Has the M1 really made Intel that desperate?

Apple has gone on record saying they will release new Macs with Intel CPUs during a roughly 2-year transition period and that they then will also still support Intel on Mac for many more years. In light of this and the fact that Apple remains a really big Intel customer, isn’t it a bit surprising how vocal Intel has all of a sudden become about the Mac supposedly being a bad platform? It can’t play this or that game, it doesn’t have USB-A ports, yada yada. Intel, did you just only notice that?

It’s hard to imagine a company making ads how an entire product line is actually a really poor choice when that product line is still one of their large customers. Has the M1 and Apple’s early success with Apple Silicon on Mac made Intel that desperate? If anybody had doubts, Intel’s reaction can really only serve as more evidence that Apple must be on the right track with M1.


Time to bring back Justin Long and the chubby guy:

Here’s 37 and a half or so minutes of some of the best TV advertising ever. There are funny and still true, except maybe the one about how Apple’s come with a MagSafe Power Connector.


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It’s not like Intel has much to lose here by badmouthing the Mac. The company has already lost Apple as a customer. It’s just a matter of time to finalize the split.

I imagine this is Intel trying to do damage control. While its struggles may have been well known among techies, I doubt the average consumer looking to buy a computer knew much. Apple’s move, however, made the news and brought an unwelcome spotlight to Intel’s problems.


Definite desperation. They’re not even promoting Intel chips as a part of the ad campaign. Which is amusing because most PC enthusiasts these days know that AMD is eating Intel’s lunch in terms of bang-for-buck.

Intel is really surviving on brand reputation alone these days and they know it.

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Apple remains a really big Intel customer

Intel sells a billion-ish cpus a year and Apple 20 million-ish Macs a year so they’re a drop in Intel’s bucket. The biggest reasons for the change are…controlling the whole thing so you can customize the cpu to do what you need as Intel won’t do this for a small volume customer…and Intel’s inability to shrink the die size which leads directly to performance, power per watt, and battery efficiency. Intel would have never made the system on a chip that is in the M1…too much Apple IP and customized stuff in there for Intel to spend t(e time and money on tooling.

Most of those “billion-ish” CPUs are stuff you’d never find in a MacBook. Of the high-end desktop/laptop CPUs, where Intel actually makes real money, Apple is/was one of their large buyers (in the US #3 IIRC). Some might have forgotten, but it was a huge triumph for Intel back in the day to have won Apple over. And at that time Apple was selling half the Macs it sells today.

The publicity Apple garned with M1 was certainly a blow to Intel. I’m just surprised that blow was so substantial that Intel is now reacting in the way it is. If anything, that will encourage Apple to transition away even faster. But indeed @chirano is right, the writing is on the wall so maybe Intel had little reservation to go full scorched earth here.


I can understand why they want and need to trash M1 Macs; Apple has just inflicted terrible damage to Intel’s bottom line and are totally smoking them PR wise out in the field. But in the not too distant past when it looked like “Intel Inside” was about to conquer the world, Apple unveiled the “Mac vs. PC.” Ad campaign, and the rest is history. This Intel campaign sounds and looks like the dorky PC idiot was the Creative Director.

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Actually, Apple didn’t have a choice. IBM announced it was exiting the chip business and refused to develop RISC or any other kid of chips that could handle OSX. Steve Jobs was forced to grin and bare the relationship he was forced to ink with Intel.

BTW, John Hodgman, the PC jerk, still has a regular column in the New York Times’s Sunday Styles section almost every week. IMHO, it’s neither funny or compassionate, but Hodgman remains in character:

Good ad campaigns never die, hey just fade away.

Ok…only 300 million of the billion are desktops or laptops…so Apple is still a small fraction of their business. It wasn’t a big win for Intel…Apple switched because PowerPC wasn’t doing it performance wise…which is the biggest reason for the switch to Apple silicon.

And it’s not like the same cpus used in PCs aren’t also used in cars and who knows what else…do the total volume of current desktop/laptop cpus is certainly larger than 300 million.

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This is 100% true, but Intel getting its derrière burnt is just part of the story. Apple also saves money by rolling its own chips, which is good for their bottom line. They also have 100% control over what they can and will develop, as well as quality control. This, I think, yields big advantages for consumers in terms of product pricing, quality control and new features. Remember all the times Apple was unable to deliver products on schedule because Intel couldn’t deliver chips within the agreed upon time frame? And the times Apple was hauled into court because Intel refused to admit culpability for supplying faulty chips?

