updated 03:15 pm EDT, Tue October 25, 2011
Jobs had to be pushed to use ARM in iPad
The hot-selling biography of Steve Jobs has revealed that the Apple CEO at one point wanted to use Intel's Atom chip for the iPad. He had contended that Intel was reliable for mobile chips, even when the iPhone was already shipping with ARM. Then-key executive and later Nest Labs founder Tony Fadell was not only adamant that ARM would be better but even threatened to resign on the spot at a board meeting where Jobs was making the case for the Atom.
Jobs in talking to Isaacson revealed that he changed his mind after Fadell presented evidence with the help of engineers, saying he didn't want to go against his "best guys'" advice. In hindsight, he added that going with Intel could have been a grievous mistake, since Intel was a "steamship" that couldn't change direction quickly. Pushing Intel to improve its mobile processors could have been dangerous, too, as it would have essentially given competitors the same advantages Apple wanted at the same time.
Choosing ARM ultimately helped define the market and even led Microsoft to add ARM support to Windows 8 after ignoring non-Intel architecture for more than a decade. Its buyouts of PA Semi and Intrinsity let it take a reference ARM design and customize it to get faster clock speeds and more cache than it would have had otherwise.
Although difficult to tell at the time iPad work started in earnest in 2008, Intel quickly became a liability in a tablet rather than an advantage. The iPad gets roughly twice as much battery life as an Atom tablet like the HP Slate 500 and, because it had faster graphics even in 2010, was much more responsive. Intel has been slow to adapt the Atom to mobile and will only just next year be producing an Atom that might be small enough for a phone or the kind of tablet Apple wants to build.
Size was also an important issue, Jonathan Ive added. He and Jobs together tried about 20 different sizes and aspect ratios, all of them put on a table in Ive's design studio, before the two eventually settled on the 9.7-inch, 4:3 ratio.
Jobs would later go on to trash seven-inch tablets, noting that the interface either got dense to use properly or lost too much information. Rumors have persisted that Apple had a seven-inch tablet in development that was cancelled after settling on the larger size. Outside of the possible success of the Amazon Kindle Fire, which is focused more on being an Amazon content device than a tablet, seven-inch tablets like the BlackBerry PlayBook have fared poorly.
One explanation sometimes given for the poor showings of 10-inch Android tablets has been Google's decision to use 16:9 widescreen as the official Android 3.0 and now 4.0 ratio. On tablets, the ratio leads to overly narrow portrait viewing and devices that often feel top-heavy when they aren't held in landscape. [via MacRumors]