Sources, soothsayers, and sibyls

Posted: 11.29.12

As long as you say “sources say” or “as heard,” you can say almost anything. My favorite recent one was Apple dumping Intel. Sources say that because Apple is dumping Intel, Paul O, was told to go home; of course we can’t verify that.

What would Apple gain by leaving Intel? Build one processor for all products—tablets, phones, and PCs? Not likely. Other comments heard were that Apple has grown impatient with Intel’s delay in delivering thinner processors. Huh? It was Intel that delivered the proc­essor that made the Air possible. Does anyone really think any other fab could produce a chip thinner, or better, than Intel? I find the idea ridiculous, and not well thought out. It’s based on “two people said.”

A more likely scenario is that Apple abandons its PC business and makes a tablet—a PC-like device (similar to MS’s Surface and/or Google’s Chromebook), which will be powerful enough for the casual user of a PC. Professional and power users don’t want and won’t use iOS or Android-based tablets for mission- (and production-) critical work; they are just too limited in too many ways (from no right-button mouse functionality to RAM size and processor speed). But there are a lot of people who were happy with a Netbook, and love their tablets, and who probably will not go back to their PCs or Macbooks because they are getting all the functionality they need from the tablets.

It’s totally conceivable that Apple may be satisfied with that customer base and just walk away from the Mac PC line. Apple sells 3x more tablets than Macs, and almost 7x more phones than Mac. The ROI on supporting such a low-volume product line, and a lower margin product (i.e., the Mac) may be approaching the point of no return for Apple, and the business is more of a distraction and drain than a viable profit center. Also, if Apple continues to be successful in tablets, which are cannibalizing their own Mac products, why would they carry on? And none of that is about Intel—it’s about financial statements and PEs.

And I continue to believe Apple’s next wonder product will be some type of game console. Maybe like the (Nvidia-powered) Wikipad—it’s a tablet, no it’s a game console, click-tap—wait, you’re both right!

Apple hasn’t ever really invented anything, ever. Everything Apple has ever done was a copy, and usually a significant improvement, on an existing device. That’s not a criticism, that’s praise. Look at the Mac, the Air, the iPod, the iPad, the iPhone, etc.—all incredible improvements on existing devices that were in the market. Even the maligned Newton was innovative, and Apple TV, well, we’ll see (we’ll see—get it, see—TV…, sigh).

Therefore, we have to look to consumer devices Apple hasn’t re-invented yet, and I think it’ll be the game console. And if Apple does it, you’ll want one. Which means there could be a ren­aissance in gaming. And, now that OpenGL has surpassed DirectX in features and performance, an Apple gaming console would not be a ten-year step backward in game quality like an existing console. The troubling part is the potential for the 99 cent iOS game developers to scale up their crappy roll and scroll 1970s-style games for the new machine.

So if Apple built a game console to die for, what processor would they use, an A7, an Intel Skylake? Probably not an Nvidia or a Qualcomm processor. The best way to tap into a gigundous pile of games would be to go with the Skylake. It’s a compelling idea, Skylake, iOS10, OpenGL 4.0—talk about a killer machine. So, no, Apple won’t dump Intel; instead, Apple will build an Intel-based gaming console, or so sources say…