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Apple Businesses Hardware

Apple Buys a Chip Company for $278M 322

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the billions-burning-holes-in-their-pockets dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Apple's just bought a chip company, P.A. Semi that could make chips for iPhones and maybe iPods. Apple wouldn't reveal the exact plans, but Dan Dobberpuhl, lead designer of Alpha's chips, is known for making super efficient processors, like a 64-bit dual core last year that was supposedly about 300% more efficient than the nearest competition, using only 5 to 13 watts at 2GHz. Apple's quarterly results are later today, so we might hear more about the deal. This is something of a blow to ARM, especially with the mobile chip market heating up recently, with forays by Intel and Nvidia adding to competition from established players like VIA."
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Apple Buys a Chip Company for $278M

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @08:50AM (#23170266)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Watson Ladd (955755)
      Unlikely. They already had PPC processors on the desktop and didn't like them. I think this is geared towards mobile devices like the iPod and iPhone which are not Intel chips. But if Apple gets PPC chips from a vendor who cares about portable computing (like Apple itself) they just might switch back to take advantage of the negative compiler optimization hit on PPC.
      • by jschen (1249578) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @10:35AM (#23171488)
        There's more than that. Apple computers now can run Windows natively or virtually at speed. Switching away from x86 chips now would be a major step back in that regard.
      • by gtall (79522)
        More accurately, Apple didn't like the roadmap that IBM and Motorola had for PPC. Moto was into embedded systems and IBM was not into desktop systems.

        I don't think that Apple could really switch back though. I think some of the pickup in their sales was the fact that one could run a virtualization blob for those who want/need to run Windoze but would rather have a Mac.
      • by NekoXP (67564) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @11:28AM (#23172178) Homepage
        Apple did not not like PPC processors. They loved PPC processors.

        Steve Jobs just felt let down by the guys at IBM and Freescale when he wanted a chip that did this in this power envelope and they gave him THAT, 6 months or a year late.

        There is no way you will find a PowerPC processor in an Apple mobile device like iPod or iPhone. It just doesn't make any sense to try and shoehorn PPC into a market where it's never gained a foothold. It's true that the only reason PPC isn't there right now is because nobody wants to throw away billions of lines of ARM code, ARM binaries and ARM support with ARM operating systems after 10 years of using ARM, but that just makes it harder to change. Apple don't have that "legacy" (after all they run MacOS X on the iPhone, and MacOS X is already done for PPC..) but I still think it would be a wasteful thing to buy a company like PASemi and roll them into doing in-house iPhone chips. iPhone is about as cheap and power-friendly as it's going to get for a long time, so there is no point expending all these resources on a PPC iPhone.

        Of course if they bought one out I'd be first in line; just I think it's unlikely.

        PASemi's big markets are currently in the server storage market. I think this is more likely to be a play for the next XServe RAID, SAN software and even to bop IBM on the head given the release of POWER6. If you can't afford or justify a POWER6 system, you could probably buy an Apple PASemi rack with 16-64 cores per 1U for a fraction of the price (and greater aggregate performance).

        What is missing here is some sense on the part of the news reporters, who obviously don't understand the difference between highly embedded portable devices and a low power consumption network processor. PASemi certainly do NOT specialise in low power chips for "small devices", they specialise in low power chips for *communications infrastructure* like storage, advanced image processing, cryptography and the like. I am finding it hard to imagine that a chip with capability to support 10Gbe ports and a huge amount of comms bandwidth, transitions to "it's the next iPod processor".
        • by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @12:36PM (#23173120) Homepage Journal
          One little detail you overlooked is important to understanding what Apple might possibly do with this stuff.

          Apple doesn't have much in the way of ARM code at all, to the extent that nearly all of their ARM code is generated by a compiler. Apple has C and Objective C code, and has LLVM [llvm.org] sitting between the hardware and the Apple application source code. Apple can run on any hardware platform they like. They can support more than one hardware platform at almost negligible marginal cost. While the rest of the industry flails about, with their obsolete notions of "platform wars", Apple can simultaneously participate on the industry standards platform (or platforms as the case happens to be) and also invent a better platform, for one or many other product categories. Those can also overlap.

