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Apple beats the big boys to processor punch

Fields the Nehalem
Wed Mar 04 2009, 12:14

IT'S NO COINCIDENCE THAT APPLE is the first box builder to announce a product containing Intel's Nahelem-cored Xeon X5580 CPU.


In fact, this is the third time since Cupertino jumped into bed with Chipzilla that Apple has come up with the goods way ahead of the likes of Dell and HP.

Two years ago when Apple and Intel first held hands, 3Ghz Clovertown chips started appearing in Apple's flagship desktops, despite reports that the processor was not commercially available.

Then in April last year Apple announced a refresh to its Imac line including a mystery processor which turned out to be a 45nm X9100 Penryn. Again, way ahead of the competition.

So how does Apple get such preferrential treatment from Intel? Why is the world's largest maker of CPU's happy to roll out its nearest and dearest to a niche manufacturer which uses a proprietory operating system and its own hardware architecture?

We'll probably never know but there are four possible reasons:

Apple is comfortably well-off and can easily afford to pay premiums for parts which built-to-a-price box shifters like Dell never will. It has higher margins, so can afford to pay a little more for its components. And Apple customers are willing to pay a little (or a lot) more for early adoption and exclusivity.

Apple is small (relatively speaking) so Intel can allocate the entirety of its initial fabrication run to one manufacturer, keeping tight reigns on quality control and returns. Macolytes are also fiercely loyal to their weapon of choice. Which means they will feed back to the mothership with bug reports and problems with hardware, rather than shouting the odds to no-one on some backwater Internet forum. Intel would be hard pressed to find better customer feedback from a bunch of PC World customers.

Apple is powerful enough to not give a damn about Intel's release dates and just went ahead and released the products without the chipmakers blessing. Although possible, this is highly unlikely.

The last, and most plausible, is that Apple just asked nicely... and Intel said yes.

Which one of these – or the myriad other possibilities – is closest to the truth we will probably never know.

What we do know is that, if you want a Nehalem, and you want it now, you'd better get your credit card out and head to your local Apple Store. µ



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