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Apple considering Intel chip for future iPhone

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 
Apple may eventually abandon its custom-designed Samsung system on chip (SoC) found at the heart of the iPhone for one developed by Intel, according to a new report.

Citing OEM channel sources, DigiTimes claims that Apple has been looking closely at Intel's Moorestown mobile Internet device (MID) platform processor introduced at the Intel Developer Forum last month.

Although not expected until 2009, Moorestown chips will be based on Intel's 45-nanometer manufacturing process and therefore promise to be ten times more power-efficent than today's embedded mobile chips, enabling longer battery life in smaller form factors.

Similar to the Samsung SoC that Apple uses in its existing iPhone design, Moorestown will combine the CPU, graphics, video and memory controller onto a single chip. Based on Intel's "Menlow" MID design due out a year earlier, it will also incorporate wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, 3G and WiMAX.

Some Taiwanese channel vendors believe if Apple adopts the new Intel platform in its iPhone, it will reposition the MID market place and influence the future designs of not only mobile handsets, but also notebook systems.

For Apple, a move to the Intel architecture and away from the ARM-based Samsung chips would also present the opportunity for the Cupertino-based company to narrow the gap in the software code base of its handheld products -- like the iPhone and iPod touch -- with that of its Mac personal computer line.
post #2 of 39
I hope the doesn't mean that we will have to wait until 2009 sometime to see official support for third party programs on the iPhone.
post #3 of 39
One advantage Apple has with supporting OS X on more than one processor family* is that it will make some bugs more obvious and therefore make for cleaner code.

On the other hand, going with one processor family has a lower cost for coding and general maintenance. As long as Apple is supporting both Intel and PowerPC for OS X, they are getting the benefit that multiple families provides.

As for using an Intel chip in the iPhone, it does sound like a good idea with one exception. Writing viruses and such for OS X means targeting one of the processor families. Having everything using the same processor family makes OS X more of a target for the jerks who writes viruses.

*In this case processor family means processors using the same instruction set. i.e. PowerPC G5/G4/G3/...
post #4 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

I hope the doesn't mean that we will have to wait until 2009 sometime to see official support for third party programs on the iPhone.

If Apple's computers can support PowerPC then move to Intel while still supporting PowerPC during and after the transition, I thnk they won't want to leave several million first gen and possibly second gen users in the lurch, if whenever, they come out with an SDK and 3rd party apps.

They have enough iPhone lawsuits to deal with without incurring more.

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post #5 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

I hope the doesn't mean that we will have to wait until 2009 sometime to see official support for third party programs on the iPhone.

I suspect the processor won't be the gating factor. When Apple releases the developer tools, I suspect it will handle code for more than processor type when needed much as the OS X developer tools currently handle both PowerPC and Intel.

On the other hand, who knows how long before Apple will have the alleged iPhone developer tools ready anyway.
post #6 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear View Post

One advantage Apple has with supporting OS X on more than one processor family* is that it will make some bugs more obvious and therefore make for cleaner code.

On the other hand, going with one processor family has a lower cost for coding and general maintenance. As long as Apple is supporting both Intel and PowerPC for OS X, they are getting the benefit that multiple families provides.

As for using an Intel chip in the iPhone, it does sound like a good idea with one exception. Writing viruses and such for OS X means targeting one of the processor families. Having everything using the same processor family makes OS X more of a target for the jerks who writes viruses.

*In this case processor family means processors using the same instruction set. i.e. PowerPC G5/G4/G3/...

Virii have nothing to do with the processor family. This is humbug. Macs aren't more vulnerable because they now use x86.
post #7 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post

If Apple's computers can support PowerPC then move to Intel while still supporting PowerPC during and after the transition, I thnk they won't want to leave several million first gen and possibly second gen users in the lurch, if whenever, they come out with an SDK and 3rd party apps.

They have enough iPhone lawsuits to deal with without incurring more.

This IS Apple yopu're talking about, right?

The same company that said to buy a new iPhone if your old one is bricked?
post #8 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear View Post

I suspect the processor won't be the gating factor. When Apple releases the developer tools, I suspect it will handle code for more than processor type when needed much as the OS X developer tools currently handle both PowerPC and Intel.

On the other hand, who knows how long before Apple will have the alleged iPhone developer tools ready anyway.

I was sort of a joke. But, you can never tell.

I'm still hoping we will see something by the end of the year.
post #9 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

Virii have nothing to do with the processor family. This is humbug. Macs aren't more vulnerable because they now use x86.

