Apple appears to be amassing a team of engineers, with the intention of making its own chips for the next generation of iPhones. The suggestion comes from the Wall Street Journal, which has put together the news from recent hires by the company and searches of LinkedIn, and reckons that the lads in Cupertino are as motivated by …
"but it also locks the company into one design and reduces flexibility."
don't forget the iPod
Including the iPod, apple sells about as many of these chips as nintendo do with the Wii. Impressive and certainly enough to justify such an investment.
SoC from ARM?
Tosh, I tells ya. It maybe a Soc and it may have an ARM core, but it's not from ARM. My bet is any Apple SoC will also have an ARM core or maybe more.
Why only iPhone?
I could well imagine Apple wanting to make their own chips not only for iPhone, but also for Macs.
They have already shown willingness to change CPU several times -- first from 68K to PPC and then from PPC to x86. In both cases the reason was that the supplier of the previous CPU architecture didn't deliver a configuration that Apple wanted. With their of SoC design company, they can gain full control and get whatever configuration they want. This isn't for free, but neither is relying on outside companies to deliver.
One of the stated reasons for ditching PPC for x86 was lower power use. ARM is way ahead of x86 in this respect, and the compute power (Cortex A9) is getting close to x86 (especially the low-power-use variants) and the ability to build into a SoC is a clear benefit to Apple -- it will allow them to make sleeker designs. Lower power usage reduces need for large batteries, which also allows sleeker designs. Since Apple is more about design and user experience than raw compute power, this is a logical path to take.
So, whil ethe first products of their investments may well be new SoCs for the iPhone family, I wouldn't be surprised if this was eventually carried over to the laptops and desktops as well.
"both of whom held the position of CTO"
I thought the whole point of being a chief technology officer is that there is only 1,
Anhyway - I can see this being a good thing as far as iPhone/Pod production goes.
"...which could be a little late for a next-generation iPhone that the industry seems to be expecting to emerge this year. But Apple has been known to surprise us before."
Chances are 1 divided by infinity. These recent CTO hires have arrived far too late for anything arriving on 8 June 2009. Not that anyone has confirmed what, if anything, will be announced then.... potentially just an OS upgrade and possibly a better camera.
Steve Jobs told us . . .
. . that the PA Semi acquisition was to develop chips for future iPods and iPhones. But PA already have a PowerPC chip, and Apple is joint owner of the PowerPC IP, so there are possibilities for the future there.
@Why only iPhone?
Nobody in their right mind would develop a custom processor for their computer. The cost of doing so is huge and you would have to write compilers etc..
For a phone it makes sense, you can integrate everything into one chip but computers are more expandable.
"Nobody in their right mind would develop a custom processor for their computer. The cost of doing so is huge and you would have to write compilers etc.."
I wasn't talking about making a new instruction set. I was talking about making an SoC (System on Chip) using an existing ISA (instruction set architecture) and probably even a licensed core CPU implementation (ARM Cortex A8 or A9) and only adding extras around this for graphics, sound, communication, etc.
This will not imply any need for writing your own compilers (as you use an existing instruction set). It is not that different from putting a CPU and support chips on a motherboard: You need to write code to communicate between these chips and possibly hand code some library routines to get maximum benefit of the graphics- and sound processors. The main difference is that you have one large chip instead of seven smaller ones, so you have a smaller motherboard and less power use.
There are scores of companies making SoCs around licensed ARM cores and handful that make their own ARM cores to put into their SoCs.
Be Careful, Apple: Paradigm Shift Ahead
Unless Apple comes out with a hardware and software solution to the parallel programming crisis, this is an investment that will come back to bite them in the ass. Hard.
How to Solve the Parallel Programming Crisis:
Fabulous !!! Funniest thing i read today.
This is fabulousious !! You will be able to get your Apple CPUs in baby blue, fuchsia, or even hot pink !! Oh, how I love hot pink CPUs !!! They are soo...well...hot !! I just hate when actual engineers (like at Intel) design cpus....they are sooooo darn boring !!!
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