Jean-Louis Gassée on why Intel isn’t manufacturing Apple’s A-series chips:
I see three possible answers.
One is that the 14 nanometer process is woefully late. Deliveries of some Broadwell chips (the nickname of the next round of x-86 processors) are now slated for early- to mid-2015. Apple might feel that Intel’s process needs to mature before it can deliver 300M units.
The second is that Intel’s claim of a three-year technology lead might be less than reliable. Samsung could be closer to delivering 14nm chips than Intel would like us (and itself) to believe.
Or perhaps Intel sees Apple as a real adversary that’s intent on designing all of its own processors, even for laptops and desktops that are currently powered by x-86 chips. But even so, why not become the preferred fabricator?
All of Gassée’s possibilities seem probable. In fact, the three aren’t mutually exclusive, and more than one of them is probably true. But I think there’s a fourth factor that’s as important as those three combined.
Intel’s 14nm process is the best in the world. The company invests billions of dollars per year to maintain its process lead, and it probably wants Apple to pay a premium for access to its cutting-edge fabs.
Apple is so good at designing chips, however, that the company has negated Intel’s process advantage. The 28nm A7 chip in the iPhone 5S consumes less power than Intel’s 22nm tablet chip, yet the two processors perform similarly. Intel’s process lead is supposed to give the company an advantage in transistor density, but Apple’s A8, manufactured on a 20nm process, is denser than Intel’s 14nm chips.
Intel probably wants Apple to pay a premium for access to the best fabs in the world, but Apple isn’t willing to pay a premium for the best manufacturing process when it can pay for the second best process and compensate with its chip designs.
More than any other reason, I think that’s why Intel isn’t manufacturing Apple’s A-series chips.