Intel is a monster, or at least it has been. For nearly three decades Intel has owned the desktop-class and server semiconductor markets. Ever since the DOS PC emerged Intel gained rapid traction into desktop computing. While others, such as AMD, constantly struggled to meet demand, Intel understood capacity and high yields were key to market dominance and never left PC manufacturers wanting. No one had a better silicon fabrication process in the industry. Intel's marketing was equally brilliant. Before the tag line "Intel Inside" no one really knew or cared much about microchips used within a computer. After all, the only interaction a user had was with a keyboard, mouse and display. Suddenly, everyone was asking for a computer with Intel inside.
Intel was so confident of their own ability to shape the future based on their self-serving direction, they no longer needed to own a large portion of ARM, so they sold it off as it was useless for the long term. Intel also decided there was no need to quickly move to 64-bit processors. Intel failed to understand they had built, and were living in, their own arrogant reality distortion field. But AMD knew it, and 2003 stunned the industry by offering their 64-bit backwards compatible 32-bit, Athlon processor. It saved AMD as a company and Intel suffered it's first major stumble. Mobile computing arrived soon after, with Apple commissioning Intel to design a processor for their secret handheld needs. Intel balked, finding it a financially useless pursuit. Thus, Apple launched iPhone with an ARM processor. Due to Intel's blunder, the mobile world runs almost entirely on ARM designs, with Intel nowhere to be found other than under piles of failed ATOM processors. Today Intel finds their bread and butter personal computer market about to be shaken like never before by Microsoft, and quite likely, Apple.
Microsoft has been busy developing Windows 10 for Qualcomm's Snapdragon ARM-based processor. That may not seem like a big deal, but this is no half-baked Windows RT for ARM approach. Rather, Microsoft is going all-in, delivering a full Windows 10 OS for ARM architecture. Microsoft has never been motivated to leave the Intel loyalty camp. In fact, Intel processor upgrades made for a large PC upgrade cycles and with it Microsoft sold tens of millions of new Windows licenses to PC makers. But now that 90% of all computers are "fast enough" for 90% of user needs, factors beyond speed have moved to front of the line. Battery life and portability are on the top of consumers minds. ARM architecture provides this in spades, coupled with a much lower price when compared to Intel's off-putting pricing structure. If Microsoft's ARM efforts are successful, other PC manufacturers will be quick to follow.
Intel has failed to keep up with the efficiency race against ARM, while ARM has rapidly caught up to Intel's processing power. Microsoft is confident that they can achieve over 20 hours of battery life with Windows 10 on an ARM PC. Something has to give, and more than likely Intel – AKA Chipzilla – is going to fall.
Ironically, it has never been Microsoft that most felt would leave the fairer processor platform. For years Apple has been the target of speculation, moving from Intel to their own A-series processors for the Mac. And while that is possible it isn't as simple as slapping in the latest A11 Bionic processor int a MacBook and calling it a day.
Apple's A11 Bionic is an incredible piece of silicon, but there are major elements which are not suited for desktop computing. Roughly two-fifths of the A11 is dedicated to its ISP (Image Signal Processing) for amazingly fast camera function and capabilities. Other areas work with Siri, Augmented Reality and an array of sensor functions, which are all areas the Mac would find virtually useless. Apple can move from Intel whenever it pleases, but it would take a dedicated cluster of Apple's processor guru's to focus on a design that fits just the needs of the Mac. Shoehorning existing A-series processors into Macs is if a far too simplistic view when compared to what it would actually take to pull off such a feat.
Years of pondering and discussing how Apple could, would, should or will dump Intel, but now it is Microsoft that appears to be Intel's biggest desktop threat.
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