Apple On Track To Pass Intel As World’s Top Processor Company

In an upcoming report, In-Stat finds Apple is on track to surpass Intel in processor sales, and could easily switch to ARM processors

Apple is on track to overtake Intel as the world’s top mobile processor company, research firm In-Stat is expected to announce in an upcoming report, according to Infoworld.

Apple uses its proprietary information in building the A4, A5 and A5X processors used in its iPhones and iPads – or rather, provides the brains to the brawn of Samsung’s foundry, at least in some cases. PCs are now Intel’s major domain; but with global PC shipments seeing sub-two-percent growth last year, while smartphone sales soar and tablet sales remain on a track to overshoot PC sales, Apple could handily beat out Intel.

Apple looking chipper

The report notes that last year Intel shipped 181 million processors for a 13.9 percent market share, while Apple shipped 176 million, for 13.5 percent.

“Apple’s continued success of the iPhone and iPad, as well as the stronger growth rates of the smartphone and tablet markets than PCs” will help it catch up to Intel, Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat, said in the report, according to Infoworld.

Intel, with its Medfield chips, the code name for its Atom processor Z2460, is aggressively working to get into the smartphone and tablet space, which could considerably increase its market share.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Intel announced a multiyear strategic agreement with Motorola, which will use the chips in its smartphones beginning in the second half of 2012.

At the Mobile World Congress event in February, Intel also revealed plans to build a smartphone with European carrier Orange, as well as phones with China-based ZTE, the world’s fifth-largest phone maker.

The very first Intel Atom phone, however, will be the Lenovo K800, which features a 4.5-inch display, the Android operating system and support for Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) 4G technology. It’s headed for China Unicom, where it should go on sale during the second quarter.

Apple taking up ARM

It is rumoured that Apple may similarly expand in the opposite direction. While Apple currently uses Intel chips in its Mac computers, there is talk that it may soon develop ARM-based chips of its own for these as well.

In early February, The Guardian reported on a paper, authored by a former Apple intern and published by the Delft University of Technology in Holland, on how Apple spent resources working to get the kernel of Mac OS X running on the ARM architecture in 2010 – which it succeed in doing.

Still, the thought is that while such a thing could offer superior battery life, it could slow things down, even on a light machine like the MacBook Air. The predominant thinking at this point is that Apple will eventually make such a move, but not until it is absolutely certain that all risk has been worked out of the deal.

In the In-Stat report, McGregor reportedly adds that Apple’s eventually expected switch to its own processors is the motivation driving Intel into the Ultrabook space.

“The more successful Apple is,” said McGregor, “the more credibility it adds to the entire ARM camp and the more competitive the ARM camp becomes as a whole.”

He added, “It will be interesting to see how things play out over the next few years, but it will be the consumers that ultimately decide the fates of the companies and technologies involved.”