Beneath the surface of Apple’s buying up of office space in Sunnyvale, home to GlobalFoundries staff there are signs of an imminent allegiance switching away from Intel.
GloFo is, of course, the old manufacturing arm of AMD and rumours of a close relationship between the two have refused to disappear. With GloFo still churning out AMD’s Trinity chip, similar to the Sandy Bridge chip currently used in the MacBook Air, it seems a swift move away from Intel could be on the cards.
Steve Jobs reportedly claimed that Intel’s graphics “suck”, and considered the firm too cumbersome to innovate quickly.
A plan to begin using AMD chips would certainly account for the staggering bridge-burning exercise that Intel has embarked upon with its all-or-nothing Ultrabook fund.
It’s widely known that Intel has been throwing money at undercutting Apple with its near identical versions of the MacBook Air – see ZenBook, Asus – and it is said that Intel is even directly subsidising manufacturers to the tune of $100 per device. Intel, of course, is quick to deny this but the rumour has persisted that there is further backing.
Why Apple is happy to put up with such behaviour from Intel is unclear. It was certainly content to drag Samsung across the world in a pan-continent tour of the world’s finest court rooms over an alleged iPad copycat. So why allow a firm, with which Apple signed a deal back in 2005, to go and back almost the entire industry against it in developing a range of identikit devices which directly undercuts Apple’s own?
Questions would remain over GloFo’s ability to produce the mountain of chips required for the release of a major Apple product, but with AMD keeping a relatively low profile it could be readying itself for something major.
Conversely, from Intel’s view, if Jobs was planning on giving Intel the heave-ho then the Ultrabook has been a fine retort.
With a former anti-trust chief at the US Department of Justice on board, Douglas Melamed, Intel is clearly very careful about the way in which it goes about its business. It appears that using Melamed’s experience in antitrust issues a canny strategy to avoid legal action.
While Intel is forbidden from paying manufacturers subsidies to produce a device, in the development of a new field of products it is fair game, according to the US Consent Decree.
Whether or not the Ultrabook is an innovative product largely depends on whether or not you are employed by Intel’s marketing team, and we can bet that Apple would not agree that it is a new form factor.
With so much bad blood under the surface between the two it appears that one of the industry’s biggest partnerships could be under threat.