Intel CEO says co-designed x86 chips will fend off Arm threat

The chip designer rose to great heights in the mobile phone biz and now its many license holders are looking to twist an ARM processor into something more computer-shaped. Arm is finding increasing number of advocates from Intel and AMD's firm customers too: perhaps the most notable among them being Apple, with the M1 chip in MacBooks and the new iMac, but Microsoft, Amazon, and Arm's prospective buyer, Nvidia, all have skin in the game.

During the company's most recent earnings call, Pat Gelsinger, Intel CEO, told shareholders that offering to "comingle" chips with customers could change opinion in the ongoing x86 versus Arm argument.

In response to a question on whether Intel would ever consider licensing x86 out for them to design their own products, Gelsinger responds "The simple answer to the last part of the question is, yes."

"We do believe that the ability for our customers to take advantage of x86 this way will be a meaningful shift in how people think about ARM versus x86," Gelsinger continues (via Seeking Alpha). "Because part of it was we weren’t giving them the flexibility to design to comingle IP, as I have described it. So they were trying to do unique design work. They didn’t have a good x86 choice. We gave them our standard products, which have lots of capabilities, but particularly for the cloud guys they'd say, boy, I don’t use those particular features. I really could optimize with the few of these other things in the network and the memory hierarchy.

Intel announced last month that it is investing $20bn into fab expansion and will set up a standalone Intel Foundry Services for the manufacturing of chips for its customers. A way for companies to gain access to x86 cores that Intel once defended with vigour, along with Arm and RISC-V chips.

Intel sharing more fab space is probably a good thing for the ongoing chip shortage, too.