Apple’s announcement this week at WWDC about their intentions to replace Intel processors in their Mac devices with their own in-house silicon will perhaps be one of the most influential developments in the computer industry this decade.
There’s a lot to be said about this move alone that has already been said more eloquently.
However, I want to talk about Intel, who are perhaps the only party here who stand to lose substantially. For a long time, Intel has been a constant in the computer industry. You could expect almost every self-respecting laptop come with an Intel sticker and even in the hobbyist PC-building community, Intel had long been a standard.
In recent years, though, Intel has faced fierce competition against AMD processors, and in recent years, AMD’s far superior price-to-performance ratio has led to it rising and Intel falling both in the consumer PC market as well as the hobbyist sector. Apple all but abandoning Intel, then, further spells out the sharp decline that Intel has taken.
Make no mistake - Intel is in no way dead. They will continue to have a prosperous reign as a supplier of microprocessors for consumer electronics for at least the near future, with new devices with Intel silicon still being announced. However, it would be folly to ignore the fact that they no longer have the near monopoly on the microprocessor industry that they held for years, and their position has considerably weakened over the course of the last few years - they will need to work more carefully and closely with other key players in new areas to ensure their survival.
The decision-makers at Intel seem to realise this. Instead of relying on solely going down the difficult path of trying to right years of mistakes with silicon, Intel has been clever enough to already practically confirm a collaboration with Apple to bring the new Thunderbolt standard, Thunderbolt 4, to new mac devices that do not contain Intel silicon. Currently, most new devices (including all of Apple’s MacBooks) use Thunderbolt 3 as a super-powered all-in-one port. To use this, the device needs Intel silicon to work. Apple helped develop this port with Intel and has chosen to use it as the only port in their MacBooks since 2016, a highly controversial move that was justified by Apple as the port being the future of connectivity.
Apple working with Intel not only dug them out of a possible hole - it also showed how Intel knew what it had to do. Instead of abandoning Apple (like the latter had done for them), they understand that collaboration between the two companies is vital for both to survive. It’s a refreshing occurrence to see in an industry where rivals often chose to pretend as if the others do not exist. One can hope that these incidents can be a lesson in the future for technology as a whole.