Intel still going after Apple’s iPhone business

Santa Clara (CA) – Apple may be working on its own processor and chipset for the iPhone, but that does not mean that Intel has given up on winning Apple as a customer for its next-generation smartphone. And as far as we can tell, Moorestown is shaping up to be a chip Apple should be thinking about.

During one of our visits to Silicon Valley, we were able to catch up with Intel’s Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president of the company’s ultra mobility group. The main discussion, of course, focused on Moorestown, Intel’s next-generation Atom processor, which will integrate graphics features on one chip. The hardware itself appears to be finalized, and demo devices are already shown off, while Intel is not quite ready to reveal details such as clock speeds, power consumption and performance.

What we know, however, is that Intel has reached its goal of 50x idle power reduction over its ULV processors in Moorestown and the fact that the chip is produced in 45 nm and its I/O add-on is produced in 65 nm (down from the 130 nm SCH of Atom), the platform is now small enough to hit form factors very close to that of Apple’s current iPhone. The company is currently showing off a demo device that has been developed in collaboration with Compal, which is substantially smaller than the first-generation MIDs, uses a 3.5” screen instead of a 5” screen and is promised top hit a battery time of about 8 hours in “real-life“ usage scenarios.

The fact that the Compal device is designed to look like an iPhone, brought up the obvious question whether Apple is still on Intel’s customer wish list. Chandrasekher replied that “I would love to have Apple as a customer” and the effort behind Moorestown indicates that Intel will leave no stone unturned to convince Apple that Moorestown and its 32 nm successor Metfield will be much better than what Apple’s hardware team will be able to come up with. Chandrasekher also confirmed that Moorestown will be able to run 1080p videos and 3D video games.

What makes Moorestown and Medfield interesting products from a design perspective is the fact that Moorestown isn’t quite as integrated as we initially thought. While it does integrate graphics, it does not integrate SATA/PATA ports, audio and security features. The reason is not that Intel was not able to, the company said the decision was made to balance the design risks. If the company gets one part wrong, it needs to scrap the entire chip. This way, there is a chance that only one often two needs to be fixed. Metfield, however, Chandrasekher said, will be a true SoC, integrating all functions on one 32 nm chip.