          Apple is essentially platform agnostic, with respect to hardware.
    • by somersault (912633) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @08:57AM (#23170346) Homepage Journal
      I doubt that at this point in time. This chip company specialises in low power chips for small devices, not desktop chips. Though introducing a super efficient desktop processor would be nice. We need to move away from x86 to a modern design, rather than one that has gradually been modified beyond all recognition and hacked to gain 32 bit then 64 bit compatibility, etc. As an Amiga/Mac user for most of my early life, I've always thought of x86 as an inferior and inefficient chip design. Apple has demonstrated twice now how well they can adapt their OS for any architecture. Would be nice if Microsoft took up the challenge..

      One bright little commenter on El Reg suggested that another reason for Apple buying this company could be for a console release, as Apple recently acquired a patent which could be for console gaming. [reghardware.co.uk]
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by gEvil (beta) (945888)
        One bright little commenter on El Reg suggested that another reason for Apple buying this company could be for a console release, as Apple recently acquired a patent which could be for console gaming.

        Sweet. I can't wait for the Pippin 2! There's no way it won't be a success this time....
        • by somersault (912633) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:24AM (#23170574) Homepage Journal
          Well, they do have the iPod and the iPhone, that's a good base for starting a handheld games console at least. Maybe they'll turn the iPod into a more gaming capable device *shrug*
      • by bhima (46039) * <Bhima...Pandava@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:29AM (#23170618) Journal

        This chip company specialises in low power chips for small devices, not desktop chips.



        I don't think that is quite right. If you go to their website and have a look at the documents for their reference design, it's all about high performance embedded applications. I'd expect to see these in comms applications... or purpose built high speed data handling. But not phones or PDAs or things like that.

        • Well, yeah I should have RTFA, but they do specialise in efficient/low power designs, which does lend itself very well to mobile devices at least. Works well in embedded applications too of course. Basically that sort of design philosophy suits any application :) Interesting that it's the lead designer of the Alpha chip that is the head of the company. I heard some great things about the Alpha here on /. Apple are one of the few companies positioned to introduce an entirely new architecture into the mains
          • by bhima (46039) *
            Hey, don't get me wrong... nothing would please me more than during some Apple presentation that guy got on stage, introduced himself and declared that they (P.A. Semi & Apple) had just out ARM'd Intel. I'd be fucking amazed and delighted.

            Back when DEC was selling Alphas we had a bunch heating the lab. Nice boxes, a lot faster for our app than Wintel but that was then and this is now.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Apple has demonstrated twice now how well they can adapt their OS for any architecture. Would be nice if Microsoft took up the challenge..

        OS X is based on FreeBSD/Darwin, so ultimately it is based on UNIX. UNIX was written to be very portable. OTOH, while Windows NT wayyy a long time ago had support for Alpha, MIPS, etc., the real story is that the reason those never got updated is that the Windows NT codebase has become increasing saddled with platform-specific crap as Microsoft has had to add things f

        • Ya I know, Windows could do with a complete re-write though ;) If they really are rewriting it to be more modular for Windows Seven, then this would be a good time to consider other architectures. I'd like if they dumped their backwards compatibility in a new OS release anyway, it gives linux more of a chance :P
        • by niteice (793961) <icefragment@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:58AM (#23170980) Journal
          NT is very portable. MS originally wrote NT for the MIPS and i860 architectures and only began the i386 work when they were nearing release. There was even a (unreleased) Sparc port.
           
          Compaq killed off the Alpha machines right before Windows 2000 shipped. Microsoft reportedly continued to update the Alpha port simply to ensure portability was still achieved until the Itanium hardware was ready.
           
