#163: Intel's stumble is Apple's gain
It's not so crazy to say goodbye to Intel anymore


Apple plans to drop Intel in 2020

It's been rumored for as long as I can remember, but this fresh report provides the first concrete details: Apple plans to switch away from Intel chips in the Mac to its own ARM-based architecture. 

If Apple were to drop Intel it would be a monumental shift away from the processors architecture we've used primarily for the better part of four decades — and bad news for Intel. 

There are big reasons for any device maker to shift away from Intel: tying your fate to a company that has become stagnant is a huge risk, and Intel has failed to innovate over the last few years at all. With the company struggling — or holding back — next-generation CPU improvements, it would be surprising if both Apple and Microsoft weren't exploring alternatives.

Intel has succumb to a slowing of Moore's Law and the comfort of its coffers.

There's still plenty of mileage in chipsets, but Intel has increasingly focused on extracting money from existing innovations by adjusting release cycles. In recent years, the company has switched from a 'tick-tock' two-year release cycle with a big hardware refresh, followed by an iteration year, to a 'tick-tock-tock' three-year cycle.

What's readily apparent, even with performance set aside, is Intel's x86 architecture is no match for the efficiency gained by ARM chipsets, which focus heavily on efficiency over performance.

There's a reason we don't really have 'all day' battery life in laptops: it's only possible with a total overhaul — and Microsoft only achieved this recently by experimenting with always-on all-day laptops.... based on ARM chips.

Until now, it would have been much harder to switch away from Intel, but mainstream computing needs are clearly changing in big ways.

Using a Chromebook or iPad all day would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but with powerful new tools like Figma emerging that offer powerful design tools entirely in a web browser, it's apparent just how much more we're able to do with less now. The time it seems, is right.

Every time I've mulled this shift, I thought it would be impossible because of some use case — the film industry, designers or other heavy workload users — but quickly realized that these are not your average user. Perhaps Intel, and workhorse machines, become a new category, rather than the default.

With that in mind, I'm not so convinced this rumor is far-fetched, especially given how powerful Apple's A-series chipsets are, and that the company is already sneaking them into almost every desktop it ships now.

If Apple were to shed the binds it's in with Intel, it might actually be able to redefine the PC as we know it and truly differentiate the Mac and build a new category entirely. That might mean the line blurs with iOS, or the Mac is differentiated by being the machine people go to for all-day, all-purpose work.

With the news that the Mac Pro reboot is delayed until 2019, and Microsoft's own claim that it's managed to get native x86 applications running at similar performance, you can bet that this is happening — it's just a question of when, and what that means for Intel.

🌎 Read the full story on Bloomberg
(warning: autoplay video)

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#163: Intel's stumble is Apple's gain