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Apple's Xcode supports quad-core ARM CPUs for future iPhones, iPads

post #1 of 57
Thread Starter 
Hidden inside Apple's Xcode developer tool is support for quad-core ARM CPUs, hinting at next-generation processors that will power Apple's future iPhones and iPads.

The references found in the default compiler in Apple's Xcode were discovered by ArsTechnica on Friday. They show that Apple recently added support for Marvell's quad-core ARM-based Armada XP processor.

Author Chris Foresman concluded that it's "most probable" that Apple is using the Marvell chip in prototype versions of future iPhones and iPads. The existing chip could serve as a placeholder while Apple works on its own custom-built next-generation processors.

Reports have indicated that Apple's next anticipated ARM CPU, dubbed "A6," will be built on a 28-nanometer process and use 3D stacking technology. There has been no mention of a quad-core ARM CPU from Apple in 2012. The A5 CPU found in the iPad 2 is a dual core processor.

It's also possible that the Xcode references signal that Apple will begin using Marvell chips in future iOS devices, or even a next-generation MacBook Air, something that Apple has been rumored to be testing in its internal labs. However, Foresman noted that Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors are built on an advanced 22-nanometer process that will boost performance and improve battery life, while ditching Intel would require developers to recompile Mac OS X software for ARM-based Macs.

Apple's so-called "A6" CPU is believed to be in trial production for a 2012 launch, presumably in a third-generation iPad. The company is believed to have even signed a new foundry agreement with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to build an "A7" CPU, which would be projected to debut in devices in 2013.



Apple began designing its own chips following the acquisition of boutique microprocessor design company P.A. Semi in 2008 for $278 million. Then in 2010, Apple acquired Intrinsity, another chipmaker, for an estimated $121 million.

Apple's custom chips debuted last year in the first-generation iPad, in the form of the A4 processor. That same chip later appeared in the iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch, while the A5 debuted this March in the iPad 2.
post #2 of 57
And not made by Samsung soon!
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Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
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post #3 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Foresman noted that Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors are built on an advanced 22-nanometer process that will boost performance and reduce battery life,

Either Foresman doesn't know what he's talking about or AI is continuing its trend of publishing nonsense.
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post #4 of 57
"Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors are built on an advanced 22-nanometer process that will boost performance and reduce battery life"
I watched IDF presentations and I am pretty sure it should be "increase battery life".
post #5 of 57
Maybe the reason they finally used the Big Cat for the latest version of OS X is that it is the final version. The next iOS will add OS X desktop, and all Apple products will move to ARM. It is the advantage Apple has over Google (Java-based) and Microsoft (.NET based), that their C-based software is more efficient, and can match Microsoft and Google performance on a slower processor.
post #6 of 57
This will be more or less the same SOC in the Playstation Vita. Not sure why Apple chips are always called 'custom designed' as they're the same ARM and Power VR components many other manufacturers use.
post #7 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

Maybe the reason they finally used the Big Cat for the latest version of OS X is that it is the final version. The next iOS will add OS X desktop, and all Apple products will move to ARM. It is the advantage Apple has over Google (Java-based) and Microsoft (.NET based), that their C-based software is more efficient, and can match Microsoft and Google performance on a slower processor.

No Way.

Apples MAC's will not move to ARM.

They may come out with an ARM based laptop but it would run on iOS.
post #8 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garysturn View Post

Apples MAC's will not move to ARM.

There are already plenty of ARM devices that use MAC addresses.

For the love of

Quote:
They may come out with an ARM based laptop but it would run on iOS.

No. iOS doesn't work as a laptop. OS X doesn't work as a tablet. Neither is happening.

Because a desktop-style multitouch OS would require a full OS redo (popularly called OS XI), there's absolutely nothing stopping Apple from having that OS run only on ARM-based computers (beside the obvious hurdle of ARM sucking balls when it comes to actual power).

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post #9 of 57
Quote:
Foresman noted that Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors are built on an advanced 22-nanometer process that will boost performance and reduce battery life,

Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Either Foresman doesn't know what he's talking about or AI is continuing its trend of publishing nonsense.

Could be true though actually.
post #10 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by vijay875200 View Post

"Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors are built on an advanced 22-nanometer process that will boost performance and reduce battery life"
I watched IDF presentations and I am pretty sure it should be "increase battery life".

yeah...
post #11 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garysturn View Post

No Way.

