Intel switches ARM stance from 'No' to 'Maybe'
New wrinkle in Apple-Samsung spat
Ten days ago, Intel CEO Paul Otellini told US investors that Chipzilla wouldn't use its new 22nm Tri-Gate process technology to build chips based on an ARM core. At a UK investors confab this Thursday, CFO Stacey Smith hedged on Otellini's emphatic "No".
If a customer came to Intel and asked them to fab processors that weren't built around the Intel architecture (IA), Smith said, that request would spark an "in-depth discussion and analysis," reports Reuters.
Smith's openness to such negotiations seems, at first blush, to be in stark contrast to Otellini's statements. When asked about fabbing ARM-based chips at the US investors meeting, the Chipzillian CEO responded: "The short answer is 'No'."
Understandably, Smith would prefer to provide his customers with Intel-designed cores. "If Apple or Sony came to us and said 'I want to do a product that involves your IA core and put some of my IP around it', I wouldn't blink. That would be fantastic business for us," he said.
But he wasn't as firm as Otellini when it came to non-IA cores. "Then you get into the middle ground of 'I don't want it to be an IA core, I want it to be my own custom-designed core,' and then you are only getting the manufacturing margin, [and] that would be a much more in-depth discussion and analysis," he told journos after the UK investor event.
Otellini's reason for not building ARM-based chips also involved margins. "We'd be beholden to someone else, we'd be beholden to ARM, we'd pay royalties to them, so it'd lower the overall profits," he told the US group.
Parsing the statements of both Intel execs, however, reveals that their statements are not, in fact, as contradictory as they may at first seem. Otellini stated that "We have no intention to use our license again to build ARM," while Smith spoke only of fabbing someone else's custom design – and if that design included an ARM core, the third party would pay the licensing fee.
Building, say, the Apple-designed ARM-based A5 processor using Intel's 22nm Tri-Gate process would net Chipzilla only a manufacturing fee, but the chip baker wouldn't be "beholden to ARM" for a licensing fee.
Samsung currently fabs the A5 for Apple, but that relationship has soured recently as a result of Apple suing the Korean giant for "slavishly" copying the iPhone and iPad's look-and-feel. In retaliation, Samsung filed patent-infringment lawsuits against Cupertino in three countries.
Add to that bad blood Friday's rumor that Apple is testing an A5-based version of its überpopular MacBook Air, and a possible deal that would result in Intel supplying Apple's growing need for the A5 might indeed lead to "in-depth discussion and analysis." ®
If Intel gets the money for fabbing the parts, that money helps pay for building and operating the plants and processes Intel needs to make to keep driving their innovation faster than their competitors. If Intel's competitors fab the parts, that money goes to building plants and processes that compete with Intel.
The choice is pretty clear.
nothing to do with crAppl€
What on earth are you taking about? Intel ALREADY pay the miniscule license fees and royalties on ieach of its mobile SoCs to ARM as part of its Infineon acquisition. You think it's going to be profitiable for Intel to keep its production with whoever Infineon were using before instead of moving to its own Intel fab for mobile SoCs? Mobile phones are going to be ARM well into the forseeable future, and Intel are going to be selling ARM SoCs well into the future.
Apple are also a MINISCULE player in the chip industry, so I don't see why the media keep over-hyping them as being significant in any way.
re: Second thoughts
if Intel builds ARM chips they are fueling the competition to x86 and x86 is where most all their profits come from. It's the same reason Microsoft supports next to no software on anything but Windows. And if Intel refuses to build ARM on 22nm then were else is that vendor to go for 22nm? Nowhere because Intel is almost always first with the smaller chips and it is their one big advantage.
The CEO was correct, Intel will never build ARM and the other guy was just putting some frosting on it so it doesn't taste/look so bad. they may discuss it but the discussion would be very short and consist of one word, "no". But they can spin it as discussing it.
Two things come to mind..
1) Sony needs to sort out the PS4 hardware around now, sounds like a likely choice.
2) Could be an exit strategy for NVidia, the discrete graphics market won't sustain them forever, this way they can stick their GPU on the same silicon as a top class CPU without having to try to work out how to build a CPU itself and all the license wrangling involved.
Arm on the mainboard
My most recent desktop (HP z-something, nippy with 6 cores, 12 GB ram), came with an ARM chip on it. I presume it's for the integrated lights out stuff -you can hook up a 100 mbit/s management backplane to one of the ethernet ports, while the other runs at 1 GBps -I just find it funny that there's an ARM core there to handle ACPI and management issues with the big cpu. I guess it's like the electric starter motor of a car -something low power to start the barge up