          Early Xbox 360 development kits were PPC hardware (rumor had it they were based on the Power Mac G4) running Windows NT 4. In fact, the Xbox 360 OS is derived from that of the Xbox, which was derived from Windows 2000.
           
          The real reason the ports were never updated was that there was no real demand. i386 managed to achieve dominance by the time NT 4 was released (for i386, MIPS, PPC, and Alpha). Otherwise we might all be using Alpha workstations.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            NT is very portable. MS originally wrote NT for the MIPS and i860 architectures and only began the i386 work when they were nearing release. There was even a (unreleased) Sparc port.

            You didn't read what I wrote. As I said, NT is portable. The current code isn't all based on NT -- much of it is new, and they didn't bother with portability the way Dave Cutler did for NT. What you're operating on here is very outdated knowledge -- there's a very good reason why the Early XBOX 360 kits were running NT 4 and

          • Early Xbox 360 development kits were PPC hardware (rumor had it they were based on the Power Mac G4) running Windows NT 4. In fact, the Xbox 360 OS is derived from that of the Xbox, which was derived from Windows 2000.
            I'm not sure what exactly they used for dev work, but early public demos of 360 games were running on PowerMac G5s, with photographic evidence to back it up. Link would be appreciated.
          • by geekoid (135745)
            No, it's not VERY portable.
            It was on different systems, but getting it there wasn't easy.

            You could not just compile it and have it run.
          • by DECS (891519) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @04:09PM (#23175494) Homepage Journal
            If you look at the approach MS took to support Itanium (IA64) and PC x86 (IA32), it really highlights why the company's cross platform efforts are so terrible.

            IA64 uses EFI, but MS won't adopt EFI for IA32 until PCs are all EFI, probably Windows 7 in 2010 (if it's on time, hehe). That's another three years of core compatibility failure between the two platforms.

            Also, 64bit x86 and 32bit x86 are similarly binary incompatible because of MS' engineering decisions.

            Mac OS X is not only 64bit and EFI savvy, but there's no problem running the same software on 32/64 bit hardware, and there's even a smooth ramp between the PPC/Intel platforms. Apple even has their OS running on ARM, rather than a seperate "mobile version" that uses an entirely different kernel design, as MS did with WinCE.

            So despite MS' mid 90s efforts to make NT cross platform, it was never really accomplished in a workable way (no equivalent to the late 80s NeXTSTEP running on all those platforms, nor the modern Universal Binary Apple is using), and that's why MS couldn't sustain it.

            Saying there was "no real demand" for cross platform support is a bit silly. You could also say Bob was excellent, and just lacked "enough demand." There was "no real demand" for NT's cross platform features because IT WASN'T VERY GOOD.

            Windows Vista, 7, and Singularity: The New Copland, Gershwin, Taligent [roughlydrafted.com]
      • by bberens (965711)

        This chip company specialises in low power chips for small devices, not desktop chips.
        I could see them trying to expand their market by competing with the EEE PC. These 'cheap' mobile processors are a great fit for that sort of thing.
        • Not a chance. (IMHO) part of the success of the Eee PC was that, since it uses an x86, application availability is a non-issue, as all x86 apps can run on it. Use something other than x86, and you lose that advantage.
      • by deander2 (26173) * <public@kere[ ]rg ['d.o' in gap]> on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:50AM (#23170882) Homepage
        if you think the core2 (or any of the x86-64 implementations) aren't modern processor designs, you need to learn something about microprocessors. and what pray-tell is wrong w/ keeping x86 compatibility through hardware emulation? do you know how cheap decode operations are on modern transistor budgets?
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          (replying AC because I've already modded in this thread)

          Yes, the hardware is modern. The problem with x86 is the ridiculous single-accumulator, register-poor architecture, coupled with that byzantine, non-orthagonal instruction set. Say what you will about shadow registers and prefetch caches, the fact is that x86 is 1970's technology running on 2000 hardware.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by deander2 (26173) *
            > single-accumulator, register-poor architecture

            "single-accumulator" hasn't been true since the 286, IIRC. x86-64 has 16 general purpose registers, any of which can be used for accumulators. (not VLIW-ish in register count, but not shabby either) but even x86-32 could use multiple registers as accumulators, albeit with some operations requiring an extra micro-op.

