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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  • kylewat - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - link

    Compare the amount of space devoted to iOS v. Android. Your critique is not valid. The iPhone launch had a new version of the software, new hardware, new processor, the first apple designed processor, scuff gate, etc.

    S III may be a great phone, but it didn't have anywhere near the amount to talk about given it is an android phone (not even Nexus!).

    Anyway, Apple if anything is under served when compared to market share, they have a focused product line that doesn't follow trends like the Android Eco system as a whole (krait, jelly bean, etc do not need multiple reviews).

    Apple is the biggest company in the world driven by the biggest product in the world. The iPhone. That is just fact.
    Reply
  • Kepe - Friday, October 05, 2012 - link

    Also look at any other Apple product review. They are all ridiculously in-depth with analysis about almost every single component in the product. Macbook Pro with Retina Display got 18 pages, the 3rd gen iPad got 21 pages. Don't get me wrong, I like a proper review with everything analyzed, but it's only the Apple products that get these huge reviews. But compared to those massive Apple reviews, it's like all other products are just glanced over in a hurry. The new Razer Blade got 9 pages. Asus Transformer Pad Infinity got 8 pages. Reply
  • Peanutsrevenge - Friday, October 05, 2012 - link

    What the hell are you guys bitching about?

    Of course the iPhone articles are going to be longer and more numerous than GS3 articles.

    iPhone releases come with new iOS releases and have their own eco-system.

    Android phone releases use a common OS across them and therefore much of what's in one article doesn't need repeating in another.

    Anand liking Apple is not our problem, I can see why people like them (not so much Anand) and that's fine, personally I dislike them (hate was originally typed, but was edited due to being incorrect), but still respect them and respect people who purchase their products (and pay for their litigation).

    An entire page of comments talking about how Anand isn't allowed to like or talk about Apple products because you guys don't like is ridiculous, they're a PC company and should exist on a PC website.

    Grow up.
    Reply
  • Kepe - Friday, October 05, 2012 - link

    Sure, but I'm talking about dedicating entire, long articles to such things as the iPhone display or why it doesn't have a certain feature and so on. The SGS III has a very interesting display, too. Still it didn't get nearly as much attention. Of course Anand is allowed to talk about Apple products. What I want, though, is Anand(tech) to be as thorough in reviewing other products, too, or then stop making those huge articles only about Apple products. Because that is biased.
    In the Macbook Pro Retina article Anand talked about the cooling system and the fan blades for one page. When I read any other laptop review on Anandtech, cooling is briefly described in a sentence or two.
    Dedicating so much attention to just one company's products makes it look like Anandtech is biased. And that is not good.
    Reply
  • Magik_Breezy - Sunday, October 14, 2012 - link

    Hopefully because of these comments they'll finally see what we want, not some Apple crap. Good engineering stupid management Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, October 18, 2012 - link

    Nailed it. Reply
  • vFunct - Saturday, October 06, 2012 - link

    Android products would get more coverage if they bothered to do any engineering on them. Since they don't push the technology the way Apple does, they don't need a more in-depth review. Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Saturday, October 06, 2012 - link

    You're kidding right? Hardware wise Apple has always been behind the curve compared to the competition in every facet of it's product line-ups or very quickly beaten. Reply
  • lmcd - Saturday, October 06, 2012 - link

    Umm, I would disagree there. Apple has always been ahead of the curve in GPUs and this is the FIRST TIME SINCE BEFORE THE A-SERIES that Apple has had a GPU without an overwhelming lead on the competition for more than half a year.*

    While GPU selection isn't always huge, it's one of the biggest points of differentiation in mobile chips, along with power use.

    *excluding the A4 if you count from when it was first in a phone as opposed to in a tablet.
    Reply
  • Magik_Breezy - Sunday, October 14, 2012 - link

    The last time I played a game on my phone was about 8 months ago and I'm 15! To say that Apple pushes their hardware is naive as it gets.
    The Galaxy S III was the best purchase Ive made, even my mum doesn't like my iPhone 4.
    Reply

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