how all the Apple fanbois claimed that the iPad 1 was fast and fluid and had absolutely no performance problems at all. After all, if people remember those statements, the logical response to your ghz megaflop gpu vector graphics is: so?

      Shhh, I won't tell if you won't tell.
      toddbottom3
      • Making faster GPU has nothing to do with "performance problems"

        It has to do with giving users unique graphic titles like Infinity Blade, which could be never produced for Android phones because even the very best ones were in general from much-slower to many-times-slower in graphics.
        DDERSSS
      • Clearly you are wrong

        Infinity Blade came out for the iPad 1 which had far less giga stuff in it than the iPad 3 does and certainly less giga stuff than high end Android tablets do.

        The reason you don't see Infinity Blade for Android is clearly not because it can't be done but either because Android tablets have about 4% marketshare or Apple gave Epic Games a boatload of cash to make it an iOS exclusive.

        Like I said: I won't tell if you won't tell. I like my iPad 2 but now you are making me sad because other tablets have so much more giga things in them. In fact, I think my iPad 2 is slowing down right before my eyes. Only super giga power can save my iPad 2 now.
        toddbottom3
      • IB runs on peanuts

        Infinity Blade runs on iOS, not necessarily just the iPad. In fact, the game is actually way easier to play on something like an iPod Touch (because lets face it, it's easier to repeatedly swipe your finger across a 4 inch screen instead of a 10 inch screen, among other things). It's too bad, because I like my Android stuff way more than my iOS stuff.
        Aerowind
      • I hope we can both agree on this

        The end result should be more important than which device has the most mega giga ram flop vector graphics floating point stuff in it.

        http://geeknizer.com/ipad-a5x-vs-tegra-3/

        The article shows that the A5X wins on GPU benchmarks, some tests by a small amount, some by a large amount. It then goes on to say that thanks to the higher resolution of the iPad 3, resolution dependant artifacts, like writing on a scoreboard, look crisper on the iPad 3. However, there were fancier effects on the Tegra 3 tablets and the game was smoother and more fluid.

        [i]For now, the A5X offers better benchmark performance, while Tegra 3-optimized games offer more and better visual effects and Tegra 3 CPU is way more powerful than A5X[/i]

        So there you go. For all your spec sheet memorization, the end result is that iPad 3 does some graphics better, some graphics worse, and has a far inferior CPU. To consumers, this matters far more than a spec sheet that Apple publishes and you repeat.
        toddbottom3
      • IB series autoadapts visual complexity depending on GPU level

        @toddbottom3, @Aerowind: there are three different level of settings:
        1) SGX 535 GPU: iPhone 3Gs, iPod touch (3rd generation);
        2) better clocked SGX 535 GPU: iPhone 4, iPod touch (4th generation), iPad (1);
        3) SGX 543MP2: iPad 2, iPhone 4S;
        3) SGX 543MP4: iPad (3).

        The point is that efforts/costs of games from Infinity Blade series depend on the highest of GPU specifications that they are designing for. And iOS platform provides much higher possibilities in that for the second year already.
        DDERSSS
      • @toddbottom3

        IB isn't an iOS exclusive, as it's now an arcade game at your local Dave and Busters, or ay other arcade that invested a boatload of money in the TouchFX platform. Also, it could easily go to Kinect... er XBox in the form of a Kinect game.
        Champ_Kind
  • Apple needs to make their own decisions

    If Intel truly can come up with chips that are superior in every way to what Apple can design and Samsung can manufacture then Apple needs to decide whether it is more important to have an inferior chip that is exclusive to Apple or to have the same superior chip that everyone else has.

    There is precedence here that if Intel succeeds, Apple will switch. Apple was very proud of their "unique" PowerPC Macs because no other PC used those chips. It made Apple users feel very special. They got exclusivity with their $4,000 Macs that underperformed $1,000 PCs. Then one day, Apple tired of being the only company unable to release a good laptop and switched to Intel, just like everyone else. It was more important for Apple to be good than to be unique. Apple consumers have benefited greatly from that decision and to compensate for having a PC just like everyone else, they just made up other things to feel unique about.

    Of course, Intel has to make this chip that is superior first.
    toddbottom3
    • You need to stop reciting

      The World According to Steve Ballmer. Because you're completely wrong, again. The Power PC chips did in fact outperform the Intel chips, at the time in question. Objective data proves that. You simply reciting the usual Bull Sh!t from your Master, does not change the facts. It wasn't until Microsoft made a deal with IBM (to get chips for the xbox) that IBM ceases development on Power PC Chips for Apple. IBM missed three deadlines, and Apple switched to the slower, and more expensive Intel Chips. But you get information from your master,while praying to Redmond 5 times a day.
      Jumpin Jack Flash
      • IBM and FreeScale (formerly Motorola's CPU arm)

        were both working on a 970 series processor that could run in a PowerBook and had similar power and heat specs as a 7400 series processor. Unfortunately, neither of them could do it in the timeframe that the Steve wanted to see it in, so the AIM alliance broke up and Apple switched to Intel.

        IBM folded PPC into the POWER architecture (which is why a lot of PPC and POWER stuff is cross-compatible), and FreeScale still designs newer processors based off of the 7400 and 970 along with it's other internal designs that are meant more for embedded systems.
        Champ_Kind
    • I suspect brain damage

      Or perhaps you're hard-wired into a propaganda/selective/erroneous feed of data from a dubious source.

      Either that or you've been drinking too much Wintel-ade.
      ego.sum.stig
    • Apple was hard beaten few times already

      When they attempted using someone else's "commodity" technology -- only to find out, that the other parties dream to abuse Apple all the time -- as happened with Motorola/IBM and the PowerPC chips. Long story short: IBM didn't like it that Apple was selling workstations and servers at fraction of the price IBM was asking.

      There is no question, that if Apple can keep their own designs to themselves, they should continue doing so. This is not a problem for CPU design. Apple has enough cash to keep the brightest CPU designers in-house. Parties, more than willing to manufacture chips for Apple are all around.

      Apple does not need Intel to be successful.
      danbi
  • There's a lot more to this than die size and raw performance.

    Apple's biggest concern is availability. They simply won't use a component, even if it's superior, if Apple can't guarantee that they can get enough of them when they need them at a price they want to pay. Apple can switch processors whenever they want, the biggest thing they got with Steve back in 1997 was NeXT's superb porting capabilities. Apple labs had OS X running on Intel hardware [b]long[/b] before Macs moved to x86 architecture. Moving away from ARM shouldn't be any harder than moving to it was when the iPhone was originally designed. Apple will move to Intel chips when Intel assures Apple that they can get as many as they want at a lower price than an A5X, A6, or whatever iOS devices are running at the time.
    matthew_maurice
    • That's an excellent point matthew

      [i]They simply won't use a component, [b]even if it's superior[/b], if Apple can't guarantee that they can get enough of them[/i]

      And this is great news for Windows RT tablets. They could have significantly better hardware than is available on the iPad.
      toddbottom3
      • The troll steps in it

        But no one will be able to get them :)
        Robert Hahn
      • Has hardware mattered?

        Android has almost always had better hardware.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • Makes no sense

        Windows RT (which is a stripped down version of Windows 8) is for ARM-based devices only. So how will they be better than the iPad? Apple's processors (which are also based on ARM) run just as well if not better than equivalent ARM-based SOC's from other processor companies.

        For Intel-based tablets, they will be running the full Windows 8, not WinRT, which will run the Metro environment and legacy Classic Desktop.
        smulji