            > byzantine, non-orthagonal instruction set

            it's my understanding that the instruction set *is* orthagonal, unless you're executing 8080 or
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by nbritton (823086)
          It would be nice if you could directly access the RISC core on modern x86 processors. I think the reason Intel doesn't want to do this is so they can change the internal guts whenever they feel like it.
      • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @11:30AM (#23172190) Homepage
        We need to move away from x86 to a modern design, rather than one that has gradually been modified beyond all recognition and hacked to gain 32 bit then 64 bit compatibility, etc. As an Amiga/Mac user for most of my early life, I've always thought of x86 as an inferior and inefficient chip design. Apple has demonstrated twice now how well they can adapt their OS for any architecture.

        Apple is no longer free to change their CPU architecture. They are "locked in" to x86 due to their dependence on running Windows. Mac market share jumped significantly when they switched to Intel and jumped significantly again when they offered Windows compatibility. While Windows emulation has been available since at least G3 PowerPC Macs, it suffered greatly because it had to emulate the x86 CPU instruction set. The switch to Intel made that unnecessary and made emulation viable. The decades old question, should I go Mac or PC, largely ended. You could have both on a single machine. When dual boot became an option then the last barrier fell, those who needed absolute performance, gamers for example, could now have both on a single machine. Switching to a non-x86 Mac architecture would probably destroy the 50% increase in market share, 4% to 6%, that Intel brought them.

        You are echoing the same argument that the PowerPC consortium made in the very early 90s. The flaw in their logic and yours is that Intel can overcome x86 inefficiency and difficulty of working with it by spending more money. PowerPC was more efficient and a modern design that could more easily be enhanced, but Intel could throw 10x the resources at x86. PowerPC did not really fail because it failed to improve, it failed because no one ever imagined that Intel could get the x86 to the levels of performance that they did. The PowerPC folks expected Intel to try to move x86 users to a new CPU, Itanium as it turned out, and that would break the x86 lock and allow buyers to consider other non-x86 alternatives. I believe you are making the same mistake. Consider that the x86 architecture is really a facade, that underneath this facade Intel is free to change from one modern RISC design to another, or to whatever is next, allowing them to increase performance without breaking compatibility. On the fly translation of x86 operations into RISC micro-ops combined with reordering and other technologies is going to be far harder to overcome than you suggest.
      • One bright little commenter on El Reg suggested that another reason for Apple buying this company could be for a console release, as Apple recently acquired a patent which could be for console gaming.

        This rumor keeps swirling around Apple circles, even in more insider ones. My father is an Apple Consultants Network member, reads the mailing lists you get on when you're one of them, and follows all kinds of Apple news sites and he keeps telling me that Apple has some kind of big gaming "thing" in its skunkw

    • From one of the links: "The PA6T-1682SM is dual-core, 64-bit system on a chip (SoC) that consumes only 25 watts of power when running at 2GHz. PA Semi achieved this remarkable combination of clockspeed, features, and power efficiency through a number of techniques."

      The PA Semi's site says 5-13W _typical_.

      Intel already has a 2.13GHz _quad_ core at 40W TDP, it's called the L5408.

      And Intel are coming up with even lower power chips soon (Intel Atom). 1.6GHz - TDP = 2.3W. Naturally these won't benchmark as well,
  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @08:55AM (#23170318) Homepage Journal
    Apple is increasing moving into embedded and mobile markets more and more with iPhone, iPod, etc. I think we're going to start to see more small footprint devices from Apple in the future, maybe even something that creates a whole new product category. Information-based devices and appliances are the future, and Apple is one of the companies poised to do great things in this market.

    This is a precursor to some big things and I think Apple is taking itself in an entirely new direction.

