Analysts: Intel seeks chip business at Apple

Industry watchers say Intel is trying to drum up business at Apple. If realized over the next few years, Intel would become a world-class contract chip manufacturer.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

Amid serious legal squabbling between Apple and Samsung, Intel may have an opportunity to land Apple as a chip customer, according to analysts.

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''Based on a number of inputs, we believe Intel is...vying for Apple's foundry business,'' wrote Gus Richard, an analyst with Piper Jaffray & Co., in a research note, according to a report in EE Times.

Foundry refers to contract manufacturing. Samsung is currently the foundry for Apple's A4 and A5 processors, which are used in the iPhone 4 and iPad 2.

This may be a golden opportunity for Intel, according to another analyst. "Given the strained relationship between Apple and Samsung over IP (intellectual property) issues, there is a window where Intel can become the foundry of choice for Apple," said Ashok Kumar, an analyst with Rodman & Renshaw, in a phone interview.

Though Intel is relatively new to the foundry business, it already has one customer on record, Achronix Semiconductor. But it also has at least two more confidential customers, according to a source familiar with Intel's foundry business.

That said, gaining Apple as a customer would move Intel into the contract manufacturing big leagues with the likes of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)--also rumored to be a future Apple foundry. In fact, Intel isn't there yet. "It's not the sort of thing that could happen easily or quickly," said the source.

But it could happen. And if it did, Apple would be tapping into the resources of the world's premier chip manufacturer. "Intel would be more of a preferred supplier than TSMC," said Kumar. "Intel simply has superior [manufacturing] process technology," according to Kumar.

And Intel, via its flash chip manufacturing venture with Micron Technology, is one of the world's largest suppliers of flash memory and solid-state drives--for which Apple also has a voracious appetite.

Intel said it does not comment on speculative analyst reports. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.