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Apple, ARM, and Intel 246

Posted by Soulskill
from the dysfunctional-courtship dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Jean-Louis Gassée says Apple and Samsung are engaged in a knives-out smartphone war. But when it comes to chips, the two companies must pretend to be civil because Samsung is the sole supplier of ARM-based processors for the iPhone. So why hasn't Intel jumped at the chance to become Apple's ARM source? 'The first explanation is architectural disdain,' writes Gassée. 'Intel sees "no future for ARM," it's a culture of x86 true believers. And they have a right to their conviction: With each iteration of its manufacturing technology, Intel has full control over how to improve its processors.' Next is pride. Intel would have to accept Apple's design and 'pour' it into silicon — it would become a lowlymerchant foundry.' Intel knows how to design and manufacture standard parts, but it has little experience manufacturing other people's custom designs or pricing them. But the most likely answer to the Why-Not-Intel question is money. Intel meticulously tunes the price points for its processors to generate the revenue that will fund development. Intel's published prices range from a 'low' $117 for a Core i3 processor to $999 for a top-of-the-line Core i7 device. Compare this to iSuppli's estimate for the cost of the A6 processor: $17.50. Even if more A6 chips could be produced per wafer — an unproven assumption — Intel's revenue per A6 wafer start would be much lower than with their x86 microprocessors. In Intel's perception of reality, this would destroy the business model. 'For all of Intel's semiconductor design and manufacturing feats, its processors suffer from a genetic handicap: They have to support the legacy x86 instruction set, and thus they're inherently more complicated than legacy-free ARM devices, they require more transistors, more silicon. Intel will argue, rightly, that they'll always be one technological step ahead of the competition, but is one step enough for x86 chips to beat ARM microprocessors?'"
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Apple, ARM, and Intel

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22, 2012 @06:24PM (#41734549)

    Intel's published prices range from a 'low' $117 for a Core i3 processor.

    What about atom? You know, the processor produced by Intel, specifically for the same markets that ARM are dominating now.

  • by Elbereth (58257) on Monday October 22, 2012 @06:27PM (#41734577) Journal

    Intel has made ARM processors in the past (xScale [wikipedia.org]), and, apparently, still retains an ARM license. Intel has manufactured RISC chips, as well (i960, for example). There is absolutely no reason why Intel wouldn't/couldn't produce an ARM chip, if they wanted to. There's just no reason to do so.

    Also, using the Core i3 as an example of Intel's "low-end" is not very fair. Intel's low-end chips are the Pentium and Celeron, not the i3. The Atom is the closest thing to a competitor to the ARM chips. Pricing for Atom chips varies extensively, from $20 to $100, depending on features,

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Monday October 22, 2012 @06:33PM (#41734645)
    But it wouldn't look as good in the article if they compared the $17.50 ARM's to the $19 Atoms (although the only $19 atom is the E620, which is pretty shit, event for an atom, the new N2760 is supposed to be a similar price to directly compete with ARM SoC's)
  • by ericloewe (2129490) on Monday October 22, 2012 @06:42PM (#41734751)

    It's been pretty much proven that the "x86 legacy baggage" or however you want to put it does not seriously affect Intel's Atom for phones.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/6330/the-iphone-5-review/10 [anandtech.com]

    Razer i, which has an Atom processor, beats A6, the best performer in the ARM field, most of the time in non-GPU tasks (one area it is lacking is GPU power), while power consumption is average for a phone. Android adds additional overhead not present in iOS, too.

    If anyone can work miracles and cram x86 into a phone, it's Intel. As ARM designs have to start dealing with greater complexity, Intel can apply their immense experience with x86 and improve performance without dramatically increasing power consumption.

    With some more work, I can see Atom beating the hell out of any ARM design in the same power envelope. I'll give it one or two generations.

  • by scheme (19778) on Monday October 22, 2012 @06:43PM (#41734769)

    'For all of Intel's semiconductor design and manufacturing feats, its processors suffer from a genetic handicap: They have to support the legacy x86 instruction set, and thus they're inherently more complicated than legacy-free ARM devices, they require more transistors, more silicon.

    Intel and AMD x86 processors moved on to using micro-ops and risc like operations internally years ago. The only disadvantage nowadays is a small translator that converts x86 machine code into micro-ops. Compared to the actual logic or cache on the cpu the number of transistors that the translation takes is minimal and not a big deal especially when you consider the size of cpus nowadays.

  • by preaction (1526109) on Monday October 22, 2012 @07:36PM (#41735205)

    The two factions of Total Annihilation were the Core and the Arm: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Annihilation [wikipedia.org]

  • by foniksonik (573572) on Monday October 22, 2012 @09:21PM (#41736181) Homepage Journal

    I do believe that ARM is not a chip or even a product. It's an architecture that is licensed by others. This means that the company behind ARM makes money on every chip regardless of price. They don't care if it costs $17 or $170 to manufacture and distribute, they have little overhead so it's almost all profit at this point.

    Intel OTOH sells chips. They a much higher amount of manufacturing and sales costs.

  • Re:Ironic (Score:4, Informative)

    by SpazmodeusG (1334705) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @01:07AM (#41737713)

    You have that completely backwards. The first Itaniums WERE backwards compatible with IA-32 (x86) at the hardware level. It was later Itaniums that ditched backwards compatibility in favour of the software based IA-32 Execution Layer.

I cannot conceive that anybody will require multiplications at the rate of 40,000 or even 4,000 per hour ... -- F. H. Wales (1936)

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