A Safe Apple Spot for Intel

Rest easy, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) . One of your cushiest spots looks like it's yours to keep.

There have always been inklings that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) has been thinking about putting its custom ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH  ) -based processors into the MacBook Air. Rumors last year said that Apple had been testing an A5 powered MacBook Air, and there are justifiable reasons for Cupertino to entertain the idea.

Apple had always said the laptop's newest iteration had drawn much inspiration from the iPad, considering its focus on mobility. Its custom chips are more power-efficient, although performance would also be sacrificed, while software compatibility would be the biggest hurdle in switching chip architectures. The speculation gained more credence with Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) inclusion of ARM-support in its tablet- and laptop-bound Windows 8 operating system.

Citigroup analyst Richard Gardner recently met with Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer, and Gardner says no-go on an ARM-based MacBook Air. One of Gardner's takeaways from the meeting was Cook's focus on the rapid evolution of iOS, which will expand the iPad's horizons. He believes tablets will eventually reach volumes topping traditional PCs, partially eliminating the need for an ARM-based MacBook Air. Intel's processor spot looks like it's here to stay.

Tablets have been a big threat to Intel, since the vast majority of them carry ARM chips instead of its own, which is why Intel will be pushing its Ultrabook designs pretty heavily this year.

Gardner also mentioned that a deal with China Mobile (NYSE: CHL  ) is in the pipeline, which is hardly a surprise now that it's the last remaining carrier for Apple to tap in the country. His own "checks" find that the next iPhone will be compatible with China's unique 4G standards in addition to our own domestic breed of LTE.

ARM and Intel still have plenty of other battlegrounds to host skirmishes on, but the MacBook Air doesn't look like it will be one of them.

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Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of ARM Holdings and Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Intel, Microsoft, and China Mobile. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Intel, Apple, and China Mobile and creating bull call spread positions in Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On February 07, 2012, at 12:44 AM, jdwelch62 wrote:

    Thank you for the news, Evan! Now I can sleep well tonight. (Seriously.). G'night!

    :-)

  • Report this Comment On February 07, 2012, at 3:17 PM, lucasmonger wrote:

    Safe for the moment. Remember the times when Macs were running on PowerPC and Apple did a wholesale move to Intel chips? It could happen again... though unlikely unless there is a new CPU/GPU roadmap that promises to demolish whatever Intel and AMD have on their product roadmaps.

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