I asked Hermann Hauser about Apple and the ARM chip after his fascinating lecture on the future of computing and our mobile world at a recent fundraising event in Cambridge. He was supporting Wallace Cancer Care at Addenbrooke’s Hospital where his wife was one of the founders.
We were a non-techie audience and he engaged us all with a humorous presentation about the five waves of computing from his iPad, and showed us his iPhone 4 too. Clearly, like myself, he is an Apple fan. He then told us a fascinating story about how how the ARM chip inadvertently saved the day for Apple when it faced a deep financial crisis. This is what he said, saved on my MP3 recorder:
“I rang Larry Tesler who was the person who did the deal between Apple and Acorn when we spun out ARM. Apple bought 43% of ARM for $1.5 million; it was Larry who did the deal.
“It’s a rather good story told recently by John Skully, who was running Apple at the time, and they were in real trouble, in real financial trouble, and in fact they were about to go bust. And the reason they didn’t go bust was because they sold their ARM stake that they bought for $1.5 million for $800 million.
“I asked him if there was ARM in the iPhone and iPad, and his answer was, ‘No Hermann, there are 5 ARMs i the iPhone and the equivalent in the iPad.'”
I’ve since read that there is much speculation about whether Apple will ditch Intel chips for ARM in its laptops, I wouldn’t be surprised.
This is what Hermann said about the rivalry between Intel and ARM: “The fight is not between Intel and ARM, but it’s Intel and the rest of the world because all other semi-conductor companies – and Intel has an ARM licence as well – and Intel might well decide that the way to survive and get a share in the new wave is to abandon their own architecture and produce ARM chips, and a number of journalists have actually suggested that.”
In the meantime, Hermann predicts that mobile phone architecture will kill PC architecture, and that ARM will kill microprocessor businesses of Intel – which, in Hermann’s own words, is a bold prediction.
“I believe ARM will win over Intel. I was at a conference in California last week and a man, a very well informed guru of Silicon Valley, came up to me and said, “Hermann, you’re the ARM guy aren’t you, you’ve won!
“Mobile will be the fifth wave of computing. The future’s bright because it’s light blue.”