Apple setting up chip division for next-gen iPhones?
Poaching execs from AMD
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 increasing security as adding features.
Apple acquired chip-design company PA Semi about a year ago, and Steve Jobs admitted the company would be creating system-on-a-chip (SoC) designs for the iPhone and iPods just after that. So the recruitment of Raja Koduri (who starts with Apple this week) and Bob Drebin, both of whom held the position of CTO at AMD, shouldn't come as a complete shock.
In December Apple also chucked $4.8m in to British SoC developer Imagination Technologies, buying 3.6 per cent of a company ideally positioned to integrate powerful graphics into a new chip design.
The iPhone already uses an SoC from ARM, but there are half a dozen other bits of silicon on the board that could be incorporated into a more-specialised die. That would, as outlined by the WSJ piece, reduce power consumption by a considerable degree, but it also locks the company into one design and reduces flexibility.
Such designs are normally developed once a product has matured, as the iPhone has, and is expected to remain static for a considerable period - during which the huge cost of developing the new chip can be recouped through reduced manufacturing costs - which, arguably, the iPhone won't.
Apple could well be designing a centrepiece for a new iPhone model, in an attempt to gain those economies from the outset. That would be risky, but not unprecedented, and perhaps in keeping with the spirit of Apple.
Citing the omniscient "people familiar with", the WSJ makes the case that the move is motivated by a desire to increase security, so Apple won't have to share technical details of its plans with third parties.
It will probably be another year before we see any silicon coming out of Cupertino, on the basis of the number of specialists Apple is still trying to recruit, 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. ®
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 !!!
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:
"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.