Intel, Apple & the End of Moore’s Law

Howard Yu, writing for Fortune:

In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore made a bold prediction about the exponential growth of computing power. He observed that the number of transistors could be doubled every two years by shrinking their size inside of a microprocessor. And since transistor density correlates with computing power, computing power correspondingly doubles every two years. Intel has since delivered on that promise and immortalized it in the name of Moore’s Law.

Take an imaginary letter-size paper. Fold it in half, then fold it a second time, and then a third. The thickness of the stack doubles exponentially every time. If you are skillful enough to fold the same piece of paper 42 times, you will have a tower that stretches to the moon.


Just four months ago, Intel disclosed in a regulatory filing that it is slowing the pace in launching new chips. Its latest transistor is down to only about 100 atoms wide. The fewer atoms composing a transistor, the harder it is to manipulate. Following the existing trajectory, by early 2020, transistors should have just 10 atoms. At that scale, electronic properties will be messed up by quantum uncertainties, making any devices hopelessly unreliable. In other words, engineers and scientists are hitting the fundamental limit of physics.

This can mean some great changes to the computing industry and, hopefully, a wave of innovation that takes us beyond the standard silicon model.

Alongside this, Intel just announced that Apple Inc.’s next iPhone will use Intel chips in some of the next generation of iPhones:

Apple Inc.’s next iPhone will use modems from Intel Corp., replacing Qualcomm Inc. chips in some versions of the new handset, a move by the world’s most-valuable public company to diversify its supplier base.

Apple has chosen Intel modem chips for the iPhone used on AT&T Inc.’s U.S. network and some other versions of the smartphone for overseas markets, said people familiar with the matter. IPhones on Verizon Communications Inc.’s network will stick with parts from Qualcomm, which is the only provider of the main communications component of current versions of Apple’s flagship product. Crucially for Qualcomm, iPhones sold in China will work on Qualcomm chips, said the people, who asked not to be identified because Apple hasn’t made its plans public