    Just me $0.02.
    • I'm hoping against hope that this isn't related to any product we know about. I'd love to see something new and unexpected from Apple.

      Maybe something along the lines of ubiquitous computing or a clever home-based device. Who (outside of Apple) knows?
    • by kestasjk (933987)
      Or Apple might want to cut out some of its contractors to squeeze more profits out of its products, like it did with Synaptic.
  • A blow to ARM? (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @08:55AM (#23170322) Journal
    Maybe, but the PA Semi guys have already shown that they can produce good designs for two ISAs, adding a third wouldn't be beyond their abilities. I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing their PowerPC chips in things like the AppleTV and ARM cores designed by the same team in handheld devices.
    • Re:A blow to ARM? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:04AM (#23170408) Journal
      And, looking at Dan Dobberpuhl's biography, he was also a design leader on the StrongARM project, so it's not like he doesn't have experience designing ARM cores...
    • It's a potential blow the the company, not the architecture. That was pretty obvious from the summary alone.
      • Not really. Having more ARM chips out there, from more sources, benefits ARM-the-company. It's also not clear that they would go for a from-scratch design. ARM don't make chips, they sell designs which manufacturers (like TI) add custom stuff to. Apple would be quite likely to save costs by taking a core like the Cortex A9, add some custom magic (the non-CPU cores and the DMA engine from the PWRficient, for example) and produce the resulting chip for their handheld devices.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @08:57AM (#23170338)
    G5 LAPTOP WOOOHOOO!!!!!!!
  • Thank god, I was wondering how long it would take for this to show up on Slashdot (well, actually I'm hoping for Ars, but /. will do for now).

    Can someone smarter than me about these matters explain to me what this means? Why did Apple do it? Did they get a good value for it?
    • Re:Thank God (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ngarrang (1023425) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:08AM (#23170430) Journal
      There comes a point where designing/making your own chips is more profitable (or less costly) than having someone else design/make them.

      Jobs is a control freak, so maybe cost has nothing to do with it, but as a business move, it has the chance to work for you.

      As for being a good value for the purchase, Apple seems to think so.
    • by bhima (46039) *
      It's been up on the Ars Mac forum all day.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MightyYar (622222)

      Why did Apple do it?

      I love to speculate! :)

      Maybe they want to release a PPC Mac (maybe as a set-top or something) just to keep price and development pressure on Intel? If there is a new PPC Mac in the field, software vendors might feel compelled to continue shipping universal binaries instead of going Intel-only.

      The problem with my little hypothesis there is that Intel already has price pressure from AMD on the laptop/desktop and the various ARM players on the embedded front.

      So here's a better hypothesis: These guys have figu

  • Efficiency (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Upphew (676261)
    5 to 13 watts at 2GHz? And 100 cycles per command? What kind of range is that "5 to 13"? And obligatory car analogy: 20 to 52MPG seems rather large deviation...
    • Re:Efficiency (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Icarium (1109647) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:10AM (#23170452)
      I'd imagine that they're talking about between idle and 100% - it's more like saying a car will do 20MPG in gridlock and 52MPH on an open highway, which are usefull figures to know.
      • ...it's more like saying a car will do 20MPG in gridlock and 52MPH on an open highway...

        If you're getting 20MPG in gridlock then you're really not doing too bad at all. Just saying...
        • by Torvaun (1040898)

          ...it's more like saying a car will do 20MPG in gridlock and 52MPH on an open highway...

          If you're getting 20MPG in gridlock then you're really not doing too bad at all. Just saying...
          On the other hand, 52 MPH is pretty crappy on the highway...
  • odd. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bhima (46039) * <Bhima...Pandava@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @08:59AM (#23170364) Journal
    I'm very curious where Apple is going with this. P.A. Semi so far has only put information about one design up on their website and it's been there at least since the rumor that Apple was going to buy them (shortly before they went to Intel). That chip, being somewhere between Atom & Core2 I suppose, doesn't seem to me to good fit to any of Apple's existing products.