Apples MAC's will not move to ARM.

They may come out with an ARM based laptop but it would run on iOS.

ARM-based MacBooks are absolutely inevitable. It's not a matter of "if." It's a matter of "when."

The advantages of a cool-running, energy-efficient ARM chip on, say, a MacBook Air far outweigh the disadvantages. Just a few of the many immediate advantages: longer battery life, no need for a cooling fan, smaller enclosures, lower cost.

The one disadvantage: no Windows (or possibly slow emulation.) Well so what. Apple could still sell legacy Intel-based desktops and laptops alongside its ARM-based MacBook Air. The vast majority of Mac users don't run windows on their Macs.

The ARM-based MacBook Air (or whatever it will be called) will be aimed at the consumer market. The consumer market is price-sensitive. And using ARM-based A6 or A7 designs in a laptop will allow Apple to lower the price of the low-end MacBook Air while still maintaining their 30% margin. No need to pay off-the-shelf prices for legacy Intel chips.

Just imagine how well a $799 MacBook Air would sell. The Ultrabook wannabes won't be able to match the price. Times change.

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post #12 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post

This will be more or less the same SOC in the Playstation Vita. Not sure why Apple chips are always called 'custom designed' as they're the same ARM and Power VR components many other manufacturers use.

You are wrong! The Apple chips have an Apple logo on them.

post #13 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post

This will be more or less the same SOC in the Playstation Vita. Not sure why Apple chips are always called 'custom designed' as they're the same ARM and Power VR components many other manufacturers use.

ARM does't produce or sell any components, they sell reference designs, and yes, these are customized by the client. In some cases the customizations are minor, but the Apple A4 and A5 are actually customized quite specifically for what Apple needs, to the point you could say they are 'custom designed'. For example the A4 was largely the same chip as the Samsung Hummingbird, based on the same Cortex-A8 reference design, but with lots of unnecessary bits stripped out or disabled to reduce power consumption.

Apple didn't buy Intrinsity and PA semi for marketing purposes, but to have more expertise to create custom ARM designs.
post #14 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post

This will be more or less the same SOC in the Playstation Vita. Not sure why Apple chips are always called 'custom designed' as they're the same ARM and Power VR components many other manufacturers use.

Everything says you are wrong. Can you defend your position?
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post #15 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Everything says you are wrong. Can you defend your position?

A4 and A5 were samsung Soc's with some minor modifications by apple. mostly getting rid of circuitry that wasn't needed in their products for better battery life. the GPU's are just the powerVR cores that apple licenses

it's been documented by ifixit, isuppli and many others with every product release. qualcomm does more custom work on CPU's than Apple
post #16 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post

This will be more or less the same SOC in the Playstation Vita. Not sure why Apple chips are always called 'custom designed' as they're the same ARM and Power VR components many other manufacturers use.

While the building blocks are mostly off the shelf, Apple adds its own tweaks (like the Cortex A8 was not designed to scale to 1 GHz) and customizations based around performance and battery optimizations.
post #17 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post

A4 and A5 were samsung Soc's with some minor modifications by apple. mostly getting rid of circuitry that wasn't needed in their products for better battery life. the GPU's are just the powerVR cores that apple licenses

it's been documented by ifixit, isuppli and many others with every product release. qualcomm does more custom work on CPU's than Apple

That proves that Apple's A4 and A5 PoP/SoCs are custom chips. Kotatsu is arguing they are off-the-shelf with zero, zilch, nada modifications.
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post #18 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post

This will be more or less the same SOC in the Playstation Vita. Not sure why Apple chips are always called 'custom designed' as they're the same ARM and Power VR components many other manufacturers use.

Whoa there. I'm not sure how one goes from "Marvell Armada XP quad-core" embedded SoC data in a compiler to the Apple A6/A7 SoC will be a quad-core Cortex-A9 and PowerVR SGX543MP4 like in the Vita.

The Apple A5 is indeed a custom Apple-designed ARM SoC. No other SoC in the market looks like it. It has by far the best GPU for 2011 SoCs, and it shipped or will ship 8 months before Sony's Vita SoC will. It's die size is strange. Very strange. It is 30% to 50% larger than it should be, or 30% of the floor plan is unaccounted for. It really doesn't look like anything else in the market.