I never said x86 made them more vunerable. What I said is that the more x86 processors running OS X, the bigger a target that combination becomes for virus writers.

Therefore having both Macs and iPhones using x86 will increase the likelyhood that people will [try to] write virsuses for OS X.
post #10 of 39
Ars has a nice review of this processor platform. I think this is the future engine of the iPhone as well.

They predict x86 will take over the embedded space.
post #11 of 39
EDIT: Nevermind, I get what he's saying now...
post #12 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear View Post

I never said x86 made them more vunerable. What I said is that the more x86 processors running OS X, the bigger a target that combination becomes for virus writers.

Therefore having both Macs and iPhones using x86 will increase the likelyhood that people will [try to] write virsuses for OS X.

Maybe, but there are significant hinderances. Both OSs do things very differently. Even virus writers have to make a lot of system calls, and I bet that most of their code is system calls. All that code would have to change. They don't even use the same bootloader, so bootloader attacks would need to change a lot. The most plausible line is that the virus writer doesn't have to know assembly for a new arch, but I don't think any writers used assembly for any of the attacks in the last 5 years. The architecture is just one piece of the puzzle, I think it is a pretty minor one.
post #13 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

This IS Apple yopu're talking about, right?

YEP, I'm talking 'bout Apple.


Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

The same company that said to buy a new iPhone if your old one is bricked?

YEP, the very same company that also said the iPhone is exclusive to AT&T, the same company that also said the iPhone is 599 then two months later that same iPhone is 399., the same company that also said an SDK is not available for 3rd party apps for now until security and operability cohesiveness are not a worry, the same company that also said publicly we're not against 3rd party apps, the same company that also said before you install firmware 1.1.1 beware...

Yep, Apple, that very same company, that has been saying a lot of things recently. Is that where that expression "talk is cheap" came from?.

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post #14 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post

YEP, I'm talking 'bout Apple.




YEP, the very same company that also said the iPhone is exclusive to AT&T, the same company that also said the iPhone is 599 then two months later that same iPhone is 399., the same company that also said an SDK is not available for 3rd party apps for now until security and operability cohesiveness are not a worry, the same company that also said publicly we're not against 3rd party apps, the same company that also said before you install firmware 1.1.1 beware...

Yep, Apple, that very same company, that has been saying a lot of things recently. Is that where that expression "talk is cheap" came from?.

"Talk is cheap" is a phrase that means there is doubt that what is said will come to pass, and proof will be necessary.

What in those items you listed do you feel won't come to pass?
post #15 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear View Post

I never said x86 made them more vunerable. What I said is that the more x86 processors running OS X, the bigger a target that combination becomes for virus writers.

Therefore having both Macs and iPhones using x86 will increase the likelyhood that people will [try to] write virsuses for OS X.

I know what you said. It won't be more of a target, because of what I said. These guys know that as well, that's why we haven't see any problems.

At some point, some problems will be seen, but it's not because of Intel, but rather because of the greater number of machines out there in the positions of money moving through them that these guys target.
post #16 of 39
Bunch of crap speculation, unless Apple want to release a brick with a 30 minute battery life - and that's taking into account the 10x reduction in power.

There's a world of difference between a compact, tiny ARM SoC as used in the iPhone (you've seen the disassembly photos, the motherboard is tiny), and Intel's new platform, whilst a significant improvement on what they have now, is still far bigger, and consumes far more power.

However Microsoft might base their ZunePhone on this platform, as they like brick-like mobile electronics.

Maybe in 2012 on 32nm with even more integration ... but it's not like ARM is standing still.
post #17 of 39
Apple, please bring it in ASAP. But only as a full --and I mean full-- Mac OS X on our hands!
post #18 of 39
I would believe this SoC offering from Intel would be incorporated into a larger form factor iPhone-like device, but not in the iPhone itself.
post #19 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Based on Intel's "Menlow" MID design due out a year earlier, it will also incorporate wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, 3G and WiMAX

Am I the the only one excited about the inclusion of HSDPA and WiMAX?
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post #20 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Am I the the only one excited about the inclusion of HSDPA and WiMAX?

No, I saw that too but Steve Jobs and others have said that 3G sucks the juice so I'd believe this chip would not necessarily go on an iPhone-sized device. Ultra-portable sure.

I hope I'm wrong and this is why Jobs and Co. haven't gone the 3G route yet; they were waiting for their buddies at Intel.
post #21 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTel View Post

No, I saw that too but Steve Jobs and others have said that 3G sucks the juice so I'd believe this chip would not necessarily go on an iPhone-sized device. Ultra-portable sure.