    The idea that hidden up their sleeves P.A. Semi has an ultra efficient SOC design for a next generation iPhone/iPod/Tablet is sort of interesting but I'd be really surprised if a dark horse came out nowhere and outdid the various upcoming Intel offerings or even the existing ARM SOC designs. Intel is very, very proud of their Low Voltage and Ultra Low Voltage parts but surely that added cost doesn't make it worth Apple's while to go out a buy a company.

    The idea that P.A. Semi has a next generation chip suitable workstation or home computer applications for me is even more unlikely. I think it would have to some chip to really motivate Apple to go away from Intel for their Mac lines.
    • Well, there's nothing that says Apple can't produce products based on both Intel and PPC. Given that they have plenty of experience with both architectures and a processor agnostic OS, that's not entirely beyond the pale...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aliens (90441)
      Well doesn't the fact that Apple was going to use PA in their new line just before going to Intel an indication that there's more than just one low-power chip?

      Granted Apple might have just been using PA to leverage against Intel, but if the guy's at PA thought for sure Apple was going to pick them for the desktop they must have a fairly competitive product in the pipeline.
  • They can buy Enron for all I care.
  • Expertise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ronanbear (924575) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:29AM (#23170622)
    Ultra-low power chips are enormously important for several key Apple areas. They're buying technology; but also expertise.

    There are all sorts of things that Apple could be looking at this for Apple TV, iPhone, Tablet's, Apple EEPC/Macbook Air, Newton, iPod or even something different.

    But at the same time they like to work with Intel on chip designs. They had one specially made for the Macbook Air. Besides the implied threat of an ability to go their own way they might find that collaborating with Intel on design may give them a massive say in the ultra-low power chips end up.

    Without directly using PA Semi chips they could use PA semi to improve their own power consumption. Ultimately, $278m isn't actually that much money given the importance of low power performance to Apple across most of their product line.
  • by loafula (1080631) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:38AM (#23170712)
    I've never been a big fan of Apple chips. I prefer sea salt and vinegar. Preferably kettle cooked.
  • McCain or Bird's Eye?

    (Readers left of the pond may substitute Lays and Herr's, otherwise you won't have a clue what I'm on about).
    • by Arivia (783328)
      And those of us left and north of the pond will easily pick McCain's over Lays, being familiar with both. ;)
  • Except that, ARM unlike all the other companies named, doesn't actually _make_ chips. It designs cores, which it licenses to other companies - many other companies in fact.


    Apple changing architecture I suppose is possible (not like they haven't before), but it seems like an odd step when there are many ARM-based manufacturers to choose from. ARM themselves wins no matter what.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by moeinvt (851793)
      P.A. semi doesn't actually manufacture chips either. They are a "fabless" company, so the comparison to ARM is completely appropriate to the extent that the product lines overlap.
    • by niteice (793961)
      As noted above, P.A. Semi doesn't make chips either. Now if Apple bought a fab it would get interesting - produce their own ARM chips?
  • by BBCWatcher (900486) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:54AM (#23170932)

    I've always wondered why Steve Jobs didn't announce a dual-architecture strategy from the get-go. But perhaps that was the plan all along, and Apple simply needed to announce "Intel only" to get all their developers moved as quickly as possible to universal binaries. Now that Microsoft and Adobe, the last holdouts, have complied, Apple can go back to a dual (or even tri, with iPhone's ARM) architecture approach, choosing the right processor core for the right device and maximizing its flexibility and distinctiveness.

