A former Intel engineer is claiming that Apple began plotting its divorce from Intel when the chipmaker released its buggy Skylake chipset. As you may recall, Skylake was a contributing factor in what I called “Surfacegate,” when Microsoft released the incredibly unreliable Surface Book (first-generation) and Surface Pro 4 and then spent several months ignoring complaints and not fixing the problem.
“The quality assurance of Skylake was more than a problem,” former Intel principal engineer François Piednoël claims. “It was abnormally bad. We were getting way too much citing for little things inside Skylake. Basically, our buddies at Apple became the number one filer of problems in the architecture. And that went really, really bad. When your customer starts finding almost as [many] bugs as you found yourself, you’re not [h]eading into the right place.”
I can back up some of this story: Having spoken to acquaintances at several PC makers in the wake of Surfacegate, I learned two things: That while all Intel chips ship with problems, Skylake was unusually buggy, and that Microsoft, as a new and inexperienced PC maker at the time, didn’t understand the gravity of the situation and had assumed in the past that it was easy for PC makers to overcome these problems. So while experienced PC makers like Dell, HP, and Lenovo were able to work around the problems with Skylake and customer impact was minimal to non-existent, Microsoft had no idea what it was doing. And it fumbled the response badly.
That Apple was the biggest complainer about bugs in Skylake shouldn’t surprise anyone: Apple is detail-focused, and I could see these kinds of problems being unacceptable to the company.
“For me, this is the inflection point,” Piednoël continues. “This is where the Apple guys who were always contemplating to switch, they went and looked at it and said: ‘Well, [now] we’ve probably got to do it.’ Basically the bad quality assurance of Skylake is responsible for them to actually go away from the platform.”
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