I hope I'm wrong and this is why Jobs and Co. haven't gone the 3G route yet; they were waiting for their buddies at Intel.

Steve Jobs says a lot of things. If he's waiting until 2009 for 3G he's nuts it means postponing the Asian launch until then, and no upgrade for the European market.
post #22 of 39
The unified code-base concerns is very much irrelevant, since the code is compiled, and the x86->ARM toolchains are very mature. The high-range TI OMAPs are already at 65nm, and can be expected to be at 45nm at the same time as this chip debuts.

I'll be surprised if the forthcoming Intel chip is cost-competitive with the 2009 OMAPs. I'll also be surprised if it's much better, and flabbergasted if it has anywhere near as capable low-power operation.
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post #23 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Splinemodel View Post

The unified code-base concerns is very much irrelevant, since the code is compiled, and the x86->ARM toolchains are very mature. The high-range TI OMAPs are already at 65nm, and can be expected to be at 45nm at the same time as this chip debuts.

I'll be surprised if the forthcoming Intel chip is cost-competitive with the 2009 OMAPs. I'll also be surprised if it's much better, and flabbergasted if it has anywhere near as capable low-power operation.

Have you read the article over at Ars? Hannibal suggests that apps written to run on x86 processors would then be able to run on these embedded chips and will be a powerful force that will make these chips more attractive than other embedded chips, ie ARM.

He predicts that these x86 chips will dominate the embedded space in the years to come. Of course we don't know if apple will even allow non-apple apps on the future iPhones or other similar devices that may be forthcoming but it would seem that Apple are moving and should move in that direction.
post #24 of 39
I don't know why you would assume that this chip is x86 based. x86 is a big outdated instruction set which is not exactly energy efficent (especially not in intel's hands). And speaking of that, would they be going for 32bit or 64 bit x86? Obviously if Intel is making a SoC with mobile devices in mind they are going to want to create a instruction set which is efficent.

That being said.. as pointed out by others, this chip is still far too large and power consuming to be in an iPhone sized (and powered) device.
post #25 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by sys3175 View Post

I don't know why you would assume that this chip is x86 based. x86 is a big outdated instruction set which is not exactly energy efficent (especially not in intel's hands). And speaking of that, would they be going for 32bit or 64 bit x86? Obviously if Intel is making a SoC with mobile devices in mind they are going to want to create a instruction set which is efficent.

That being said.. as pointed out by others, this chip is still far too large and power consuming to be in an iPhone sized (and powered) device.

All this talk of x86 may be a distraction from broader possibilities. I wonder if it's a reference to the ARM chip that Intel is still making, last I heard. They had a line of ARM chips that they sold, but they were still fabbing them for the company that "bought" the product line. I forget who was making the iPhone's chips, for a while, it was rumored to be Intel.
post #26 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by sys3175 View Post

I don't know why you would assume that this chip is x86 based. x86 is a big outdated instruction set which is not exactly energy efficent (especially not in intel's hands). And speaking of that, would they be going for 32bit or 64 bit x86? Obviously if Intel is making a SoC with mobile devices in mind they are going to want to create a instruction set which is efficent.

That being said.. as pointed out by others, this chip is still far too large and power consuming to be in an iPhone sized (and powered) device.


Because that's what the article at Ars says. Give it a read it's quite interesting.

As far as power consumption is concerned, Ars feels the initial Menlow platform will be capable of 6 hours of usage and 10 hours standby. When Moorestown is delivered it's supposed to be even more power efficient.
post #27 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by backtomac View Post

Because that's what the article at Ars says. Give it a read it's quite interesting.

As far as power consumption is concerned, Ars feels the initial Menlow platform will be capable of 6 hours of usage and 10 hours standby. When Moorestown is delivered it's supposed to be even more power efficient.

Yes.. Ok.. So x86 it is.. however those devices have very large batteries =) The iPhone would have to be the size of a small briefcase to get 6 hours of usage.. I'm going on 9 hours and I'm not even at 50% battery =)
post #28 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

All this talk of x86 may be a distraction from broader possibilities. I wonder if it's a reference to the ARM chip that Intel is still making, last I heard. They had a line of ARM chips that they sold, but they were still fabbing them for the company that "bought" the product line. I forget who was making the iPhone's chips, for a while, it was rumored to be Intel.

