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Apple iPad: 'Intel Outside'

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I've been an Apple fan for 20 years (yes, since middle school) and it's interesting to see how they are steps ahead of other dominant tech companies. Giants move slowly and have a vested interest in keeping to the status quo. The transition over the past 40 years (mainframes>minicomputers>PCs>mobile devices) has left companies behind at each step. Intel has been there through some of the transition, but it's Apple who has been the more agile one of late and may leave Intel behind. The next 5 years will be interesting as more computing functions are moved away from the desktop/laptop, and Apple continues to utilize their owned/licensed chipsets for these devices instead of ones from Intel.

Apple iPad: Intel Outside

Intel made a couple of strategic gaffes along the way to being left out of the Apple iPad:

(1) exiting the ARM-based mobile CPU business entirely in 2006 (pre-iPhone)

(2) assuming that PC technology would continue to extend lower & lower into mobile devices

It’s become clear in the last few days that the iPad is a new class of devices. Not the tablet-of-old pushed by Microsoft, but a truly disruptive era of computing, one that bypasses Intel entirely. Intel simply couldn’t fathom that an iPhone class of computers would disrupt PCs from the bottom up, which is exactly what happened.

And it’s not just the iPad. Google Chrome OS tablets won’t run Intel either, because the divide between ARM and Intel is not narrowing. In fact, Netbooks may even ditch Atom in favor of ARM processors (Windows bloat may prevent this). Google wants this to happen with its cloud initiatives running on Chrome OS.

Intel is fighting back using massive R&D dollars to get back in. However, even though Intel Atom CPUs use more advanced process technology (45nm), they lag ARM processors (the Apple A4, nVidia Tegra 2, Qualcomm Snapdragon etc) from less advanced fabs in the area that matters most - performance per watt of power consumption. Simply speaking, this is performance for a given battery life.

Losing the iPad is symbolic of losing tomorrow’s computer, and it looks a lot like mobile computing will pass Intel by in classic disruptive fashion. Tablet computing - as dawned by the iPad - is the first real threat to Intel's hegemony, and you can bet they know that...

via Apple iPad: 'Intel Outside' - steve's blog on Apr 5, 2010 at 6:18am