    For example, the PowerPC core would be perfect for AppleTV and possibly a new Mac nano, where the cost of an Intel chip simply doesn't make sense. Apple is probably losing money on every AppleTV box right now. Every universal binary already runs on PowerPC, so all the applications and development ecosystem are already in place. The fact VMware and Parallels don't run on PowerPC is a feature, not a bug: Apple can wean some more users away from Microsoft Windows as certain devices hit the market and get some better market segmentation. Users who want Intel can buy Intel, and users who want alternative form factors, alternative power consumption profiles, lower cost, and/or new device categories can get PowerPC under the hood and still run the full Mac OS X portfolio of software. And having their own chip company helps keep Intel honest. Apple probably didn't like Intel's forced march from Santa Rosa to Penryn. That was inconsistent with Apple's longer product cycles. And all the game consoles are PowerPC-based, so that could be appealing if Apple ever wants to entice some game developers over to some of their devices. (Games do tend to work down on the iron.) IBM continues to underwrite PowerPC for its own server lines and has cranked up POWER6 to 5.0 GHz in its servers, way beyond Intel's best, so it's still an architecture with a lot of interesting advantages.

    • Why do they need PPC for that they can tell intel that they are thinking about moving to AMD to put help keep Intel honest. Also amd has much better on board video then intel does.
    • by niteice (793961)
      The DS uses two ARM chips, though, and is also fairly well-established. Either architecture could win for Apple if they try to woo developers to a gaming platform.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by servognome (738846)

      For example, the PowerPC core would be perfect for AppleTV and possibly a new Mac nano, where the cost of an Intel chip simply doesn't make sense.

      Intel chips aren't necessarily expensive, especially considering the close relationship between the two now (eg custom chips for Macbook Air) I'm guessing there are some discounts involved. Intel also has been making inroads to the low cost side with chips like the upcoming Atom
      This purchase probably has more to do with the embedded market which has been ignored

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by UnknowingFool (672806)

      I would say it's not practical for a company Apple's size to maintain dual platforms. The support, the engineering, the logistics, etc. It's one thing to develop on dual platforms; it's another thing to actually have 2 product lines. Also the main reason Apple switched to Intel had to do with supply and logistics. There was no way that IBM or Motorola (which are large companies) was going to keep Apple supplied with enough custom PPC chips when changes in forecast occurred. It wasn't economical for eit

  • Hardware Company (Score:3, Insightful)

    by webword (82711) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:59AM (#23170992) Homepage
    This isn't that surprising really. Apple is very much a hardware company these days. They must ensure that they have control over not only the software and external design of their products, but also the "guts" of their products.

    Jobs is obviously a fanatic about design and as time goes on, we'll see more and more "vertical integration" like this. Also remember that Apple is growing and is relatively flush with cash.

    This is perhaps a very solid investment (bean counting as it were), outside the realm of design, software, hardware, and other technical matters.
  • Single chip devices (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fzz (153115) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @10:05AM (#23171040)
    With the iPhone, iPod, and so on, to save power and keep prices down you really want system-on-a-chip designs. But if you buy commodity, then you get the same system-on-a-chip everyone else can get. It's hard to do something different. For desktop machines, you can distinguish yourself by the combination of features (even though Apple machines aren't that different to anyone elses these days, except possibly for firewire), but you can't do that in the embedded/mobile space if cost and power dictate it's a single chip design. So, my guess is they want their own in-house capability to build system-on-a-chip designs that are different from everyone else. Different in what way though, I have no idea.
  • This kind of processor is right at home in embedded applications. A new storage product or a new and vastly improved AppleTV may be coming.

    Either that or a new Macintosh LC ;-)
  • Two Words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @10:15AM (#23171194) Homepage Journal
    Universal Binary.

    Hey, you never know.

    Before you say "Apple will never do that", let me remind you of some things we all heard before:
    - Apple will never release a low-cost computer
    - Apple will never make a music player
    - Apple will never enter the cellphone market
    - Apple will never dump support for Mac OS classic
    - Apple will never switch to Intel
  • by menace3society (768451) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @01:45PM (#23173930)
    There was a lot of talk a while back of Apple buying up Sun or SGI, or having a merger, which would enable them to muscle into the hard-core server market, soup up their unix-based OS, and get a ton of chip-level hardware wizards on board. Now knowing that this is basically impossible, I wonder if execs at those two now also-rans are getting ready to byte the bullet or bail out.

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

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