ARM wrestling: Apple iPad chip to overpower rivals?
In-house chippery to make or break tablet, say analysts
The big question is perhaps not whether Apple will announce the eagerly anticipated iPad next week, but what chip will power the media tablet.
Since the device is expected to run a version of the iPhone operating system, and given that battery life is likely to be a key factor in the iPad's success, it's hard to imagine Apple using anything other than an ARM-based processor in there.
It's tempting, after the claims made by Nvidia when it launched its newest Tegra ARM-based system-on-a-chip at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month - dual-core processor, full HD graphics, 15-hour movie-playback battery life - that Apple might have selected this part for the iPad.
But a number of analysts this week said they believe the iPad may well be based on chippery designed by the Mac maker itself. Some of these claims may be circular - they're derived from what other analysts are saying - and we wouldn't want to categorically rule out an Nvidia involvement, but the alleged use of an in-house chip design is appealing.
Speaking to CNet this week, technology consultant Richard Doherty of Envisioneering talked up Apple's efforts: "Before the year is out, Apple will have the most powerful, lowest-cost SoC in the industry. There's nothing that I can see from ARM licensees or Intel that could challenge the power-per-Watt, the power-per-buck, the power-per-cubic-millimeter of size. Apple is going to have quite a performance, battery efficiency and cost advantage over the competition."
How might Apple achieve this? Back in 2008, Apple acquired chip designer PA Semi, and that CEO Steve Jobs subsequently said that Apple's new semiconductor engineers would be working on SoCs for the iPhone and iPod - tacit confirmation that the team would be working with ARM cores.
Later that year, Apple bought a small $4.8m, 3.6 per cent stake in Imagination Technologies, a UK-based developer of graphics cores for ARM chips of the kind it is said to be working on. If you're serious about putting good graphics into an ARM-based SoC, Imagination is one of the first companies you call for a chat - if, indeed, it's not at the top of your list.
Next page: Hiring Chip Chiefs
OK, one reason the G5 consumed so much power is IBM was lazy and synthesized the thing. IBM had people who did low power (PPC 4xx guys) but who got sold off to AMCC. The people who put the G5 together went down the P4 path.1
IBM royally @#$@#$ up the PPC. PA did full custom for many parts of their PPC chip and had efficient clock gating, lowering the power of the chip significantly but by the time it hit the market it was a vanity company for Dan. That product (PA6T-1682M) shipped though, Torben.
That said, why reinvent the wheel? Doing another PPC at this stage is a science project. Why not just do a multi-core ARM chip with full-custom where it helps your MIPS/watt and integrate the graphics stuff they bought?
Paris 'cuz after all these years I'd still like to royally
Agreed but teams of 100s? No way. Teams of thousands.
"You also get ultimate lockin - no 3rd party OSs"
"You also get ultimate lockin - no 3rd party OSs and noone else can use your software."
I like most of what you wrote but that particular statement puzzles me.
I have ARM-based PDAs that started life with WinCE/PocketPC that can easily run a 3rd party OS (e.g. Linux) and 3rd party applications.
I have ARM-based routers that started life with vendor-supplied OS that can easily run a third party OS (e.g. Linux-based DD-WRT, or OpenWRT, or in the right circumstances, VxWorks) and 3rd party applications.
I have ARM-based industrial comms gear that starts life with a vendor-supplied OS, that can alternatively run a selection of third party OSes, although 3rd party applications might not be so readily available yet.
I have an ARM-based mobile phone and I have no idea how to run, and no interest in running, a 3rd party OS on it. But that's the exception to the rule.
Where's the "ultimate lock-in", please?
Pandora, BeagleBoard, n900 and so on are using a TI OMAP chip with the powerVR graphics core. They need a binary-only driver if you want the accelerated graphics to work, but so far TI seem reasonably serious about keeping it available and up to date, which is nice but sadly rather unusual.
More common is a mess like the intel driver previously mentioned, or broadcom's adsl driver, used in modems like the dg834gt, that only works if you're using an ancient (2.6.8?) kernel version. The intel case is particularly sad because the rest of their recent graphics support in linux is open.
My hardware has always had full driver support under Linux, unlike all those people who bought netbooks which won't be upgradeable beyond a few point releases of the kernel. Of course, to "empowered consumers" like yourself, this is a blessing because it gives you the excuse to go out and buy "the new shiny" and feel like you're on the red carpet until you get bored and want something even shinier.
But thanks for the playground-level idiot remarks, tiresome even at the primary school level, I'm sure they pass as the height of wit in your Royston Vasey-level locality.