Samsung manufactures the iPhones processor. ARM processors are made by many different companies. Hitachi, Intel, Samsung, even IBM was fabbing them for a while.
post #29 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by sys3175 View Post

Yes.. Ok.. So x86 it is.. however those devices have very large batteries =) The iPhone would have to be the size of a small briefcase to get 6 hours of usage.. I'm going on 9 hours and I'm not even at 50% battery =)

More reading if you're interested.

The graphs are a bit confusing to me but it appears to me that Silverthorn (the cpu in the Menlow platform) has less than 0.55 power usage even under load.

Time will tell if silverthorn and the menlow/moorestown platforms live up to Intel's predictions. But it looks like Intel is going after the UMPC and handheld device market in a big way.
post #30 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by backtomac View Post

More reading if you're interested.

The graphs are a bit confusing to me but it appears to me that Silverthorn (the cpu in the Menlow platform) has less than 0.55 power usage even under load.

Time will tell if silverthorn and the menlow/moorestown platforms live up to Intel's predictions. But it looks like Intel is going after the UMPC and handheld device market in a big way.

Does appear that way, but there is a big difference between this going into a UMPC or even a handheld device and going into a cellphone.. the cellphone has the added power draw of the cellular network.. Far as I see the power useage of these is based on data network usage which is idle when not transfering data.. voice service is generally always trying to make connections with towers (or discover new ones) and uses more power.

Hey.. I'm not anti intel.. just don't think that this is something you're going to see apple using in a phone.. perhaps they have something else up their sleeve.. or they are just looking down the road for the future.
post #31 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by sys3175 View Post

Does appear that way, but there is a big difference between this going into a UMPC or even a handheld device and going into a cellphone.. the cellphone has the added power draw of the cellular network.. Far as I see the power useage of these is based on data network usage which is idle when not transfering data.. voice service is generally always trying to make connections with towers (or discover new ones) and uses more power.

Hey.. I'm not anti intel.. just don't think that this is something you're going to see apple using in a phone.. perhaps they have something else up their sleeve.. or they are just looking down the road for the future.


We didn't think that Apple would go Intel at all. People were still kicking and screaming that it wasn't possible after it happened.

Whatever Intel is going to do, you can be sure that Apple and other large OEM's already know about it.

You might remember that when Jobs showed the chart of Intel's power/performance vs. IBM's, we didn't bel;ieve that either. But, it was true.

The power used by this chip is pretty low, and it includes technologies that now use plenty of power. You might be surprised.
post #32 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

You might remember that when Jobs showed the chart of Intel's power/performance vs. IBM's, we didn't bel;ieve that either. But, it was true.

Actually, I don't think it is true yet. X86 has only just passed the PowerPC in terms of performance. It has been more power efficient, but not the multipliers Jobs was quoting.

These new chips may finally make that so.

Apple also spent some significant R&D on it's ARM LLVM compiler tools which we've not seen yet.

The other problem you've got with the iPhone OS v Mac OS is that from v1.1.1 the binaries are supposedly signed, encrypted and have checksums. One would hope Apple isn't stupid enough to insist on that on MacOS. If they did they'd kill open source and shareware development on MacOS too.
post #33 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by aegisdesign View Post

Actually, I don't think it is true yet. X86 has only just passed the PowerPC in terms of performance. It has been more power efficient, but not the multipliers Jobs was quoting.

These new chips may finally make that so.

Apple also spent some significant R&D on it's ARM LLVM compiler tools which we've not seen yet.

The other problem you've got with the iPhone OS v Mac OS is that from v1.1.1 the binaries are supposedly signed, encrypted and have checksums. One would hope Apple isn't stupid enough to insist on that on MacOS. If they did they'd kill open source and shareware development on MacOS too.

I would say we passed PPC performance a while ago, almost from the beginning.
post #34 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

I would say we passed PPC performance a while ago, almost from the beginning.

Benchmarks would say otherwise.

http://barefeats.com/quad16.html

Sure, we've now got 8-core Mac Pros but the old Quad G5 sometimes beats the Quad Intel and vice versa. There's no particular reason why you should feel second class on a late G5.

Further down the line in the laptops and iMac there's been much greater gains, particularly as the G4 was just so rubbish and sticking two cores in certainly makes you a believer. That's been the only real place we've seen PPC surpassed in performance.

Really, I still think Job's performance per watt thing was smoke and mirrors to get past the fact at the high end Intel weren't quite as fast as the graphs would show. If you weren't bothered so much about how much electricity your CPU used, the graphs were silly.

