Former Intel engineer: Apple pulled away from Intel over Skylake CPU errors

A former Intel engineer acknowledges that Apple decided to switch from Intel due to the unusually high number of errors in the chipmaker’s Skylake CPUs fueled by Macs released between 2015 and 2017.

The claim is made by François Piednoël, now lead architect for Mercedes-Benz R&D North America. While it is only the opinion of a former Intel engineer, Piednoël worked at Intel for 20 years and was one of its main CPU architects. He left the company in 2017.

At WWDC last week, Apple confirmed the long-anticipated move to Arm for its future Macs, but Piednoël signals the arrival of Skylake Core buggy CPUs as the key event that led Apple to move away from Intel.

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“Quality assurance at Skylake was abnormally poor,” said Piednoël.

“We were getting too many quotes for little things, and basically Apple became the number one filing cabinet for architecture issues. And that was really, really bad. When your customer starts encountering almost as many bugs as you, you’re not driving the correct place.

“For me, this is the turning point. This is where the Apple guys who were always contemplating change came and looked at it and said, ‘We probably have to.’

“Basically, Skylake’s poor quality assurance is responsible for [obliging them] get away from the platform.

“I think I witnessed this inflection about three years ago when they said, ‘Yes, it’s time to do it.'”

Apple’s move from Intel to Apple Silicon will take two years to complete and the first Arm-based Macs will be available later this year. Apple will continue to support Intel-based Macs for the foreseeable future.

SEE: Apple to move Mac to arm CPU: what you need to know

Apple was not the only company struggling with Intel’s Skylake. Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott recalls that Intel’s 6th generation chips were at least partly responsible for the reliability issues in the first generation Surface Book and Surface Pro 4.

Microsoft faced a public relations disaster in 2016 when NFL Patriots coach Bill Belichick crashed his Surface in a frustrated game. He claimed that tablet breakdowns were common. That’s not necessarily Intel’s fault, and it was not reported which Surface tablet it was using, but Microsoft was promoting the Surface Pro 4 with the NFL in 2016.

ZDNet has sought comment from Intel and Apple.