As for the A6 and A7, who knows what will be in them. Quad-core is obviously everyone is preparing for, and Apple maybe doing that with these Marvel embedded SoCs, but Apple isn't playing the "most-cores" race. The A6 could simply be an iterative A5: 45 nm to 28 nm die shrink (60% shrink!), increased clock from 1 GHz to 1.5 GHz, and lower power.
post #19 of 57
If these were Samsung's designs with minor modifications then how is Apple able to move its ARM chip manufacturing from Samsung to TSMC?

Quote:
Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post

A4 and A5 were samsung Soc's with some minor modifications by apple. mostly getting rid of circuitry that wasn't needed in their products for better battery life. the GPU's are just the powerVR cores that apple licenses

it's been documented by ifixit, isuppli and many others with every product release. qualcomm does more custom work on CPU's than Apple
post #20 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

... No. iOS doesn't work as a laptop. OS X doesn't work as a tablet. Neither is happening.

Because a desktop-style multitouch OS would require a full OS redo (popularly called OS XI), there's absolutely nothing stopping Apple from having that OS run only on ARM-based computers (beside the obvious hurdle of ARM sucking balls when it comes to actual power).

iOS is not a "tablet OS", it's the version of OS X that runs on ARM processors -- iPhone, iPad, AppleTV, currently -- so an ARM laptop would run iOS, perhaps wit ha new UI layer we haven't yet seen, or perhaps with an iPad-like UI.
post #21 of 57
Many people buy Mac Books because they can do Windows emulation free. This is a big deal for those running old legacy software.

Times do change and I believe that Apple has something up it's sleeve. However I can't see them calling the devices Mac Books. This would lead to all sorts of problems. Rather I expect them to market them as an enhanced iOS device. Oh they are very likely to be much cheaper than $800 as they won't be even remotely competitive with Intel hardware in that price range.

Look at how they have handled iPods, they won't kill Intel based Mac Books until sales wane. To much money to be made especially when you are the market leader.


Quote:
Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post

ARM-based MacBooks are absolutely inevitable. It's not a matter of "if." It's a matter of "when."

The advantages of a cool-running, energy-efficient ARM chip on, say, a MacBook Air far outweigh the disadvantages. Just a few of the many immediate advantages: longer battery life, no need for a cooling fan, smaller enclosures, lower cost.

The one disadvantage: no Windows (or possibly slow emulation.) Well so what. Apple could still sell legacy Intel-based desktops and laptops alongside its ARM-based MacBook Air. The vast majority of Mac users don't run windows on their Macs.

The ARM-based MacBook Air (or whatever it will be called) will be aimed at the consumer market. The consumer market is price-sensitive. And using ARM-based A6 or A7 designs in a laptop will allow Apple to lower the price of the low-end MacBook Air while still maintaining their 30% margin. No need to pay off-the-shelf prices for legacy Intel chips.

Just imagine how well a $799 MacBook Air would sell. The Ultrabook wannabes won't be able to match the price. Times change.
post #22 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

iOS is not a "tablet OS",

Never said it was. DID say that it doesn't work in a traditional computing format.

Quote:
so an ARM laptop would run iOS

I'd never buy one. That's not how anyone would want to use that OS. Apple even covered that.

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post #23 of 57
I don't agree with that. There are big UI differences between iOS and OS X.

iOS is clearly made to be a touch screen UI. OS X is clearly made to be a keyboard mouse UI . The two over lap is some areas but are not really interchangeable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

iOS is not a "tablet OS", it's the version of OS X that runs on ARM processors -- iPhone, iPad, AppleTV, currently -- so an ARM laptop would run iOS, perhaps wit ha new UI layer we haven't yet seen, or perhaps with an iPad-like UI.
post #24 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

Many people buy Mac Books because they can do Windows emulation free. This is a big deal for those running old legacy software.

Times do change and I believe that Apple has something up it's sleeve. However I can't see them calling the devices Mac Books. This would lead to all sorts of problems. Rather I expect them to market them as an enhanced iOS device. Oh they are very likely to be much cheaper than $800 as they won't be even remotely competitive with Intel hardware in that price range.

Look at how they have handled iPods, they won't kill Intel based Mac Books until sales wane. To much money to be made especially when you are the market leader.

It seems many here think Apple is retiring the MacBook line in favour of MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines. I don't see how that makes sense.

