Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Intel Inside, Without the Sticker Outside

Ken Segall:

I get that Intel Inside is one of the most successful marketing campaigns in business history. It’s just that after 36 years, that logo starts to feel more like a pollutant than an advertising device.

Thankfully, Macs have remained 100% free of Intel branding since Apple adopted its processors way back in 2006.

We have Steve Jobs’s sensibilities to thank for this. But how it all happened is a fun little story.

Back in August 2007, about a year after Apple began shipping Intel Macs,1 they held an event at their on-campus Town Hall theatre where they launched the first aluminum iMac, iLife ’08, and iWork ’08. After the event, they held a less-formal question-and-answer session between Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, and the journalists in the audience. Bob Keefe of Cox Newspapers asked:

Can you say why you all are not participating in the Intel Inside program, putting the stickers on your new or previous Macs?

Jobs’ reply is now pretty famous:

Uh. What can I say? We like our own stickers better.

He provided cogent explanation of why the branding isn’t necessary, and Schiller jumped in to point out that all the promotional deals that manufacturers have made actually make the products worse for users.

Keefe’s question unfortunately prompted a rash of ridicule. Jason Snell, Macworld (then at Macuser):

Yes, access to Jobs is limited. So I can see why a reporter like Keefe would use the opportunity to ask Jobs a question and get a quote for a story he was working on. It’s not something I think I would’ve done, because to me it’s a selfish act that makes everyone in the room subservient to one writer’s deadline and story idea. […]

But I can’t condemn Keefe for asking the question. I wouldn’t have asked it, and it was a bit moldy and off topic, but damned if its end result wasn’t a great distillation of Apple’s product philosophy.

Segall, again, on the effects of the Intel Macs:

Today, even though some speculate that Apple will switch to ARM processors, one cannot diminish the importance of Steve’s switch to Intel in 2006.

His decision instantly demolished the argument that PCs had a built-in advantage over Macs.

With processor parity, Apple could focus 100% on the things that set Macs apart on a more human level: software, design, quality and simplicity.

If Apple were to switch to ARM processors in the Mac — and, I think, that’s a very big “if” — it would no longer be possible to directly compare specific Mac models against their Windows counterparts, if that was all a buyer may be interested in. But that could work to Apple’s distinct advantage; for the last several years, they’ve been emphasizing things that work better on the Mac because of the hardware and software integration. A custom processor seems like it would fall into that line of thought.

  1. At this time, Apple was also in the middle of creating a fork of Mac OS X that would run on low-performance ARM processors in the iPhone. Wild, right? ↩︎