Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said he would like to see a factory where sand– silicon– was dumped at one end and a finished computer would exit the building at the other end. That’s how self sufficient Jobs wanted Apple to be. The difference between vision and reality is called pragmatism.
Apple was once beholden to Motorola, then the IBM-Motorola-Apple PowerPC partnership, and now Apple is just as beholden to component makers– and competitors– as ever. Yet, somewhere deep in Apple’s DNA is a go-it-alone gene which drives our favorite Mac and iPhone maker.
Beholden To None
No company wants to be at the mercy of a part supplier or component maker, and certainly not one which is the company’s largest competitor. That’s Apple and Samsung. The former designs and manufactures world class technology gadgetry at the premium end of the product space, while the latter does the same– and sells components that Apple needs. Samsung creates their own marketplace weaponry, but also sells weapons and ammunition to anyone who can ante up to the price tag.
Does some of the DNA that Steve Jobs infused into Apple still exist? Yes. When the PowerPC partnership became less of a partnership, Apple jumped ship to Intel Inside, if anything, to give the Mac maker some room to grow and not be shackled by inferior products. Apple’s design, operating system, and ecosystem became the Mac’s key points of differentiation.
When the iPhone came along Apple decided to go it alone, bought their own chip design firm, and used the highly acclaimed and power sipping ARM reference to create CPU designs that still dominate the competition. Chips that were, until recently, manufactured by competitor Samsung.
See the problem?
Among the many smartphones, washers and dryers, and other household devices, Samsung also manufactures CPUs, memory chips, SSD storage, and high resolution displays. That puts Samsung into the driver’s seat for selling components to the enemy. Whatever components Apple chooses or designs to go into iPhones, Samsung will always have something similar or better because the company makes its own weapons and ammunition. Apple does not, and that means the company is beholden to Samsung.
Competition Is Good
How many technology component manufacturers would like a piece of Samsung’s component business? All. Of. Them. And that gives Apple some room to maneuver provided the goods are competitive. In recent years, Apple has assembled a world calls chip design team. Not only are Apple-designed CPUs in the iPhone and iPad, but Apple’s own chips power Watch, Apple TV, Beats headphones, AirPods, and even components within the new MacBook Pro line.
Step by step, Apple is rolling its own.
Buried deep within iPhones, iPads, Watches, and Apple TVs are technology from Imagination Technologies, specifically the power that pushes pixels to the screens. As the company moves forward to self sufficiency, Apple informed Imagination Technologies that it would create their own graphics capabilities in the future. Apple owns a small stake in Imagination Technologies, so one could argue that Apple is throwing the baby out with the bath water. Either Apple has a better solution in mind for the graphics that will power future gadgets, or it’s a hard-nosed negotiation tactic which could lead to a buyout or better terms.
Either way, Imagination Technologies’ stock dropped over 70-percent when the news was made public.
I like to think competition is a good thing, but sometimes component manufacturers are the stiffest competition of all. Think Samsung, and how their customers feel about competing with Galaxy smartphones. Think Microsoft Surface PCs, and how other Windows PC makers feel about competing against the Windows maker. Think Qualcomm CPUs and the company’s heavy-handed terms for Apple and other smartphone makers.
Is it any wonder that Apple wants to roll their own components wherever possible?