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Wednesday, December 07, 2005, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Freescale CEO: Jobs wanted to move to Intel 5 years ago

In a recent interview with CNet News.com, Freescale Semiconductor chief executive Michel Mayer spoke of his company's evolving business model and revealed that Apple chief Steve Jobs was itching to switch the Mac to Intel processors over five years ago.

The Austin, Texas-based company, a recent spin-off from Motorola, is one of the 10 largest microchip manufacturers in the world. However, Mayer said Freescale is in the midst of an "evolution of existing businesses" that will distance the company from the personal computer market.

"Desktop is a very small piece of our business, and it's going away," said Mayer. "Our only customer is Apple (for laptops), and they are switching to Intel sometime next year."

While Freescale was not happy to lose Apple as a customer, Mayer conceded that "frankly, with all of the growth opportunities that we have in front of us, it was not a good use of our resources to try to defend half a percent market share, which is how much desktop we have against Intel."

"OK, Intel has the PC, that's fine," Mayer said. "There are so many opportunities outside the PC that it's much better using our resources to try to go into spaces where we are really leaders."

Mayer believes innovation is moving away from the PC space, and towards consumer electronics, game consoles, cars, phones and the iPod. "That's where innovation is," said Mayer. "So desktop is not a market that we want to serve."

Asked if he was present five years ago during the discussions when IBM convinced Apple to adopt the G5, Mayer said: "In my previous job, I ran IBM's semiconductor business. So I've seen both sides of the Apple story, because I sold the G5 to Steve (Jobs) the first time he wanted to move to Intel."

Mayer said that he first I told IBM that it should adopt the G5 project with Freescale, and then I sold the chip to Apple. "The G5 was good and it was going to be the follow-on of the PowerPC road map for the desktop. It worked pretty well," he said. "And then IBM decided not to take the G5 into the laptop and decided to really focus its chip business on the game consoles."

Mayer's comments about Apple's transition add fuel to implications that the Mac maker's move to the Intel artchitecture had been planned as early as five years ago. Recent statements by Steve Jobs himself indicated that Apple worked hard to keep its half-decade long Mac OS X for Intel project under wraps.

"So today for the first time, I can confirm the rumors that every release of Mac OS X has been compiled for both PowerPC and Intel," Jobs said in June as he announced Apple's plans to go Intel. "This has been going on for the last five years," he said.?
Looking ahead, Mayer said Freescale will likely revitalize its PowerPC business, but possibly under a different name. "I don't know if it's going to be called PowerPC. A lot of people have questions on the PowerPC architecture and what's going on," Mayer said. "I think IBM and us need to make a very strong statement that, 'Hey, a lot of applications are using that architecture, it's alive, it's there to last, don't get confused because there are many more PowerPC chips than IBM's Power architecture chips sold in the world.'"

Mayer said that most people would be shocked to learn that the PowerPC drives the engine control power train application in some automobiles. He mentioned that there are currently 52 Freescale chips in both the BMW 7 Series and the 5 series. The BMW 7 Series v6 currently uses a 16-bit PowerPC chip and will be moving to a 32-bit chip next year, Mayer said.

The chips control air bag deployment, moving the seats, the power train, Telematics, OnStar, entertainment systems, the transmission, and more.

"Next year, 50 percent of car (models) in the world will have PowerPCs," Mayer said.