What’s the Real Reason Apple Ditched Intel?
Andrew Wheeler posted on June 29, 2020 |
Skylake CPUs were “abnormally bad,” according to a former Intel engineer.
6th Generation Intel Core Desktop Processor. (Image courtesy of Intel.)
6th Generation Intel Core Desktop Processor. (Image courtesy of Intel.)

The news hit that Apple is transitioning to its own CPUs. The company is ditching Intel. But why?

The reasons were assumed to be among the ordinary explanations for such behavior at Apple. In general, Apple moves everything it can in-house because of its long-term notion that a closed ecosystem yields a better product. Since the garage band days of the Apple II, Steve Jobs imbued the company with the idea (courtesy of Alan Kay) that the best hardware and software complement each other best if they are built together (even back then, Jobs wanted the Apple II to exclude expansion slots, but engineering wizard Steve Wozniak nixed the idea since he invented the personal computer himself).

By switching to custom CPUs designed in-house by Apple’s own employees, the company can exert even more control over its computers and receive a bigger slice of the Apple pie.

Did Intel Bring This on Itself?

A video from former Intel engineer François Piednoël is making waves for its derisive critique of Intel’s most recent Skylake CPUs. According to Piednoël, part of the reason that Apple left Intel behind as a third party was due to the fact that the Intel Skylake processors in question are terrible products.

In the video, Piednoël describes how Apple was investigating the 6th generation Intel Skylake CPUs and continuously filing complaints with issues the company found until it became obvious that it could do a better job itself.

Piednoël discusses how bad quality assurance in the manufacturing process at Intel was partly to blame for the poor performance of the processors, as well as Apple’s decision to finally make the move toward implementing an in-house CPU design.

The poor QA could be attributed to internal machinations of a leadership shakeup at Intel during the Skylake’s product design lifecycle. Piednoël continued by saying that this internal shakeup trickled down the ranks and led to “general mismanagement” of the CPU. According to Piednoël, this had the effect of causing several key engineers to leave the Skylake team—to the ultimate detriment of the product.

Bottom Line

The critique from the  former Intel engineer François Piednoël (currently employed as principal architect at Mercedes-Benz R&D North America) is damning. Piednoël, who left Intel after two decades (he quit in 2017), was one of Intel’s best CPU architects. But another giant tech company named Microsoft had also complained about the 6th Generation Intel Core CPUs, blaming them for the Surface Pro’s reliability issues that annoyed NFL coach Bill Belichick so much that he publicly destroyed his device at a game in 2016.

Intel is still a good company, and this shows that when the dark arts of corporate politics are unleashed, it affects everything, including the chip wizardry performed every day by some of the most skilled engineers in the world.

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