Ex-Intel engineer: Apple turned away from Intel over Skylake CPU bugs

"The quality assurance in SkyLake was abnormally bad," says former Intel engineer François Piednoël.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

A former Intel engineer reckons Apple decided to switch from Intel due to the unusually high number of bugs in the chip maker's Skylake CPUs that powered Macs released between 2015 and 2017. 

The claim is made by François Piednoël, now principal architect at Mercedes-Benz R&D North America. While it is just the opinion of one former Intel engineer, Piednoël worked at Intel for 20 years and was one of its top CPU architects. He left the company in 2017. 

At WWDC last week Apple confirmed the long-predicted switch to Arm for its future Macs, but Piednoël pinpoints the arrival of buggy Skylake Core CPUs as the key event that prompted Apple to move away from Intel.

SEE: How to become a developer: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic) 

"The quality assurance in Skylake was abnormally bad," said Piednoël

"We were getting way too much citing for little things, and basically Apple became the number-one filer of problems with the architecture. And that went really, really bad. When your customer starts finding almost as much bugs as you found yourself, you're not leading into the right place.

"For me, this is the inflection point. This is where the Apple guys that were always contemplating to switch, they went and looked at it and said, 'We've probably got to do it'. 

"Basically the bad quality assurance of Skylake is responsible for [obliging them] to go away from the platform. 

"I think I witnessed this inflection about three years ago when they said, 'Yeah, time to do it'."

Apple's switch from Intel to Apple silicon will take two years to complete and the first Arm-based Macs will be available by the end of the year. Apple will still support Intel-based Macs for the foreseeable future. 

SEE: Apple to move Mac to Arm CPUs: What you need to know

Apple wasn't the only company struggling with Intel's Skylake. Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott recalls that Intel's 6th-generation chips were at least partly responsible for reliability problems in the first-generation Surface Book and the Surface Pro 4. 

Microsoft faced a PR disaster in 2016 when NFL Patriots coach Bill Belichick smashed his Surface at a match in frustration. He claimed breakdowns on the tablet were common. That's not necessarily Intel's fault, and it wasn't reported what Surface tablet he was using, but Microsoft was promoting the Surface Pro 4 with the NFL in 2016

ZDNet has sought comment from Intel and Apple. 

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