When I first started writing about x86 CPUs Intel was on the verge of entering the enterprise space with its processors. At the time, Xeon was a new brand, unproven in the market. But it highlighted a key change in Intel's strategy for dominance: leverage consumer microprocessor sales to help support your fabs while making huge margins on lower volume, enterprise parts. In other words, get your volume from the mainstream but make your money in the enterprise. Intel managed to double dip and make money on both ends, it just made substantially more in servers.

Today Intel's magic formula is being threatened. Within 8 years many expect all mainstream computing to move to smartphones, or whatever other ultra portable form factor computing device we're carrying around at that point. To put it in perspective, you'll be able to get something faster than an Ivy Bridge Ultrabook or MacBook Air, in something the size of your smartphone, in fewer than 8 years. The problem from Intel's perspective is that it has no foothold in the smartphone market. Although Medfield is finally shipping, the vast majority of smartphones sold feature ARM based SoCs. If all mainstream client computing moves to smartphones, and Intel doesn't take a dominant portion of the smartphone market, it will be left in the difficult position of having to support fabs that no longer run at the same capacity levels they once did. Without the volume it would become difficult to continue to support the fab business. And without the mainstream volume driving the fabs it would be difficult to continue to support the enterprise business. Intel wouldn't go away, but Wall Street wouldn't be happy. There's a good reason investors have been reaching out to any and everyone to try and get a handle on what is going to happen in the Intel v ARM race.

To make matters worse, there's trouble in paradise. When Apple dropped PowerPC for Intel's architectures back in 2005 I thought the move made tremendous sense. Intel needed a partner that was willing to push the envelope rather than remain content with the status quo. The results of that partnership have been tremendous for both parties. Apple moved aggressively into ultraportables with the MacBook Air, aided by Intel accelerating its small form factor chip packaging roadmap and delivering specially binned low leakage parts. On the flip side, Intel had a very important customer that pushed it to do much better in the graphics department. If you think the current crop of Intel processor graphics aren't enough, you should've seen what Intel originally planned to bring to market prior to receiving feedback from Apple and others. What once was the perfect relationship, is now on rocky ground.

The A6 SoC in Apple's iPhone 5 features the company's first internally designed CPU core. When one of your best customers is dabbling in building CPUs of its own, there's reason to worry. In fact, Apple already makes the bulk of its revenues from ARM based devices. In many ways Apple has been a leading indicator for where the rest of the PC industry is going (shipping SSDs by default, moving to ultra portables as mainstream computers, etc...). There's even more reason to worry if the post-Steve Apple/Intel relationship has fallen on tough times. While I don't share Charlie's view of Apple dropping Intel as being a done deal, I know there's truth behind his words. Intel's Ultrabook push, the close partnership with Acer and working closely with other, non-Apple OEMs is all very deliberate. Intel is always afraid of customers getting too powerful and with Apple, the words too powerful don't even begin to describe it.

What does all of this have to do with Haswell? As I mentioned earlier, Intel has an ARM problem and Apple plays a major role in that ARM problem. Atom was originally developed not to deal with ARM but to usher in a new type of ultra mobile device. That obviously didn't happen. UMPCs failed, netbooks were a temporary distraction (albeit profitable for Intel) and a new generation of smartphones and tablets became the new face of mobile computing. While Atom will continue to play in the ultra mobile space, Haswell marks the beginning of something new. Rather than send its second string player into battle, Intel is starting to prep its star for ultra mobile work.

Haswell is so much more than just another new microprocessor architecture from Intel. For years Intel has enjoyed a wonderful position in the market. With its long term viability threatened, Haswell is the first step of a long term solution to the ARM problem. While Atom was the first "fast-enough" x86 micro-architecture from Intel, Haswell takes a different approach to the problem. Rather than working from the bottom up, Haswell is Intel's attempt to take its best micro-architecture and drive power as low as possible.

Platform Retargeting & Platform Power
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  • Kepe - Friday, October 05, 2012 - link

    Let's see. I think we can agree that the Samsung Galaxy S III was the most important Android phone launch of the summer, so it should get comparable treatment if Anandtech was completely neutral. Let's compare the articles about the SGS III vs. iPhone 5

    Doing a search on anandtech.com gives us 8 articles/news posts about the SGS III vs. 13 articles/news posts about the iPhone 5.

    SGS 3:

    Five news stories about product announcements
    Performance Preview article
    Preview article
    Review article

    iPhone 5:

    Why iPhone 5 isn't launched in 2011 article
    Analyzing rumours about iPhone 5 article
    New SoC in iPhone 5 article
    iPhone 5 Live Blog from the product launch seremony
    Three news stories about new features and product announcements
    iPhone 5 Hands On article
    Lack of simultaneous voice and LTE/EVDO article
    Analyzing Geekbench results article
    Sunspider Performance Analysis article
    Performance Preview article
    iPhone 5 Display Thoroughly Analyzed article

    + The upcoming iPhone 5 Review article
    + articles such as "iOS6 Maps Thoroughly Investigated"

    Look at the difference. It's quite clear which device gets more coverage. And it's the same thing for older iPhones. Articles such as "Camping out for the new iPhone 3GS".

    This is NOT equal treatment of all products. This is why my trust for Anandtech has started to slip. Yes, Anandtech still is the best place for reviews, but one really has to wonder if those reviews still are as neutral and objective as they used to be.
    Reply
  • vFunct - Saturday, October 06, 2012 - link

    It's an android device. Android devices do not matter. Everyone uses iPhones anyways, They are better. Apple makes better products, including laptops.

    No need to waste space on Android.
    Reply
  • Haugenshero - Saturday, October 06, 2012 - link

    Please take your pointless apple fanboy drivel to another site that doesn't care about actual hardware and software and just like shiny things. Reply
  • cjl - Saturday, October 06, 2012 - link

    Apple's (iOS) current sales are only 20% of the overall smartphone market share, while Android is over 60%, so if either one of the two is largely irrelevant, it's apple. Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Sunday, October 07, 2012 - link

    Shhhh, icks-nay on the facts-nay.

    You might cause a fanboy's head to explode near one of those inconveniently placed explosive barrels we walk by in real life.

    Just imagine a chain reaction. Caused by an Apple fan's mind being blown. You might take out an entire city block.

    Do you want that kind of devastation on your karma? Think different. ;)
    Reply
  • vFunct - Sunday, October 07, 2012 - link

    The Android market is the cheap giveaways.

    No one willingly pays money for an Android phone.

    Not everyone can afford the premium quality of an Apple product. They will have to settle for an inferior Android devices instead until they can afford higher quality products.
    Reply
  • Kepe - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Nice trolling there. Now go back under the bridge and stay there =) Reply
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    "Not everyone can afford the premium quality of an Apple product. They will have to settle for an inferior Android devices instead until they can afford higher quality products."

    Ha ha ha! Well done, if you're screwing around.

    But seriously, if you actually believe that, seek psychiatric help. :-P
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, October 18, 2012 - link

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha Reply
  • solipsism - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    And how many of the 20% is on one phone? Let me know when you figure out how to cover every single Androd-based device that hits the market in a given year. Reply

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