Intel Is Screwed Because Of Apple Silicon…. And Intel Knows It

Apple was one of Intel’s largest customers. I say was because mid-last year, Apple announced a transition to their own processors known as Apple Silicon over a two year timeframe. Then later that year Apple released the M1 processor which pretty much destroys any processor that Intel makes both from a performance standpoint, and from a power consumption standpoint. My review of the Apple MacBook Air with an M1 processor was proof of that.

So, why did Apple ditch Intel? Let me start with the long answer.

Intel as a company hasn’t been able to deliver the powerful while power efficient chips that Apple wanted. Not to mention that Intel can’t ship stuff on their own timelines, never mind Apple’s timelines, which likely drove Apple nuts. Finally, they couldn’t get the chips down to the sizes that Apple was looking for. For example the M1 processor is 5 nm in size. Intel for most of their stuff isn’t able to get past 10 nm in size on a good day. Why does that matter? A smaller size allows you to pack more transistors in a given surface area. This allows chip manufacturers to get more chips per wafer, reducing the manufacturing cost per chip. This improves profitability for manufacturers. But for someone like Apple, it’s about not about that. It’s about performance. A 10 nm CPU can perform as well as an equivalent 5 nm CPU. However, a 5 nm CPU will consume less power due to it being smaller. That’s why M1 based Apple laptops get the insane battery life that they do. All of that means that Apple dumped Intel and never looked back when they got the chance to do so.

Too much for you? Here’s the executive summary: Intel can’t innovate and deliver. While Apple has been able to do both with Apple Silicon. Thus Apple said to Intel “Hasta la vista baby.”

The thing is that Intel isn’t dealing with being dumped all that well. They hired Justin Long, who played the Mac in the I’m a Mac ads that Apple came out with in the early to mid 2000’s to say that PC’s are better than Macs. But those ads got very negative responses. More recently, Intel compared a 16″ MacBook Pro with an 9th generation Intel processor to an 11th Generation Intel processor and claiming that nobody uses a Mac to play games. Ignoring the fact that very few people play games on the Mac, let’s count the way that the is another #Fail for Intel:

  • Intel is comparing an older Intel processor to an newer Intel processor. I fail to see how that helps them.
  • Intel references “emulation” in this comparison via Parallels which is not what Parallels does. Parallels does virtualization. If you’re going to trash something, at least get your facts right.
  • You can use Boot Camp to install Windows on said Mac and play games natively if virtualization isn’t your thing. Which makes it no different than a PC. Again, if you’re going to trash something, at least get your facts right.

And you guessed it, this too didn’t go over well.

While you have to wonder what the people in Intel’s marcom group are smoking as they keep coming out with these cringe worthy campaigns, it is clear that they have been tasked with not only trashing Apple. But going scorched Earth on them.

Meanwhile over at Apple Park, Apple hasn’t mentioned Intel once. And the closest that they have come to mentioning Intel in a negative way is when they launched the 24″ iMac and mentioned the “power hungry processor” of the previous iMac and didn’t name Intel when they did it. But everyone knew that Apple was talking about Intel.

Well played Apple. Well played.

The fact is, Intel has nothing that competes against the M1 chip right now. Nor do they have anything that is in their pipeline that would compete with M1 either. Never mind the fact that when Apple comes out with the M2, or M3, or whatever else they decide to come out with, that gulf between Apple Silicon and Intel will likely widen. On top of that, Microsoft is looking at pulling an Apple and designing their own processor. Presumably to dump Intel in whole and in part. And Nvidia is working on a server processor to take on Intel. Not to be left out, AMD is working on their own processors as well to take on Intel. All of these chips have one thing in common. The M1, along with whatever Microsoft, AMD, and Nvidia are working are using ARM instruction sets which are far more efficient on a number of fronts than the X86 instruction set that Intel has been flogging for decades, and seemingly has run out of gas.

In short, Intel is living on borrowed time. And they know it.

That explains why they’re going Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction on Apple and demanding not to be ignored. Except that it will end for Intel the way it did for the Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction. Which is badly to say the least. If I had any advice for Intel, it would be this. You’ve lost Apple because you couldn’t give them what they wanted. Get over it and focus on offering compelling processors that are on par with what Apple has to offer. Never mind being on par with whatever AMD, Nvidia and Microsoft are rolling out. If you do that, then maybe you have a future. But if you don’t, you’re screwed. It’s really that simple.

Your move Intel.

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