Apple should have adopted the Intel architecture when it had the chance, former chief John Sculley has admitted.
In the late-1980s, when Apple was using Motorola 68000 series chips and considering its next step, Intel co-founder Andy Grove tried to convince the company to migrate to Intel chips, Sculley told attendees at the Silicon Valley 4.0 conference in California.
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An experienced team from Apple studied the idea but turned it down, concluding that Intel's CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer) architecture ultimately would not be able to compete against RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) processors, which had a more advanced instruction set, he said. Apple later adopted RISC.
"That's probably one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made, not going to the Intel platform," said Sculley, who is now a partner in New York investment firm Sculley Brothers.
As it turned out, Intel was able to keep its CISC architecture and bring the RISC instruction set into it. What Apple had underestimated was the power of Intel's overall system as a manufacturer, bringing billions of dollars to bear on the problem and solving it through evolution.
Had Apple gone to the Intel platform, it would have had more options, he said. For one thing, not embracing the endless commoditisation of Intel-architecture chips meant Apple could not compete on price against "the Dells of the world", he added.
Instead, Apple took another path and ended up a different kind of company, Sculley said.
Stephen Lawson writes for IDG News Service