An industry watcher, who wishes to remain anonymous, has plucked a rumour from the dark mill where they tend to be spawned about Apple, Intel and AMD.
A crazy theory, our source begins, but plausible nonetheless. Apple and Intel are secretly on the warpath with each other – and that’s what the Ultrabook is all about. 2005 saw an exclusivity agreement struck between the two. Our source suggests Apple traded that five years in exclusivity for a seamless transition to x86.
As a result, Apple is an x86 company. That gives it decent interoperability with Wintel, and it means Apple doesn’t have to hang about waiting for ARM to conjure up a chip that will provide the sort of beefcake power Apple needs at the higher end.
Who else runs on X86? When Apple’s five year agreement allegedly came to an end, Apple was rumoured to be tinkering with AMD processors inside its Macbook Air. Jobs was always a fan of Intel, but he does say in his biography that, while Intel chips are excellent, the company has a rough time in innovating quickly.
The good ship Intel runs very slow on innovation, and Apple has never been too keen to help. Apple worried that if it started giving Intel ideas, Intel would probably go ahead and share those with its other partners. The first Ultrabooks, with their uncanny resemblance to Macbooks, are the proof.
Apple wants its own ego-system to triumph. And that means leaving Intel behind – because of its close ties to Microsoft. The Wintel alliance is in full swing again, meaning Chipzilla gets the best of both worlds. If Apple partnered with, or even acquired AMD, it would leave Wintel behind. Not to mention the IP and patent portfolio it would inherit and the freedom to add or modify different functions to its own x86 designs.
Crucially, if Apple was interested, the regulators probably wouldn’t get too excited. Neither Apple nor AMD holds enough of the market for the antitrust watchdogs to gnash their teeth. At the same time, it would bolster competition against convicted monopolist Intel.
The signs, the industry watcher says, are all there. New CEO Rory Read has slashed staff by ten percent, and top execs have had the boot, too. Could Read be opening AMD’s kimono to Apple?