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ARM wrestling: Apple iPad chip to overpower rivals?

In-house chippery to make or break tablet, say analysts

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Hiring Chip Chiefs

Then, in 2009, Apple hired one-time AMD Graphics Products Group CTO Bob Drebin, and was said to have found work for Raja Koduri, who was also CTO at AMD's Graphics Products Group, having joined the company through its acquisition of ATI - which is how AMD also took on Drebin.

Drebin acknowledged his Apple role on the social networking site LinkedIn, though Koduri has not. Maybe he never joined, and his claimed participation was simply a mix-up arising from both holding the CTO position.

Either way, Apple has people on board with solid graphics chip development expertise.

It's important not to read too much into that, though. In 1999, Apple acquired Raycer Graphics, a developer of graphics technology for SoCs, but the acquisition doesn't appear to have led to any specific new Apple product, at least not one Apple has ever acknowledged. Indeed, both of Raycer's founders - David Epstein and Jay Duluk - went off to do other things after handing over the keys to Apple. Duluk eventually wound up at Nvidia.

Apple may have hired the likes of Drebin on the basis they can keep it up to date on the best the chip industry has to offer and get it the best commercial deals, not to develop such a product on its behalf.

However, there are rather a lot of former PA Semi chip engineers, designers and managers who, unlike Epstein and Duluk, didn't leave during the acquisition and are still working at Apple doing the jobs they were doing at PA. The acquisition wasn't simply an intellectual property grab - all these people are still working on low-power, high-performance chips, though presumably not ones based on the Power architecture.

Will their efforts make it into the iPad? Northeast Securities' Ashok Kumar, also quoted by CNet, reckons Apple will use Samsung chippery - as it does with the iPhone - before transitioning to a PA Semi-designed alternative.

Even then, Samsung may manufacture the part. UBS Investment Research this week said that will happen sooner rather than later: the first Apple tablet will contain a PA Semi SoC fabbed by the South Korean giant.

Nvidia's Tegra demo at CES was impressive. If the chip does a little less than what has been promised, it means we're going to see some powerful yet long-running tablet designs this year. If Doherty's forecast about Apple's SoC superiority is anything more than hyperbole, Apple's offering will blow them all away. ®

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