Intel Inside Apple's iPhone?

| About: Intel Corporation (INTC)

Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook, famed for his operations expertise, made the biggest gamble of his career. He dumped Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) as a component supplier in the iPhone 5. Previously Samsung owned the iProduct, supplying flash, DRAM, touch screens, and battery. Apple has finally broken off the oddest business relationship ever - suing Samsung for "slavishly copying" its iPhone while purchasing its parts from Samsung. The changeover hasn't been without its ups and downs. Apple has been struggling getting enough iPhone 5s to meet a burgeoning demand. Still, you have to give Tim his due. Apple rolled out 5 million iPhone 5s in its first weekend and has held the delay in orders to 3 to 4 weeks. Not a bad effort considering the upending of the supply chain.

The Final Divorce Decree

The last remnant is about to go - Samsung isn't going to fab Apple's proprietary chips, a business estimated to be over $2 billion a year in sales.

Already Samsung has lined up Qualcom (NASDAQ:QCOM) and Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) to replace Cupertino.

Apple is likely to sell over 200 million iPhones in 2013. That's not counting iPads and iPod Touches (and the soon-to-be-announced mini Pads), all of which will need a chip. If Apple can't get the chips fabbed, no iOS devices get out the door. We're talking over 300 million chips for 2013. At an estimated $17.50 a pop, this could reach $5 billion in sales.

So who will Apple turn to?

Tim already asked Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE:TSM) for a guaranteed exclusive. That failed - for now. It's said Taiwan Semiconductor is building up its capacity, perhaps to service Apple's needs.

Other foundries don't have the capacity to handle Apple. They are way too small.

Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) traditionally goes its own way, fabricating its own chips. Intel CEO Paul Otellini opened the door to replacing Samsung as Apple's foundry:

Well, anything is theoretically possible. The things that would stand in the way with that, both of those, would be the right commercial agreement. I have to say that from a -- from the kind of taste it would leave my mouth, the Apple win would be a little bit -- a lot more attractive than the QualComm win.

If I were Intel's CEO, I'd move Heaven and Earth to make it happen while Taiwan Semi is playing hard to get. In one fell swoop, Intel would move over to the A grade table and be making chips for the leading smartphone and tablet company.

Foundry margins aren't shabby. Take a look at Taiwan Semi. Factoring out R&D, Taiwan Semi's operating margin is 41%; Intel's is 48%.

So Intel, it's really quite simple: Apple hates Samsung. You need the tablet and smartphone space. This is destiny calling. Paul, phone Tim Cook. Make a low margin bid. You'll make it up on volume and cache. Who knows? Someday we might be talking about Appletel. Seize the day. Great opportunities don't come along often. Otherwise, look for Taiwan Semiconductor grabbing Apple's business and outperforming you.

Disclosure: I am long AAPL, INTC. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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