It'll be great if they can get the power down to the 5w and 0.5w levels they were claiming back then without making them less powerful than today's chips but it's a little early to count out the ARM in the iPhone and iPod.
post #35 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by aegisdesign View Post

Benchmarks would say otherwise.

http://barefeats.com/quad16.html

Sure, we've now got 8-core Mac Pros but the old Quad G5 sometimes beats the Quad Intel and vice versa. There's no particular reason why you should feel second class on a late G5.

Really, I still think Job's performance per watt thing was smoke and mirrors to get past the fact at the high end Intel weren't quite as fast as the graphs would show. If you weren't bothered so much about how much electricity your CPU used, the graphs were silly.

What is the power consumption of the G5 quad? Last I heard it was a real heater. I don't remember for sure but it seems like I remember a figure that was something like 500W of actual wall-power draw. Mac Pro runs at around half that. I think both figures are max load, IIRC, Mac Pro at idle is 175W. Not great, but still better than a lot of the G5s.
post #36 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by aegisdesign View Post

Benchmarks would say otherwise.

http://barefeats.com/quad16.html

Sure, we've now got 8-core Mac Pros but the old Quad G5 sometimes beats the Quad Intel and vice versa. There's no particular reason why you should feel second class on a late G5.

Further down the line in the laptops and iMac there's been much greater gains, particularly as the G4 was just so rubbish and sticking two cores in certainly makes you a believer. That's been the only real place we've seen PPC surpassed in performance.

Really, I still think Job's performance per watt thing was smoke and mirrors to get past the fact at the high end Intel weren't quite as fast as the graphs would show. If you weren't bothered so much about how much electricity your CPU used, the graphs were silly.

It'll be great if they can get the power down to the 5w and 0.5w levels they were claiming back then without making them less powerful than today's chips but it's a little early to count out the ARM in the iPhone and iPod.

That one test you peoduced shows the Quad as having an advantage in a very few areas. Those areas could be ascribed to programming as much as machine speed.

For almost everything else, the Intel machines rack up the scores.

As we go forward, we will see even more of that. IBM simply had no economic reason to update the G5 according to Apple's needs. It's too bad, because it was a superior architecture, but no longer.
post #37 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

What is the power consumption of the G5 quad? Last I heard it was a real heater. I don't remember for sure but it seems like I remember a figure that was something like 500W of actual wall-power draw. Mac Pro runs at around half that. I think both figures are max load, IIRC, Mac Pro at idle is 175W. Not great, but still better than a lot of the G5s.

Apple and Intel were talking about tenfold increases in performance per watt back when they switched. At best we're talking about double performance per watt in the Mac Pros but not double the performance. Performance stayed roughly the same as the previous Quads even if power consumption dropped to half.

If what you were after was more performance, Apple's slight of hand didn't deliver.

The G4 and PowerPC clones other than the G5 is oddly still better performance per watt than anything from Intel. It's problem is it's max performance is so poor, not it's performance per watt.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying the switch wasn't a bad thing, just the reason given was economical with the truth. It's clearly been good for Apple in it's core market - laptops and the iMac where the PowerPC was just wrong.

Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross

As we go forward, we will see even more of that. IBM simply had no economic reason to update the G5 according to Apple's needs. It's too bad, because it was a superior architecture, but no longer.

It was never a question of economics, just timescales from what I was told at the time by some IBM guys I know. But hey, history now.
post #38 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by aegisdesign View Post


It was never a question of economics, just timescales from what I was told at the time by some IBM guys I know. But hey, history now.

Economics determines timescales. It would have taken IBM much longer to pay off that R&D because of the low number of chips sold. It gets to the point where it doesn't pay at all. What happens is that the R&D gets stretched out to the point that the product no longer is competitive.

That was what was happening.
post #39 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by aegisdesign View Post

Apple and Intel were talking about tenfold increases in performance per watt back when they switched. At best we're talking about double performance per watt in the Mac Pros but not double the performance. Performance stayed roughly the same as the previous Quads even if power consumption dropped to half.

If what you were after was more performance, Apple's slight of hand didn't deliver.

The way I understood the charts, there would be a smaller short term difference but the long term difference would grow over time. Somehow I had the impression that the huge difference was something like five or ten years from the announcement. I don't remember the charts saying anything specifically about raw performance. Most of Apple's products needed low power, high performance chips to work satisfactorily. Personally, I'm happy with a much quieter Mac Pro than I was with either of my G5 towers that I had, and it's a better machine than those things in just about every way.

I wouldn't be surprised if Steve pressure-cooked the numbers too, Apple has tended to take the numbers that present them in the best possible light to an extreme of being less credible to anyone that's not under the RDF.
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