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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Post-PC Apple Still Can't Shake Intel, Nvidia

 Apple may have kicked the personal computer habit, but it can’t seem to get rid of the PC guys it used to hang out with.

While personal computers make up just 12.9% of Apple’s revenues, when Intel — and to a lesser degree, Nvidia — bring out the good stuff, Apple just has to have a taste.

We’ll find out how big a taste Monday. While Apple knows how to keep a secret, the Cupertino, Calif., company’s Macintosh computers are locked into Intel’s upgrade cycle.

To keep up, Apple will have to adopt the Intel ‘Ivy Bridge’ processors being snapped up by its competitors for Macs that will almost certainly be unveiled Monday at its annual developer conference in San Francisco.

A bigger mystery: how big a bite will Apple take of graphics chip specialist Nvidia’s latest offering?

Nvidia’s new ‘Kepler’ architecture can do more work, with less power, than competitor AMD’s offerings, says independent analyst Patrick Moorhead, and Nvidia is targeting a version of the new chip at thin and light notebooks such as Apple’s MacBook.

The challenge: Nvidia is also struggling with a shortage of manufacturing capacity at the contract manufacturer it relies on to crank out its processors, and Intel is building more graphics capabilities into the processors it sells for notebook computers.

We’ll know Monday who got the better of this technical tug-of-war.

Longer term, of course, Apple may not need to keep paying Intel or Nvidia forever.

Apple designs its iPhone and iPad processors are based on designs licensed from UK design house ARM. ARM-based chips can’t keep up with Intel in personal computers, yet; but they’re getting better.

Both Intel and Nvidia, plan on sticking around, however. Both companies are looking to longtime Apple rival Microsoft to break into the tablet business, with both companies pushing mobile processors capable of running the next version of Microsoft’s Windows software.
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