Apple has thrown down the gauntlet.
The iPhone 5S has a 64-bit, desktop class, A7 ARM chip in it. This presages the introduction (next year?) of ARM-based laptops.
All new iOS devices will now come with iWork (Pages, Keynote, Numbers) and iPhoto and iMovie for free. (My guess is when OS X Mavericks is announced next month, iWork will be free for new Macs, too).
What does this mean for the enterprise?
In the PC industry, outside of Macs, virtually all of the profit goes to Microsoft and Intel (hence the WinTel moniker): The profit goes to Intel (for the CPU) and Microsoft (for Windows and Office).
With Windows 8 (including RT and Phone), hardware manufacturers have to pay for a copy of Win8 and a copy of Office. And for non-RT devices, they have to pay Intel for the CPU.
Now, though, with 64-bit desktop class processors available for ARM, Apple can come out with PCs that aren’t any more expensive than WinTel PCs.
Why? ARM chips are typically much less expensive than Intel chips (and Apple designs its own chips, based on ARM reference designs). Apple doesn’t have to pay for a copy of Windows (which is nothing new). And now enterprises don’t have to pay for Office on an iOS device.
If (when) Apple comes out with ARM-based laptops, will Intel be able to compete? Will Dell and HP be able to compete? Dell, HP and Lenovo laptops will have to include the price of Intel, Windows, and Office. Sure, HP and Dell could come out with ARM-based laptops running Windows RT, but what’s the app situation for Windows RT?
Well, you counter, there’s no software for a laptop running on ARM for Macs, either. True enough, but there are tons of apps for iOS. All Apple has to do is port AppKit (a mouse-based user interface, as opposed to iOS’s touch-based UIKit) from OS X to iOS, and—voilà—you have instant app availability for these new ARM-based laptops. The army of iOS developers just learn the desktop UI controls in AppKit and they’re on their way, since iOS is mostly just a subset of OS X. (alternatively, Apple could port all of OS X to ARM, but it’s really six of one, a half dozen of the other).
The reason I think Apple will port (a subset?) of AppKit to iOS is because there are many more iOS developers than OS X developers. And iOS is more fine-tuned for low battery consumption and, importantly, requires all installed software to go through the App Store, where Apple makes a nice additional profit.
So, with the high cost of Intel chips not being an issue on ARM devices, and a free offering of the iWork suite to customers, the enterprise could find that, next year, the total cost of Apple ARM-based laptops could be low enoughto meet the cost of WinTel laptops that have the Intel tax, the Windows tax, and the Office tax. And still keep Apple’s margins high.
And Apple’s iPad 5 reveal next month may bring a new, enhanced version of iWork.