Apple eggs Intel into making better mobile CPUs

The chipmaker all but admits it's been caught with its pants down while ARM processors exploded in mobile market

With the speed of a limping slug, Intel is slowing coming 'round to accepting that fact the future of end-user computing lies in lightweight mobility -- and hey, it might be a good idea to come up with a low-power, high-performance chip that can compete with the incredibly successful ARM processors.

All it took for Intel to reach this revelation was recent threats of losing business with the world's most valuable IT company, Apple, even though user preferences have pretty clearly been shifting toward smaller, lighter, wireless-only, battery-driven devices from some time. The fact that ARM chips have become all but synonymous with mobile processors should have been a sufficient hint.

Now in reactionary mode, Intel this week announced that it would set aside $300 million in research funds to advance Ultrabooks, the company's take on ultralightweight mobile computers, according to reports. Among the catalysts for this investment, Apple has been making money hand over fist selling iPads and MacBook Airs, while reportedly threatening to abandon Intel back in May as a chip supplier. The reason: Intel did not satisfy Apple's stringent low-power-draw requirements for its future machines.

Remarkably, Apple had to directly inform Intel that if it failed to lower its chips power-consumption rate, it would likely lose Apple's business -- a threat that came as "a real wake-up call" to Intel, according to the Wall Street Journal. Intel did announce in May plans to slash its chips' power draw from the 35-to-40-watt range to 15 watts.

Though Intel has clearly fallen behind, the company has something working in its favor: Apple and Samsung have been locked in legal battles, which means Apple may drop Samsung as its provider of ARM chips for the iPad and iPhone in favor of an Intel alternative -- not that Apple needs Samsung anymore anyway.

This article, "Apple eggs Intel into making better mobile CPUs," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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