Programming is a wonderful mix of art and science; source code is both a poem and a math problem. It should be as simple and elegant as it is functional and fast. This blog is about that (along with whatever else I feel like writing about).

Friday, February 10, 2006

Apple Making Intel Uncomfortable?

Just saw a story over on Ars about Apple's new ads making Intel uncomfortable. Basically, the premise is that some analysts are worried that Apple's ad (which insults Intel's other partners like Dell & HP by calling them "dull little boxes") will alienate Intel from their other, larger customers.

They cite Intel's "public love-fest" with its newest customer, the 1000 employees dedicated to The Switch, and the fact that Apple got the first Core Duo chips as other reasons Intel may be in trouble with its other customers.

But I'd like to point out another problem with their claim. Intel's in the driver's seat in these relationships. Dell only uses Intel chips. And they can't even threaten to go to AMD, because Intel can pull their sweet prices out from under them, or even stop selling them chips entirely, leaving Dell to find some way to get 10 million processors per quarter from AMD. I'd be willing to venture that AMD isn't capable of supplying that many processors. And the same goes for HP, Lenovo, and everyone else. If you want to offer AMD chips, then you can, but you have to stick with Intel for the same reason Apple chose Intel: manufacturing capability. Intel is the only place to go if you want a guaranteed supply.

So I'd say that Intel has nothing to worry about. In fact, they're probably excited that Apple is lighting a fire under the other computer makers. The CPU-comparison is now gone, so the difference maker is not processing power any more. That puts an onus on the designers of the whole system to put together a better offering ... and whether it's Apple's Front Row or Dell/HP/etc VIIV, Intel stands to benefit. A lot.

And I think everybody knows it. That's why none of the computer makers are saying they're insulted. Dell's spokesperson had this to say:

"As far as their marketing goes, that's marketing," said Dell spokesman Jess Blackburn. "We continue to have a very solid relationship with Intel and nothing has changed in that respect. We probably are their largest customer; we shipped 10 million systems in the fourth quarter. I don't think any supplier is going to ignore a customer that is building that many systems and using that many of their parts in them."

My guess is that Intel is quietly encouraging Apple to be as insulting as they want. If Dell and HP lose customers to Apple, it's probably better for Intel. They'd prefer their chips to be part of the high end, high margin space that Apple aims for, because it means more money for them. But this entire issue is just meaningless controversy invented by analysts. I guess they have to justify their paychecks somehow.

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