Frenemies? Intel to produce quad-core 64-bit chip from rival ARM

Intel chip fabs open to ARM
Intel may suit up to make ARM chips

Intel may no longer hold its chief rival at arm's length, as it reportedly plans to open up its fabrication facilities to chip designs by ARM Holdings.

Major Intel partner Altera announced this week that its new Stratix 10 system-on-a-chip will use ARM's quad-core 64-bit Cortex-A53 CPU.

The plan is to start production in 2014, and Intel will manufacture the Stratix 10, as reported by CNET.

Intel in

The move is significant because despite Intel's overall market share, it has had trouble competing in the all-important mobile chip marketplace.

It's an area that ARM has cornered, having licensed the designs of over 95% of mobile processors on the marketplace right now.

Pretty much every top smartphone this year, from the Galaxy S4 to the iPhone 5S, has been powered by ARM's efficiently designed chips.

The Altera chip is destined for high-end networking and communication equipment, meaning you shouldn't look for it to take on consumer-facing chips. But it is a significant step forward in Intel/ARM relations and Intel's hopes for mobile.

An out for Apple?

Intel's Atom processors have lagged behind, but if the company were to start making chips designed by ARM, it could start selling them to companies like Apple.

That could give Apple an out when it comes to paying Samsung to manufacturer its A7 SoC.

Despite all of the Apple-Samsung lawsuits and cutthroat competition between iOS and Android, Apple still hasn't managed to ditch Samsung as the manufacturer of its silicon.


An Intel and ARM agreement could be a boon for just about everyone else, too.

"It's huge," said Insight 64 analyst Nathan Brookwood to Forbes.

"Imagine ARM's most powerful and technologically advanced 64-bits processor built on Intel's leading-edge fabs. A duo that will be hard to beat."

More competition among rival chip manufacturers like Samsung and TSMC could mean cheaper processors and smaller bills of sale, all in all a good thing for consumers.

Matt Swider