Intel CEO Paul Otellini is stepping down today, and The Atlantic has published a lengthy profile of the outgoing CEO. While the article mostly argues that Intel thrived under Otellini's watch, it also reveals what could have been: Otellini told the publication that he personally shot down a chance to put Intel processors in the original Apple iPhone.
He tells The Atlantic, with regret:
"We ended up not winning it or passing on it, depending on how you want to view it. And the world would have been a lot different if we'd done it," Otellini told me in a two-hour conversation during his last month at Intel. "The thing you have to remember is that this was before the iPhone was introduced and no one knew what the iPhone would do... At the end of the day, there was a chip that they were interested in that they wanted to pay a certain price for and not a nickel more and that price was below our forecasted cost. I couldn't see it. It wasn't one of these things you can make up on volume. And in hindsight, the forecasted cost was wrong and the volume was 100x what anyone thought."
"My gut told me to say yes," Otellini added.
Given Intel's lackluster efforts to produce low-power smartphone chips until very recently, it seems questionable that Intel was really a front-runner for the iPhone's central processing chip, but rumors certainly suggested such a thing at the time.
On January 10th, 2007, the day after Apple announced the phone, Reuters quoted an unnamed Apple Germany executive that Intel was indeed inside the iPhone. The publication withdrew the story later that day, but later that year Intel claimed that Apple was slated to use the company's upcoming "Silverthorne" chip — which became the Intel Atom. And while Intel admitted in 2008 that Atom couldn't yet compete on battery life with the ARM-based chips that Apple did indeed put in the iPhone and iPad, it's also possible that Intel would simply have built ARM chips on Apple's behalf. That's what Samsung does for Apple, and as recently as last month rumors have suggested that Intel might still offer foundry services to produce the next Apple system-on-chip.
However close Intel might have been to the original iPhone, though, it's only one of the mobile moves made during Otellini's tenure. Read about more of them at our source link.