Intel Executives Apologize After Criticizing Apple's Use of ARM Processors in the iPhone

In a rare public apology, Intel issued a statement that retracted comments from some Intel executives about Apple's use of an ARM processor with its iPhone. Earlier this week, some Intel executives dismissed Apple's use of ARM chips with the iPhone, saying the ARM processors hindered the use of the Internet with the Apple iPhone. The news comes as Intel has been pushing its x86 architecture, especially its Atom processor, as an alternative to using ARM processors in smart phones.

In a rare public retraction, Intel apologized after some of the company's executives appeared to have criticized Apple's use of an ARM processor with the iPhone, claiming that ARM chips limited the iPhone's ability to access the Web.

The statement, which Intel posted on its Web site Oct. 23, offered a direct apology to Apple, saying that executives should not have commented on another company's products designs. The statement also acknowledged that Intel's Atom processor, which the company has been trying to position as a smart phone chip, cannot yet match ARM's low-power envelope.

"Apple's iPhone offering is an extremely innovative product that enables new and exciting market opportunities," according to the Intel statement. "The statements made in Taiwan were inappropriate, and Intel representatives should not have been commenting on specific customer designs."

The comments by Intel were made during a discussion at its Developer Forum in Taiwan, which started earlier this week. The apology was attributed to Anand Chandrasekher, general manager and senior vice president of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group. However, reports from the fall IDF stated that Shane Wall, vice president of mobility, and Pankaj Kedia, director of ultra-mobility ecosystems for Intel, made the comments.

The comments from Wall and Kedia focused on Apple's use of ARM processors with the iPhone. Both Intel executives said ARM does not offer the processing power to give iPhone users a rich Internet experience. While the two men did not criticize Apple directly, they both made the case that Intel, especially with its Atom processor, offers a better way for users to access the Internet.

"If you want to run full Internet, you're going to have to run an Intel-based architecture," said Wall, according to a transcription of his remarks posted on the Apple Insider site.

"The shortcomings of the iPhone are not because of Apple," said Kedia, according to the same transcription. "The shortcomings of the iPhone have come from ARM."

Intel has had a special relationship with Apple since 2005, when Apple switched from using the IBM- and Freescale-manufactured PowerPC processor with its Macs to Intel chips. Earlier this year, Intel developed a special, low-volt Core 2 Duo processor for the MacBook Air.

The relationship between Apple and Intel changed somewhat earlier in October, when Apple announced that it will use an Nvidia chip set, along with Intel processors, with its new line of MacBooks.

In the meantime, Intel has been looking to use its Atom processor as the base for the development of a whole new line of devices called MIDs (mobile Internet devices). The company has also tried to position its Atom chips as eventual replacements for the ARM processors used in smart phones, such as the Apple iPhone.

At the IDF show in August, Intel talked to ISVs about using Intel Architecture to develop applications that can be used on both PCs and smart phones without rewriting code so that the application works with an ARM-based device. The problem right now is that Intel needs to keep reducing the thermal envelope of its processors to replace the low-watt ARMs used in smart phones.

Currently, Intel Atom chips run at about 1 or 2 watts; the company plans to reduce that thermal envelope further when the "Moorestown" platform for MIDs appears in 2009 or 2010. The ARM processor, by comparison, draws about 0.45 milliwatts.

An Apple spokesman did not return a request for comment.