Freescale CEO on why Apple moved to Intel: IBM decided not to make the G5 for portable use

Michel Mayer, chief executive of Freescale Semiconductor, talked with CNET’s Michael Singer in an interview published today. “While the public may not have a clue, industry insiders are quite familiar with Freescale. The company’s best-known client is Apple Computer, which is under contract to use Freescale chips to build its G4 PowerPC computers through the end of 2008,” Singer writes.

Singer asked Mayer about the G5 and Apple’s move to Intel-based Macs:

Weren’t you there during the discussions when IBM convinced Apple to adopt the G5?
Mayer: In my previous job, I ran IBM’s semiconductor business. So I’ve seen both sides of the Apple story, because I sold the G5 to Steve (Jobs) the first time he wanted to move to Intel.

Five years ago?
Mayer: Yeah, that’s about right. So I sold the G5. First I told IBM that we needed to do it, and then I sold it to Apple that the G5 was good and it was going to be the follow-on of the PowerPC road map for the desktop. It worked pretty well. And then IBM decided not to take the G5 into the laptop and decided to really focus its chip business on the game consoles.

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews reader “Sailfish” for the link.]
It’s very interesting to finally see it in print and from a reputable new source that Steve Jobs wanted to move to Intel long ago and that IBM’s decision not to develop G5s for portable use finally pushed him to act.

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43 Comments

  1. It’s definitely informative to hear another voice in this, but some of what he says just doesn’t add up.

    First, he claims he sold the G5 to Apple, and yet everything I’ve found on the subject says Apple and IBM worked in conjunction to develop G5. They paid IBM to make it to their specs. The way he puts it, its as if IBM sold Apple a finished, already paid for product. That’s a huge departure from what was reported at the time.

    Second, he makes the claim that IBM wasn’t interested in developing a G5 for laptops, and yet the current 970FX – announced just a month or so after Jobs announced the Macintel transition – is low power enough to be used in a laptop. There’s no way they could have rolled it out that fast if it hadn’t been on the drawing board for a while.

    Last, he says something in the article that’s just plain confusing:

    “CNET – Because there is no innovation left on the PC?
    Mayer – It’s not that the PC is dead. It’s a huge
    business. We are most probably going to revitalize our
    PowerPC. I don’t know if it’s going to be called
    PowerPC. A lot of people have questions on the PowerPC
    architecture and what’s going on.”

    He then goes on to essentially say PPC is in so many things that NOT being in on computers is all good.

    So which is it?

    And that whole thing about Apple moving to Intel 5 years ago – that strikes me as implausible. With the size of the Classic userbase as it was then, there’s no way Apple could have survived a transition to x86 without bringing them along. Massive stock valuations and iPod cash were but a gleam in everybody’s eye, so there was no margin for that kind of error.

    How much of this is factual, and how much is trying to make things look a certain way after the fact?

  2. Think about what this means. Since Apple really had no (or little) choice but to go with Intel, there’s no reason to think that there’s anything amazing coming up that Apple got a sneak peak at in order to convince them to drop PPC.

  3. So Steve thought PowerPC chips sucked about 5 years ago but kept deceptively spreading the koolaid that they were the greatest (Intel sucked) so we would all buy them.
    Steve´s probably already in talks with AMD to switch to them, “Intel just won´t make enough chips fast enough for my needs – Intel thinks Windows PCs are their biggest customer!!! So AmD ready to make a deal???”

  4. Well…….so much for Steve deciding Intel was better – IBM basically told him the deal is over….take a hike. Steve did not have any other choice but Intel.

    I am waiting for the new Mactels – they better be lots faster…but why do I smell this line coming from Steve: “They may not be as fast, but the battery life is longer….”

  5. IBM knew full well the needs of it’s clients.

    What IBM believes and so does Microsoft and Sony, is that consoles will take the place of personal computers.

    This is why M$ and Sony take a bloodbath on every console shipped. (they make some up in the software licenses)

    Think about it, the X-Box 360 has three PPC processors that are probably worth three times the cost of a X-Box 360 retail.

  6. It must be spring, cuz I smell fertilize.

    I’d like to point out that, Mayer has had several months to come up with that ‘version’ of the story.

    All evidence has been buried
    All tapes have been erased
    But your footsteps give you away
    So you’re backtracking

  7. Accept it Odessey67…

    Your darling IBM f%^ked up.

    They did not COMMIT to MOBILE solutions, note your precious 970FX is yet to ACTUALLY be used in a laptop solution. And ALL power/thermal claims are just that CLAIMS, no one has tested it apart from IBM’s PR – umm I mean – semiconductor unit.

    When he says he SOLD the G5 to IBM AND Apple, this still fits with what you described.

    You first have to SELL/convince Apple and IBM that this product should be pursued and THEN they worked together to develop it. As you said yourself, chips don’t get designed in a short time, and it is likely IBM would not INVEST development costs without Apple agreeing that at least were intereted in buying the end product!!!

    Your next point once again proves that you are blind to any information that doesn’t support your stance.

    “CNET – Because there is no innovation left on the PC?
    Mayer – It’s not that the PC is dead. It’s a huge business. We are most probably going to revitalize our PowerPC. I don’t know if it’s going to be called PowerPC. A lot of people have questions on the PowerPC architecture and what’s going on.”

    He then goes on to essentially say PPC is in so many things that NOT being in on computers is all good.

    So which is it?”

    You are only CONFUSED because comprehending this simple dialogue would mean you’d have to admit that your DRM conspiracy theory may not be the WHOLE reason Apple chose to leave PPC.

    What he is saying is

    1) The PC business is not dead (as CNET tried to suggest) and that it is BIG business.

    2) Freescale are going to revitalise their PowerPC products.

    3) They may not brand it PowerPC (and here’s the reason)

    4) These CPUs are most likely going to be used in devices that are NOT PCs!!!!

    His last point is, the PC business is BIG (but Intel and AMD have that business), and hence it is GOOD for Freescale and IBM NOT TO BE IN THAT BUSINESS where they can focus on other imbedded solutions (also a big market!)

    So yes it is ALL GOOD for them.

    But of course I’m sure you are convinced that YOU know more about this than Michel Mayer and hell probably even more then Steve Jobs.

    my 2 cents

    Luke ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”tongue wink” style=”border:0;” />

  8. “Well now, huh. MDN gets it right again. Let’s hope that Intel has some 64 bit chips on its roadmap. Some 64’s for portables will be nice too.”

    Done. Intel’s current Celeron and Pentium chips are 64-bit capable. Also, in the second half of 2006, Intel will release Merom, a 64-bit capable Pentium M.

  9. “And that whole thing about Apple moving to Intel 5 years ago – that strikes me as implausible. With the size of the Classic userbase as it was then, there’s no way Apple could have survived a transition to x86 without bringing them along.”

    This point doesn’t make any sense. Believe it or not, there’s no reason Classic couldn’t have been made to run on the x86. The reason it isn’t happening with this transition is presumably a combination of knowledge atrophy, higher expectations of Classic, reduced need and other cost-related factors rather than strictly technical reasons.

  10. MacDude, consoles won’t take the place of personal computers, but they do have a better shot at the living room. Of course if Apple does a decent job of marketing a Mac mini with Front Row, it’ll have a good crack at it too (especially with the iPod and burgeoning iTMS content).

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