Ars' take on the Apple Intel switch


An article from Ars Technica attempts to put a different view on why Apple announced their switch from IBM's PowerPC chip to the Intel brand processors. Whereas the article had some interesting, and probably correct assertions and ideas, I do think that there are some points that are either glossed over or missed.

I'm not completely sure that I agree either with the details of this guy's article or with the complaints of the individuals who commented about Apple's snobbishness, or what that implies, but, I do take away a few points from here.

First is the easy factual mistake. The author indicates that "Apple, not exactly rolling in cash..." uh... current balance sheets say otherwise. They don't have the 60B in cash and ST investments that Microsoft does, but Apple's looking at about 5.4B in the bank an investment houses.

Apple does have a tendency to do the "We're Apple...you should do our bidding" with suppliers and partners. This is historically well known, however the amount of "customization" in the quotes from people on the chip side (both Motorola and IBM) is probably exaggerated and based on trying to use the CPUs for something that nobody else is using them for something nobody else is: mass production personal computing devices.

As I wrote in my last piece, the most important part element of the switch for Apple's desktops and laptops is that they will now be made with CPUs that are targeted at the market of desktops and laptops.

Having worked with Motorola as as an embedded chip customer (and Intel for that matter) when I was at Ascend (where we used both PowerPCs and i860s in our communications devices), it was clear that Motorola wanted Apple to bring them kicking and screaming into the world of personal computing without them having to take anything away from their core business. The folks at Motorola always considered that part of their business to be a side bet, and it was why they stopped developing seriously for the market, as evidenced by the slow, plodding nature of the chip evolution recentlyboth in terms of speed and features.

There are certainly talented people at both IBM and Freescale who will be disappointed to see Apple move (in the next two years) away from the PowerPC platform, as will I, but the reality is that both IBM and Freescale are devoting their resources to where they can see the best bang for their buck, and that's not personal computing.

To quote Freescale's About page:_ Freescale is a leading global semiconductor company focused on providing embedded processing and connectivity products to large, high-growth markets. We currently focus on providing products to the automotive, networking and wireless communications industries. _

Now, as for his comments on the need for volume from Intel to push the iPod, I'm not sure that it makes sense to switch the desktop to get the discounts on XScale, so much as it makes sense to take discounts due to XScale use and reduce the costs of the desktop and laptop lines. Perhaps a bit of a chicken and egg problem with the argument?