OAKLAND, Calif. — Silicon Valley is bracing for a long-expected breakup of Apple and Intel, signaling both the end of one of the tech industry’s most influential partnerships and Apple’s determination to take more control of how its products are built.
Apple has been working for years on designing chips to replace the Intel microprocessors used in Mac computers, according to five people with knowledge of the effort, who weren’t authorized to speak about it. They say Apple could announce its plans as soon as a company conference for developers Monday, with computers based on the new chips arriving next year.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, the partner Apple uses to build similar components it designs for iPhones and iPads, is expected to make the Mac chips in factories in Asia.
Intel and Apple declined to comment.
Apple has created a large chip-design team. A number of them once worked at Intel.
Apple’s move would be a symbolic blow to Intel, particularly when civilian and military officials are concerned over the weakening of U.S. leadership in chip manufacturing, which they regard as crucial to the country’s ability to retain an edge over China.
The move’s financial impact on Intel would be muted, at least in the short term. Intel sells Apple about $3.4 billion in chips for Macs each year, according to C.J. Muse, an Evercore analyst. That is less than 5% of Intel’s annual sales, and Muse forecast that the blow would be closer to half that since Apple might change the chips on only some Mac models. Apple sells nearly 20 million Macs a year.
But the long-term effects could still be serious for Intel. The chipmaker’s lofty profit margins have long been linked to its track record of delivering the most powerful computing engines on the market. But Intel has never done well selling chips for newer tech products like smartphones and tablets.
And Intel has stumbled badly in the industrywide race to miniaturize. Intel’s latest process for making chips, once expected as early as 2015, did not enter high-volume production until 2019. The delay aided Taiwan Semiconductor and Samsung Electronics; the competitors exploited Intel’s lag to take a technology lead.
Apple was troubled by the production stumble. Intel also ran into stronger-than-expected demand for other types of chips, causing production shortages. The combination further tarnished Intel’s image as a reliable producer.