Feeds

Apple to dial x86 for iPhone?

Claimed shift to Intel could explain downer on third-party apps

Top three mobile application threats

Suddenly, Apple's apparent downer on third-party iPhone software development becomes much clearer. Taiwanese moles claim the company is considering founding future iPhones on the next generation of Intel's Ultra Mobile Platform.

Today's iPhones are based on ARM processor technology. Intel abandoned its ARM chip line in practice last year, but focused its efforts on its own x86 processor platform in spirit back in 2005. Since the two are incompatible, moving to x86-based iPhones would by necessity render all existing iPhone apps unusable on the new platform.

Now, Apple has managed such transitions in the past, on the Mac. First, it moved from Motorola's 680x0 family of CPUs to the PowerPC platform. More recently, it migrated from PowerPC to x86. In both cases, Apple did a good job, but the size of its userbase made putting big resources behing the migration essential.

Apple could do the same thing with the iPhone, but since the handset is a new platform and Apple is in a position to minimise the development of the kind of apps that would require it to subsequently invest big dollars in transitioning to a new iPhone platform, that could well be exactly what it's done.

The only iPhone application development Apple has encouraged are applets that run within the Safari browser, and these would be relatively easy to move to a new processor platform. All the others will require re-compiling from ARM to x86, and even then Apple can't guarantee that users will upgrade to new versions - or even that the original coders will do the re-compile.

Intel Silverthorne die
Intel's Silverthorne: small die

That leaves Apple's support teams fielding calls from iPhone users - many of whom have priority service packages, part of the lure to get them to fork out up to $699 for original 8GB iPhone - who complain their handsets crash when they run application X.

To avoid that, Apple has to incorporate ARM emulation technology in the iPhone so that such apps will run - and even then it's not a certainty.

But cut off third-party native application development and you can head off all these problems at once.

There's the logic - is it likely? That depends on the veracity of the claim Apple is pondering a move to Intel technology. It's said the shift would take place with 'Moorestown', the follow-up to next year's version of UMP, aka 'Menlow'. Moorestown is due to become available in the 2009/2010 timescale, according to Intel, so if Apple does shift to Intel, it'll almost certainly happen with the third generation of iPhone.

To make the move sooner, Apple would have to go with Menlow, due in Q1 2008 and which combines Intel's 45nm 'Silverthorne' processor and the 'Paulsbo' chipset with on-board graphics. But Menlow's perhaps aimed more at small web tablets than phones, so Apple might well want to wait for Moorestown, which puts processor and chipset into a single chip, and its forecast big reduction in power consumption: 20 per cent of what Menlow uses.

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Feast your PUNY eyes on highest resolution phone display EVER
Too much pixel dust for your strained eyeballs to handle
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Report: Apple seeking to raise iPhone 6 price by a HUNDRED BUCKS
'Well, that 5c experiment didn't go so well – let's try the other direction'
Rounded corners? Pah! Amazon's '3D phone has eye-tracking tech'
Now THAT'S what we call a proper new feature
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
US mobile firms cave on kill switch, agree to install anti-theft code
Slow and kludgy rollout will protect corporate profits
AMD unveils Godzilla's graphics card – 'the world's fastest, period'
The Radeon R9 295X2: Water-cooled, 5,632 stream processors, 11.5TFLOPS
Sony battery recall as VAIO goes out with a bang, not a whimper
The perils of having Panasonic as a partner
NORKS' own smartmobe pegged as Chinese landfill Android
Fake kit in the hermit kingdom? That's just Kim Jong-un-believable!
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.