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IBM remained in the chip-making business, but they wanted to focus entirely on the big-iron systems like the POWER architecture used in large workstations, data center servers and mainframes.

They told Apple that they would only continue development of desktop-scale processors if Apple paid for the R&D costs, to which Apple said “no thanks”.

The other part of Motorola (who also owned the PowerPC intellectual property) was spun off into Freescale. They made many PPC processors for Apple (G3s and G4s), but ultimately decided to shift their focus to embedded processors for microcontrollers, network processors and similar kinds of chips.

Sure, but only because there is only one customer who makes Macs. The Mac and MacOS is still only - what - just under 10% of the PC market? That has to hurt a bit, and Intel knows that business is lost, so Intel is going to try to direct people who may be on the fence toward PCs, where they make money, and away from Macs, where they make none. For them not to advertise this way is not going to help their business any at all.

IBM also told them that although Apple would have to front the R&D, they would not have exclusive rights to the technology in the chips. I long suspected since that time, in the back of Steve Jobs’ mind was Apple eventually rolling its own chips.

I worked for years on automotive accounts in ad sales, and I do keep up with developments in the industry. Now that cars and trucks of all shapes and sizes are becoming increasingly dependent on digital technology, some major companies are missing manufacturing and delivery datelines because of chip shortages. I wonder if some auto companies will eventually start rolling their own chips? Or even better, using Apple chips in a joint autonomous car and truck venture?

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Is it not the case that Intel still has Apple as a customer, via licensing of Thunderbolt technology for essentially every Mac they sell? I think Apple was Intel’s launch customer for Thunderbolt, and while I don’t follow the Windows PC market, my understanding is that TB is primarily used in that space for monitor connections, but that’s not based on solid knowledge.

According to Wikipedia, Intel made Thunderbolt royalty free in 2018 to drive adoption. Also, the standard was developed in collaboration with Apple, so there’s likely an agreement that affords Apple favorable terms. I suppose Apple could throw a tantrum and decide to drop Thunderbolt in future ARM-based Macs, but that strikes me as kind of a dumb move.


Don’t forget the M1 is part of a CPU family that also powers the iPhone and iPad. This brings Apple’s CPU volume close to half a billion. It’s not just that the M1 offers industry leading performance, it’s improving much faster than Intel CPUs and Apple has the resources to outspend Intel on R&D. The best CPU engineers are moving to Apple.

It’s bad enough that Intel has been lapped. What’s scary is they could be lapped again next year and the year after that if they don’t pick up their pace, and they are facing a brain drain.

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I’m also kind of surprised that Apple never shipped a Mac with an AMD CPU. It seems to me that that (for example) a Mac Pro based on a Threadripper could easily deliver more bang-for-buck than the Xeon-W chip Apple uses today.

I wonder if Apple has a contract with Intel that prevents them from using x86 CPUs from other vendors. That contract clearly wouldn’t apply to any in-house-developed processors (since Apple still needs to build all their other ARM-based processors like the A-, S-, T- and W- SoCs), making the M1 a convenient way out of an otherwise restrictive contract.

If so, it would also explain the recent animosity Intel is expressing toward Apple. They probably thought they had a lock-in deal for several more years and now they find that they don’t.

Intel’s worry is that the idea that Intel make the best chips is a valuable marketing tool. They are already under threat from AMD for some applications, so they don’t want people to get the idea that ARM chips are a better option. Apples success will encourage other manufacturers to adopt the same strategy. Google already has ARM processors for Chromebooks, but at the lower end of the market. Thankfully for Intel, Apple won’t be supplying their IP to Google or someone like Dell, but it is a case that eventually they may develop something. There is also nothing stopping ARM from creating processors more suitable for higher level laptops, so companies can buy them off the shelf.

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I expect that Intel does volume deals to discourage manufacturers from splitting between them and AMD. Any contracts locking a manufacturer to a single supplier would have legal risks.

I remember reading somewhere down the line that using M chips in Macs and iOS devices makes it easier for developers to port software between devices. A big selling point for Apple is that all their devices work well with each other. There’s also a big savings boost to Apple’s bottom line. And Apple did get lumbered with mega QC problems as well as missed deadlines from Intel; chances are that another manufacturer wouldn’t be any better…maybe worse.

And this is only the debut of M chips for Macs. I’ll bet Apple has even more powerful and speedy M chips in development for future products. They’re already way ahead of Intel and AMDs speed and battery life benchmarks, and now they have their own timelines and roadmaps.