Big news dropped on Friday regarding Microsoft’s plans to develop new Arm processors for its servers, and maybe even its popular laptop computers.
The world’s largest software maker is using Arm Ltd. designs to produce a processor that will be used in its data centers, according to people familiar with the plans. It’s also exploring using another chip that would power some of its Surface line of personal computers. The people asked not to be identified discussing private initiatives. Intel’s stock dropped 6.3% to close at $47.46 in New York, leaving it down 21% this year.
If you’ve been paying attention to the technology space this year, this news shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. It comes mere weeks after new Apple computers running proprietary Apple processors were released, trouncing many high-end, ridiculously expensive machines with much more powerful chips.
I was nervously optimistic about the change and decided to give the new Mac mini a spin, despite its lack of RAM and few I/O ports. I was so blown away that I ended up picking up a MacBook Air as well. It’s still got that new computer smell, but I already couldn’t imagine using a laptop that has anything less than 20-hour battery life!
I won’t repeat the mostly glowing reviews of the M1 from around the interwebs, but I will say this: Apple Silicon changed the computer industry. Yes, I know hyperbole and grandiose language are frequently used by companies trying to sell us something. Technology, which often trots out “game changer” and “disruption” might even be the worst offender. But this is the real deal — a seismic earthquake that will change how we even think about computers.
PC vendors are in trouble
That’s fantastic news for people using Apple computers, but what about those who don’t? When can PC manufacturers begin to use Apple Silicon? Well… they can’t. Apple Silicon belongs to Apple, the culmination of an 11-year (at least) plan to ditch Intel for more powerful and more efficient processors. It could take many years for Intel or Microsoft to develop a processor that matches the M1 in power efficiency and speed. Apple is far ahead in a way that’s never really happened before.
So that’s why this news from Microsoft is both interesting, and also inevitable.
We will look back on 2020 for many things, namely a global pandemic. But it could also be the year that Intel lost its business. It won’t happen overnight, or maybe not even in this new decade. But the way things are going, it might already be too late for Intel to turn things around. The company is well on its way to being a business case study — a warning sign about hubris and how not to run a business.
If you are interested in the whole story of what happened with Intel, mobile phones, and Apple’s new M1, I recommend the documentary-style video below from ColdFusion. I know nothing about the channel, but it auto-played at some point over the past few weeks and I ended up watching the entire thing. It’s a great history lesson and explainer of exactly what just happened.