Intel’s recent deal allowing it to manufacture chips that incorporate design features from competitor ARM Holdings has sparked widespread speculation about a further deal with Apple.
The iPhone maker is already rumored to be using wireless modem chips from Intel in the next iteration of its flagship smartphone. Now fresh rumors are emanating from Asia that Intel is bidding to make the core iPhone chip, which uses some ARM features, as well. The current iPhone system on a chip, known as the A9, is manufactured by Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor. And analysts have said Intel probably could get in on the action within two to three years.
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“Intel has begun to engage with Apple and it aims to grab one or two top-tier customers from TSMC,” Gartner analyst Samuel Wang told the Nikkei Asian Review. Intel would be the “most formidable challenger” for Apple’s chip business, an unnamed senior Taiwanese chip industry executive also told the paper.
Under Intel’s deal with ARM (armhf), announced on August 16, Intel will be able to manufacture chips with ARM designs using its new 10 nanometer scale technology for third parties. Phone and appliance maker LG Electronics has already agreed to use Intel for ARM-based chips starting next year.
Still, there are possible hurdles. ARM has licensed certain capabilities to Intel, so highly-customized designs such as Apple’s may not be included. Also, Intel expects to start making 10 nm scale chips next year, but it has already had scheduling setbacks and its latest high-end PC chip family, known as Kaby Lake, is being made at the older 14 nm scale.
When contacted by Fortune, Intel declined to comment.