While I would expect them to offer x86_64-based MacBooks if they did reinvent the line with ARM chips running iOS with Aqua UI at a much lower price range that still yielded a healthy profit the one thing these new machines could be without is BootCamp access.
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post #25 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post

I don't agree with that. There are big UI differences between iOS and OS X.

iOS is clearly made to be a touch screen UI. OS X is clearly made to be a keyboard mouse UI . The two over lap is some areas but are not really interchangeable.

OS X is the blanket OS that Mac OS and iOS share. Mac OS has Aqua for the UI, whilst iOS has two current UIs, CocoaTouch for the iPod, iPhone and iPad, and the AppleTV UI. Within CocoaTouch there are two UI designs, one for the iPod and iPhone, and one for the iPad.
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post #26 of 57
Alright I agree with that. I was reacting to the push that all of them are eventually going to be combined.

Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

OS X is the blanket OS that Mac OS and iOS share. Mac OS has Aqua for the UI, whilst iOS has two current UIs, CocoaTouch for the iPod, iPhone and iPad, and the AppleTV UI. Within CocoaTouch there are two UI designs, one for the iPod and iPhone, and one for the iPad.
post #27 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

That proves that Apple's A4 and A5 PoP/SoCs are custom chips. Kotatsu is arguing they are off-the-shelf with zero, zilch, nada modifications.

Of course there are some modifications, but essentially the CPU and GPU are off the shelf. Apple package them together into their own System on a Chip, but what's

That's not a bad thing. There's no reason to custom design hardware any more when there are perfectly good chips ready for use. Makes life much easier for developers too.
post #28 of 57
Hardly.
What is inevitable is Macs with SoCs. Intel has indicated they would let Apple make custom intel based SoCs (with no restrictions on the GPU element.) For powerful mobile laptops, this makes much more sense for Apple than moving Macs to ARM and all it entails. Apple will continue to design products so they are simple, similar, but most of all, appropriately suited to their function.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post

ARM-based MacBooks are absolutely inevitable. It's not a matter of "if." It's a matter of "when."

The advantages of a cool-running, energy-efficient ARM chip on, say, a MacBook Air far outweigh the disadvantages. Just a few of the many immediate advantages: longer battery life, no need for a cooling fan, smaller enclosures, lower cost.

The one disadvantage: no Windows (or possibly slow emulation.) Well so what. Apple could still sell legacy Intel-based desktops and laptops alongside its ARM-based MacBook Air. The vast majority of Mac users don't run windows on their Macs.

The ARM-based MacBook Air (or whatever it will be called) will be aimed at the consumer market. The consumer market is price-sensitive. And using ARM-based A6 or A7 designs in a laptop will allow Apple to lower the price of the low-end MacBook Air while still maintaining their 30% margin. No need to pay off-the-shelf prices for legacy Intel chips.

Just imagine how well a $799 MacBook Air would sell. The Ultrabook wannabes won't be able to match the price. Times change.
post #29 of 57
To some degree their is no such thing as off the shelf ARM processors. As ARM simply licenses the designs and the chip manufacturers are free to do whatever they want with the designs.

The reason Apple's chips are custom is because their chips are only manufactured for them. No one else uses Apple's particular chip designs but Apple.

The reason Apple customizes its own chips is because they are able to optimize the OS and chip to work together much more efficiently. That is the reason the iPhone has so much better battery life in a thinner phone than any other smart phone. Also the reason why iOS does not require 1GB of RAM.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post

Of course there are some modifications, but essentially the CPU and GPU are off the shelf. Apple package them together into their own System on a Chip, but what's

That's not a bad thing. There's no reason to custom design hardware any more when there are perfectly good chips ready for use. Makes life much easier for developers too.
post #30 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post

Of course there are some modifications, but essentially the CPU and GPU are off the shelf. Apple package them together into their own System on a Chip, but what's

That's not a bad thing. There's no reason to custom design hardware any more when there are perfectly good chips ready for use. Makes life much easier for developers too.

On the contrary.
Apple customizes their chips more than you think, and for good reason. Apple's custom chips combined with their proprietary software make their final products impossible to copy or emulate in any meaningful way.
post #31 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post

If these were Samsung's designs with minor modifications then how is Apple able to move its ARM chip manufacturing from Samsung to TSMC?

these new ones are Marvell based but still ARM. they are dumping samsung for marvell. since each ARM CPU is a bit different from the rest apple is tweaking their compiler to produce good code rather than just "standards" code. it's not like PPC/x86/ARM differences
post #32 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post

This will be more or less the same SOC in the Playstation Vita. Not sure why Apple chips are always called 'custom designed' as they're the same ARM and Power VR components many other manufacturers use.

