Thursday, May 1, 2008

Scaring Intel?

Robert X. Cringely comments on Apple's purchase of PA Semi.

And the purchase price, which probably appeared to have been pulled right out of the air by Jobs, who then wouldn't budge from the figure, is really based on Apple's target savings over the next two years after forcing Intel to cut prices based on fear of a possible Apple switch back to PowerPC.

This does not make sense... There is nothing in the PowerPC now or in the future that will make it compelling for Steve Jobs to switch to Intel in the first place: powerful CPU for mobile computing.

Steve Jobs, for all his faults, did recognize that the market is shifting towards mobile platforms and IBM and Freeserve and PowerPC had nothing, nothing that can match what Intel can offer.

Scare Intel...?

The fact that PA Semi told its customer that the purchase was about IP is meaningless.

It is? How would he know? Perhaps he has scrutinized, thoroughly, PA Semi's IP portfolio?

In the short term, it was to scare Intel into lowering prices by at least $278 million over two years. And in the long term it was to create a replacement for Intel as the prime CPU for Macintosh computers.

Again, this 'scare' Intel is ludicrous. As much as Intel values the halo effect (if any) from being Apple's CPU supplier of choice, I doubt it that Intel will bend over too much to keep Apple happy at the risk of ire from Dell & HP.

Add to that fact that any supplier who is willing to match Intel's prices are committing slow motion hara-kiri on their business. For instance, how much does it cost to put a Fab that produces 45 nm chips on 300 cm silicon wafer? Or, how many foundries have this capability?

It will take a major shift in technology, that has to be mature (read: reliable to use and produce) enough, at a low low price (Intel offers complete system design not just CPU to Apple) to entice Apple to make a switch. Nearest my alcohol-and-fat-scarred brain could think of is quantum computing.

And that is still a long long long way off...

But Apple having value for Intel doesn't at all mean that Intel has value for Apple.

See..? He is contradicting himself. How can Apple supposedly scare Intel when Intel supposedly has no value for Apple?

When it came to jumping from the PowerPC a few years ago, Apple had incentives on all sides.

This is correct, with IBM repeatedly failing to deliver a 3.0 GHz PowerPC that does not create a mini-china syndrome, no effective CPUs for mobile computing, and, as I recall, IBM telling Apple to switch to the Cell Processor (because IBM said it was the future) Apple thought it was easier to jump ship to Intel.

Where X86 offers no true advantages for running OS X, it is easy to see that it could offer DISADVANTAGES, simply because OS X, as a Unix variant, was never designed specifically for X86, making a lot of Intel hardware simply unnecessary.

Uh... neither was Unix designed specifically to run on PowerPC. I believe Unix was designed to CPU agnostic.

Apple is not tied to Intel or to X86. Jobs said they had OS X running on Intel for two years before announcing the shift, so it is logical to assume they have recompiled the OS to run on almost every competitive processor available today.

Exactly! Unix-based OS are supposed to be CPU agnostic. Hence, the argument that Mac OS X will run better on PowerPC is neither here nor there if PowerPC cannot match the value for money Intel is providing Apple.

For a more saner (in my opinion) view of PA Semi purchase, try Roughly Drafted's.

Lastly, if Apple wants to 'scare' and strong arm suppliers it does not seem to be doing anything to intimidate it's memory chip suppliers by buying a fabless chip designer specializing in RAM and Flash-RAM.