Intel chips could power future iPad versions, says research analyst

Intel chips could power future iPad versions, says research analyst

Summary: RBC Capital Markets speculates that Intel could build ARM-based chips for future iPhones and, in return, Apple could use x86 processors in next-generation iPads.

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TOPICS: Tablets, Apple, Intel, iPad
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About six months ago, fellow ZDNet writer Adrian Kingsley-Hughes penned a piece about Intel's desire to provide Apple with iPad processors in the future. Since then, there's been no sign that future is close to being upon us, but a research analyst has recently laid out a scenario where it could become reality.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Doug Freedman believes that Apple and Intel could indulge in a little quid pro quo when it comes to mobile processor production in the future. He argues that if Apple could get Intel to manufacture the ARM-based chips it designs for future iterations of the iPhone, then Apple could agree to have Intel's own x86-based processors be a part of later iPad tablets.

That scenario -- one that neither side would ever confirm until the deal was struck -- is less far-fetched than it may have once seemed, as Apple is seeing its marriage to Samsung unravel thanks to various patent and IP-related lawsuits. After years of relying on Samsung to produce its iPhone and iPad chips, Apple would clearly like to find another processor partner.

Intel and Apple have had an on-again, off-again relationship over the years, though today's Macs use Intel processors and the two companies worked on the technology behind the Thunderbolt interface together. According to our sister site CNET, the two firms have purportedly discussed a foundry relationship like the one Freedman envisions over the last couple of years, though, again, nothing official has ever been announced.

Intel has already dabbled in ARM-chip production, having inked a deal with Netronome to make its custom chips back in April. Stranger things have happened, so don't be shocked if the iPad 6 has Intel inside, owing to ARM-processor fabrication by Intel itself. 

Topics: Tablets, Apple, Intel, iPad

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34 comments
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  • I can install Windows 8 in iPad then ?

    I don't think this would ever happen, but in case happens, Windows 8 would run in lot of iPad 6.
    jinishans
    • "Like Giving A Glass of Ice Water To Somebody in Hell?"

      Yeah, I think iPad users would welcome it.
      LBiege
    • lol...

      lol lol lol
      ahahahahahahahah
      funny ....
      Watchmen247
  • That'd be great for both companies but it'd be even better if apple used

    airmont in there iphones too. intels mobile chips crush apples Ax line in perf and that's not changing anytime soon. and with airmont apple and other phone makers will get better battery life than they get with arm. They should move to the silvermont base valleyview platform with the iphone6 to get ready. Samsung, nokia, and htc should also move to it for their next gen phones in the spring.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Citation please.

      "intels mobile chips crush apples Ax line in perf" Oh, be so kind as to link to an authoritative result comparing the two.
      matthew_maurice
      • Yes

        I question that myself. It's ok to talk smack sometimes with your particular bias, but base it on some facts or reality. As far as I know, being quite the Intel/PC fan, Apple has done a yeoman's job of producing their own custom chips with price/performance/battery life as a gold standard. Intel has a more 'catch all' approach, so as not to diminish the scope of any one processor to any one OS/manufacturer. I'd be fine with being wrong and learning, but the odds are against it.
        TechNickle
      • I'd like a link the other way too

        I'd like a link that shows some ARM line has better perf than x86. It's repeated a gajillion times, but never ever proven.
        CobraA1
        • Two things.

          First, I made no mention of ARM performance, per se. I mentioned it's power usage, which no one questions as being superior to all Intel chips. The real comparison is performance at a give wattage. Low power chips with high-performance are the Holy Grail for mobile devices.
          matthew_maurice
    • drug abuse!?

      Can i have some of your drugs, u are consuming!?
      Watchmen247
    • iOS sucks

      I hate iOS. Like windows 8 better, but needs work as its still a pain.
      iOS is becoming an Android copycat, and is still lacking a lot of features, bad for productivity.
      Apple needs to come out with some original ideas to improve iOS, and make it better to navigate. (I have 300+ apps). iOS still lacks save states/load stats like the old Palm OS had, so data is lost when the device powers off when low battery :(. Funny thing is, that it seems like every app had to fend for themselves, and basic features are not built into the os, so there is a lot of redundancy and wasted space, and power usage.

