Nalini Muppala

Analysis, observations, perspectives on mobile space

Apple A4

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Source: Apple Inc

During the recent iPad announcement, Apple revealed its custom made chip A4 developed by the PA semi team it acquired in 2008. The fact that apple made this information public indicates that the company is serious about this effort. Products from this chip design effort could easily be extended to power future iPhones and may be even iPods as well.

Although the increased effort and R&D expenses might seem like a burden, spreading the expenses across most of its mobile products will reduce the burden significantly. Apple is known to bargain hard and buy in bulk. Still, it could reduce costs by having the chips designed internally. Development cost and time can be significantly reduced when the hardware and software are developed hand in hand. This tight coupling provides a huge advantage for Apple. Apple takes pride in being the only computer company that does hardware and software. The company just gained more bragging rights.

Samsung, known to supply application processor for the iPhone, seems to be the immediate looser.

This is the first first GHz class processor in an Apple mobile device. Speculation is that A4 is likely based on ARM IP. While several companies including Samsung, Marvell, Qualcomm have been boasting GHz speeds, all this is too recent to have been designed into the iPad. Hence, Apple is probably an ARM architecture licensee and has been at work on this chip for a while now.

While it is unlikely that Apple would sell such chips to anyone else, it remains to be seen if this team can match the chip advances from major semi vendors and keep Apple from having to look elsewhere. It was one thing to dump IBM for Intel. It would be another to dump an internal team if some one else has an irresistible chip. Considering the risks, I am sure Apple has huge confidence on this chip’s road map. Good luck Apple!

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Written by Nalini Kumar Muppala

February 2, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Posted in Apple, ARM

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