Just because it has 'Quad Core' and 'Power VR' written on the spec sheet does not make it the same chip. What about the RAM? Memory Controller? ALU? Number of Transistors? Clock Frequency? Address Bus? Interconnect Speed?

See where I am going with this?


EDIT: Oh, one more thing. "ARM" isn't a "component", its a specification for an instruction set and a member of the RISC family of Instruction sets.
ARM = Advanced RISC Machine
RISC = Reduced Instruction Set Computer

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post #33 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

I'd never buy one. That's not how anyone would want to use that OS. Apple even covered that.


I've actually used a horizontal facing touch screen computer. I have never reached for a mouse faster in my life.

Edit: I mean Vertical

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post #34 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by benanderson89 View Post

I've actually used a horizontal facing touch screen computer. I have never reached for a mouse faster in my life.

Do you mean vertical?

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post #35 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Do you mean vertical?

yes that

Can you tell I've been at work all day?

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post #36 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by benanderson89 View Post

yes that

Can you tell I've been at work all day?

Somewhat.

To be fair, I wouldn't necessarily want a completely horizontal touchscreen, either. Something at the same angle as the Apple Keyboard would be best. You can put the computer hardware in the wedge underneath made by the angle of the screen.

Boom, new desktop paradigm.

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post #37 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post

these new ones are Marvell based but still ARM. they are dumping samsung for marvell.

Er, no.

Since the A5, and arguably the A4, Apple's iOS SoCs are their own. Yes, they license designs and masks from ARMH and PowerVR, but the design is their own. For the A5, they currently contract the fab to Samsung. For 2012? It looks like TSMC is fabbing the A6 and maybe even a rev of the A5.

Marvel may contract out their fab to TSMC or maybe it is Global Foundries, who knows, but they too license from ARMH. The Armada XP doesn't even have an on-die GPU. Suffice it to say, such a SoC is not destined for any Apple computer. Maybe a router/server thing, but without a GPU, it isn't going into any iOS device or personal computer.
post #38 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Somewhat.

To be fair, I wouldn't necessarily want a completely horizontal touchscreen, either. Something at the same angle as the Apple Keyboard would be best. You can put the computer hardware in the wedge underneath made by the angle of the screen.

Boom, new desktop paradigm.

I spend all day infront of a terminal window, I believe it is draining me of all my brain power. One day I'll forget up from down and get in bed to leave for work.

Something at the same angle as Apple's keyboard? You mean something like this? http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-x_7AM9iMFJ...over-stand.jpg

But really, I've used a vertical touch screen (i used to have an Acer Iconia W500 in a stand) and it was awkward at best. Plus my arm very nearly fell off. Even using my iPad standing vertically drives me batty.

I don't think a new paradigm would evolve, just a more finger friendly skin for already existing GUIs such as the version of Finder in Lion or the Unity Desktop in Ubuntu 11.04.

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post #39 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Never said it was. DID say that it doesn't work in a traditional computing format.



I'd never buy one. That's not how anyone would want to use that OS. Apple even covered that.

iOS also doesn't mean touch screen, it simply means ARM based, not arm based.
post #40 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrike View Post

Er, no.

Since the A5, and arguably the A4, Apple's iOS SoCs are their own. Yes, they license designs and masks from ARMH and PowerVR, but the design is their own. For the A5, they currently contract the fab to Samsung. For 2012? It looks like TSMC is fabbing the A6 and maybe even a rev of the A5.

Marvel may contract out their fab to TSMC or maybe it is Global Foundries, who knows, but they too license from ARMH. The Armada XP doesn't even have an on-die GPU. Suffice it to say, such a SoC is not destined for any Apple computer. Maybe a router/server thing, but without a GPU, it isn't going into any iOS device or personal computer.


when the original ipad came out people looked at the A4 and saw that it was a Samsung SoC with some apple modifications. it has been well documented. the people at apple are fairly smart and know that you don't have to reinvent the wheel every single time to please the iCult with the NIH attitude

A4 doesn't have a GPU either. the RAM and GPU go into a single package kind of like the original intel i core CPU's
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