There's been a scattering of senior movements at Apple, Microsoft and now Intel, with the departure of CEO Paul Otellini. Is a realignment in the offing?
It could just be the time of year, or a coincidence, but there does seem to be a lot of senior movement out there. First, out went Apple’s Scott Forstall; more recently Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky hit the road. When this senior movement happens in any company, entrenched policies, positions and enmities can be swept away and radical new alignments forged.
Which is why many observers are wondering if the departure of Intel's Otellini might see the hitherto unthinkable being thought at Intel. Like Microsoft, Intel knows it HAS to get a position in mobile and low-powered technology if it's to stay relevant and so far, like Microsoft in mobile, it hasn't managed it.
Low-powered technology is simply where it's at for the foreseeable future. It is a must in mobile phones, tablets, laptops and M2M end devices and sensors. And, because of its power consumption eco-advantages, is is proving a must for desktops and - critically - servers as well. It's just gong to be everywhere.
So far Intel has failed to really crack this market with its silicon. ARM has. And appears to be getting stronger. Just like Microsoft, Intel is getting desperate.
It must start to succeed in the medium term in this market or it's doomed.
Close observers of the silicon scene think the departure of Otellini opens the possibility that Intel could change tack and forge an alliance with ARM .
At first sight this seems about as likely as Microsoft getting together with Google, but it's actually not as crazy as it sounds because the two companies have very different business models.
ARM doesn't manufacture. It licenses its processor technology to others who either incorporate the ARM technology in their own designs (as does Qualcomm, for instance) and license the whole thing on to others; or who produce their own processors using ARM designs. In any case, ARM has made a successful business out of keeping itself in its relatively tiny horizontal segment in silicon business. It doesn't - and as far as we know never will - compete with its customers by manufacturing its own chips.
So the idea that Intel 'might' give thought to licensing ARM technology is not so outlandish. In fact, Intel has licensed ARM technology in the past before it decided to focus down (under Otellini) on its own x86 processor line and concentrate on a future with its Atom processors.
Observers say that Intel's real strength in the market is not its designs but its fabricating process expertise. If it lined that up with ARM's design it would be able to compete more than adequately against other ARM partners in the market. And it would still keep on developing its Atom line in parallel. Interesting times.
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