Where Will the Chips Fall?

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    Bill Howard
    Manager of IT Services

    Shifts in technology are always on the move, and micro-processor manufacturing is not immune to the challenges of evolution. In recent weeks we have heard significant announcements coming from two major influences in the computing arena. Intel and Apple have decided to part ways with one another.

    Intel has run into a few roadblocks with manufacturing processes for their 7 nanometer processors. These roadblocks have caused Intel to delay the expected release of their new processors to 2022 or even 2023. Recently they have stated that the problems have been identified with the silicone wafers being manufactured having “low yield” rates. The manufacturing process for micro-processors involves a procedure where many processors are created on a wafer of silicone. The processors are then separated and continue in the manufacturing process to be built into individual chips. What is meant by “low yield” rate is that the number of valid or functional processors built on an individual wafer is low. Intel plans to work through these challenges and continue development. They continue to manufacture their 10 nanometer processors that had their own challenges being released in 2019 some 3 years later than initial expectations.

    In the meantime, Apple has announced that they will be moving away from Intel in favor of ARM based processors that offer fast speeds and long battery life in mobile devices. This move is expected to take about 2 years for the transition to be complete. The first models are expected to be MacBook Pros coming later this year. Apple developers are already working with the ARM A12Z, the same micro-processor in the iPad Mini, in preproduction MacMinis. We will most likely see a shift in production orders late this year, as orders for Intel based MacBooks wind down during the third quarter of 2020. Apple is expected to increase production of new A12Z based machines and hopes to increase Macbook shipments by 20% over the 2nd quarter.

    What does this mean for these two major players? Both Apple and Intel have been in the game for the long haul and both have promising futures. Intel continues to make strides in the datacenter arena as the shift to the cloud is still going strong. Production efforts may be able to shift so that orders for desktop chips for Dell, HP and Lenovo may be filled. Apple’s move to a complete ARM product line is sure to help developers create apps that work consistently across the entire Apple product line. In the end, this should prove for an improved user experience. For now, we will have to watch how their hands play out and let the chips fall where they may.

    Please feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss this topic further.