      Although Playbook OS 2.0 is pretty slick, WebOS was slick but lacking unless you mod it to hell. I enjoy playing with Playbook OS, i like how there is no need for a button.


      But, I think Windows 8 is good for a first attempt. It can only get better.


      Can't wait to ditch my iPhone.
      ShqTth
      • Ballmer has bet the company that you're both right.

        You may be, but if you're not...well there's a reason I'm not Long on MSFT.
        matthew_maurice
  • Freedman is dreaming.

    First of all, Ax chips in iPhones and X86 chips in iPads makes universal apps a nightmare if not an impossibility. Second, Apple has taken it's processor design fully in-house, the A6 proves that, and it's not likely to move backward. Intel chips would have to make "order of magnitude" improvements in power management as well as improving processing power/graphics performance substantially. Otherwise it's still in Apple's best interest to continue to design its own chips. If for no other reason than that Apple now has the ability to more fully integrate their OS and processor than any other handset manufacturer, and that gives Apple a significant performance/battery life (all other factors being even) advantage. Finally, one philosophy both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook share[d] is reducing Apple's reliance on a single outside source for core supplies. Apple was burned badly by IBM's inability to produce a G5 chip with low enough power requirements and heat-generation for notebook computers.

    No, iOS devices will run on Apple-designed ARM-based chips for the foreseeable future. However, where Apple and Intel might have common ground is the CPU for the next generation of Macs. I could easily imagine OS Eleven running on a new generation of chips, maybe based on the ARM v8 instruction set on sub-20nm technology, silicon or otherwise, that Intel may be working on now.
    matthew_maurice
    • Agree

      But fabbing ARM v8 for OS 11(?) means Intel might still be cutting its own throat. Getting the kind of margins from ARM silicon that it is currently getting from X86 silicon might prove impossible, but ultimately that may be a dilemma Intel will not be able to avoid in any event.
      D.T.Long
  • Unlikely

    The scenario doesn't make sense.

    There are many companies that could fabricate Apple's ARM-based processor designs. Apple doesn't need Intel for that.

    x86 is a long way behind in energy usage. It will take years for Intel's x86 to be even in the ballpark with ARM. Meanwhile, ARM is not standing still. There's also the complexity of running two architectures (ARM/x886) with no obvious gain.
    Vbitrate
    • Actually

      From third parties (I don't own or operated an intel powered tablet) I hear the clover trail is very close in terms of power mangement, and at the same time provides more performance and of course provides application compatiblity. It is clear that by the time ARM is closing the performance gap (if ever), Intel will be on par on the power consumption, probably years earlier.
      sjaak327
      • Clear?

        Why is that "clear"?

        ARM is certainly not standing still. Their bigLITTLE architecture has tremendous long term potential, and Intel is unlikely to maintain its fab technology lead forever.
        D.T.Long
        • Intel isn't sitting still either

          We know that their atom processor is more powerful than current ARM, and in some cases even have better battery life. My point of reference is, of course, Google's own Chromebooks.
          Michael Alan Goff
          • Look at the PowerPoint.

            Those chips Intel hopes will be viable for mobile devices won't be around until 2013 and 2014. Who knows what ARM will be doing by then? And even if there is a parity in raw performance/power consumption, ARM will always have an advantage for Apple in that by designing their own chips they can have an OS/hardware integration that's a step beyond what anyone else, short of maybe Qualcomm and Samsung, is capable of.
            matthew_maurice
  • Not Getting It

    So Intel capitalizes and builds the ARM 150 million per year fabbing capacity for one customer, and in return Apple complicates its iPad architecture by mixing in Intel processors (on the roadmap and available to others?) to partially or fully supplant their self-designed ARMs?

    Apple has a lot of money: seems to me they can build or buy dedicated chip fabricators, should Samsung get vexing enough. Or, looking at it another way, why would Apple become more beholden to Intel to shake free of Samsung?
    DannyO_0x98
    • Bingo!

      Samsung, should be really worried about a potential Apple/Taiwan Semiconductor joint-venture. Apple's money financing TSMC building capacity could seriously change the fab economic environment.
      matthew_maurice