Silicon Valley is bracing for the impact of Apple’s split from Intel, marking the end of the technology industry’s most influential partnership and Apple’s determination to control how its products are made,media reported. Apple has been working for years to design its own chips to replace Intel chips used in Mac computers, according to five people familiar with the matter.
Apple is likely to announce plans at the 2020 WorldWide Developers Conference (WWDC) as soon as Monday, with its own chip-owning Mac scoming available next year.
Apple’s move shows the tech giant’s growing power to expand its capabilities and reduce reliance on its key partners who have served them for years, even as smaller rivals and the global economy struggle with a new coronavirus outbreak.
Facebook, for example, is investing billions of dollars in one of Indonesia’s fastest-growing apps, the Indian telecoms giant, and an undersea cable that surrounds Africa. Amazon has built its own team of cargo planes and delivery trucks. Google and Apple continue to buy start-ups to expand their empires.
TSMC, Apple’s partner in designing similar components for iPhones and iPads, is expected to produce Mac chips at factories in Asia, a move similar to Apple’s use of Foxconn to assemble the iPhone. Intel and Apple declined to comment.
Other big technology companies, such as Amazon and Google, have designed many of their own chips to improve performance and reduce potential costs. Some tasks, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D image rendering, can be handled on specialized circuits that are more efficient than Intel’s universal microprocessors.
Since 2005, Mac computers have effectively used the same Intel chips as most PCs. Developing its own processor would give Apple more control over how Macs work. Apple has always designed chips used in iPhones and iPads, and has added ARM-licensed custom design features. ARM is a semiconductor company owned by Japan’s SoftBank Group, and Apple’s upcoming Mac chips are also expected to rely on ARM technology to improve compatibility with its mobile devices.
Apple built up a huge chip design team after acquiring PA Semi, a 150-employee start-up, in 2008. Many of them have worked at Intel, including Johnny Srouji, who reports directly to Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive.
Apple’s move would be a blow to Intel’s reputation, especially as civilian and military officials worry about a weakening of U.S. leadership in chipmaking, which they say is critical to the U.S. leading the way. Legislation introduced by the U.S. Congress last week, in a rare bipartisan agreement, would inject tens of billions of dollars into areas that support U.S. semiconductor research and manufacturing.
Intel has long been a leader in semiconductors in the United States, particularly in the complex manufacturing process of turning silicon cores into computer, smartphone, automotive and consumer device-driven chips.
But Apple’s move won’t have much financial impact on Intel, at least in the short term. Intel sells about $3.4 billion of Mac chips to Apple each year, less than 5 percent of Intel’s annual sales, according to Evercore analyst C.J. Muse. Muse predicts that the blow will be close to half of apple’s potential to replace chips on some Mac models. Apple sells nearly 20 million Mac computers a year.
“It’s not a big surprise that Intel supplies chips to almost every pc, which sells about 260 million pUs a year,” said Tim Bajarin, an analyst who has tracked Apple for nearly 40 years. “
But for Intel, the long-term impact could still be severe. The chipmaker’s high profit margins have long been linked to its track record of delivering the most powerful computing engine on the market, particularly for laptops and computer servers. But Intel has been underperforming in selling chips for new technology products such as smartphones and tablets.
Apple last moved its Mac chips in 2005, seen as an important step in the company’s long-planned revival by co-founder Steve Jobs and a major victory for Intel. Mac computers have long relied on a chip architecture design called PowerPC, a collaboration between Apple, Motorola and IBM. But Mr. Jobs bet Intel could deliver faster performance.
The selling point is underlying the disturbing news from Intel’s large factories. Much of the company’s success in the computer world stems from its ability to package more transistors on each side of silicon, which allows the chip to continue with more computing tasks at a lower cost.
But Intel has suffered a serious setback in this industry-wide miniaturization race. Intel’s latest chip manufacturing process was expected to start production as early as 2015, but it won’t enter mass production until 2019. The delay is good for TSMC and Samsung, which produce chips designed by several companies. Competitors take advantage of Intel’s backwardness and are technically leading the way.
“Intel is 12 months behind, maybe even 18 months, ” says Handel Jones, chief executive of International Business Strategy, an international business strategy that advises the chip industry. “
Apple has also been plagued by Intel’s production failures, according to three people familiar with the matter. Intel also faced demand for other types of chips that were stronger than expected, leading to a shortage of production that curbed sales at some PC makers last year. These factors have greatly affected Intel’s image as a reliable manufacturer.
Robert Swan, Intel’s chief executive, has vowed to make the changes necessary to regain the technology leadership and prevent product shortages. But if Apple succeeds in rolling out Macs with significantly better-than-Intel chips, other PC makers could follow suit, shifting more models of chip production to Intel rivals such as AMD and even starting to design their own chips, even though it will take years, analysts and industry executives said.
“I think it’s an incentive for other companies to focus on non-Intel processors,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. Reputationally, this is not a good thing for Intel. “
Microsoft is a long-term partner of Intel, but the company is already selling some laptops with Qualcomm ARM chips. But analysts say their performance is not consistent with Intel-powered models. If that changes, they added, Apple and Intel could become direct competitors, using their strong marketing power to counter each other’s technology.
Another trend that makes it easier for Apple to consider this shift is that more and more people are using web-based software instead of running software on people’s personal computers and tailored to their hardware.
Still, Maccomputers are the backbone of some creative professions, such as animation and movie editing, and developers of these software applications will have to modify Their Mac programs to take advantage of Apple’s new chips. Jeff Johnson, a Mac developer in Madison, Wisconsin, says this could cause delays in the release of some software for new Macs. “Professional software is the hardest and slowest upgrade software, so you may not see these types of software in the first place, and new Macs may have problems at the beginning,” he said. “