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Intel: future iPhone to be Atom powered

ARM emulation in place, sort of - just waiting for the right chip?

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An Intel executive has apparently claimed a future iPhone will be based upon the chip giant's Atom processor.

Speaking in Germany, one Hannes Schwaderer, Intel's MD for Central Europe, made the claim, according to a German-language ZDNet report.

Sachwderer also promised a raft of Atom-based devices in the next 12 months, all of them "a bit bigger than the iPhone".

Of course, what one Intel executive claims and what Apple will actually do are two separate things. More to the point, the current generation of Atom isn't sufficiently power efficient for device as small as the iPhone.

The 'Silverthorne' Atoms, launched last month, are aimed at what Intel calls Mobile Internet Devices. Yes, that's a term that could be applied to the iPhone, but what the chip maker has in mind are larger, more tablet-like devices not gadgets like phones.

For that, we have to wait until 2009-2010 when 'Moorestown', the next generation of Atom, complete with on-board graphics and a power consumption characteristic suitable for phones, is due to ship.

Even then, will Apple shift from the ARM chip the iPhone currently uses? It could. The current iPhone Software Development Kit already includes an iPhone emulator. Since that code runs on Intel's x86 architecture and is, therefore, fully compatible with Atom, running iPhone emulation on a future, Atom-based handset isn't beyond the bounds of possibility.

Emulation would be essential to allow Apple to carry forward all the third-party development work done on iPhone software up to that point.

We shall see...

Alun Taylor contributed to this report

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