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ARM reports finger Apple as 'long term architecture licensee'

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Apple's clear interest in securing the rights to develop custom mobile processors based on the ARM platform appear to sync with comments made in financial reports published earlier today.

ARM Holdings plc, the group responsible for licensing ARM mobile microprocessor designs to hundreds of chip designers and manufacturers, disclosed in its Second Quarter earnings a deal with "a leading handset manufacturer," which many observers believe to be Apple.

The report noted that "Q2 also included four significant licenses with major OEMs," including "a leading handset OEM who bought a long-term architecture license to ARM's current and future technology for use in mobile computing." The report also included an aerospace OEM, a "leading consumer electronics OEM," and networking giant Cisco.

Apple and ARM

ARM outlined 11 new licensees for its various processor families, resulting in a grand total of 553 companies who use various ARM technologies. The vast majority of all mobile devices use ARM processors, and Apple is a key ARM customer with its high profile iPod and iPhone line. The real secret may be why Apple and ARM are keeping their licensing agreement quiet.

Apple developed ARM along with Acorn and design partner VLSI Technologies back in 1990, and became an initial user of ARM chips in the Newton MessagePad. After the Newton was discontinued in 1998, the company began selling off its investment in ARM to help finance its internal turnaround in the late 90s.

Apple again began using ARM processors in the iPod in 2001 and continues to use ARM-based chips in the iPhone, iPod touch, and its AirPort wireless base stations. These processors are currently designed and built by third parties, including Apple's close partner Samsung.

After Apple acquired chip designer PA Semi earlier this year, it became clear that the company wanted to expand its capacity to use specialized processors. In an interview with the New York Times, Steve Jobs later unequivocally said, "PA Semi is going to do system-on-chips for iPhones and iPods."

Apple moving back to custom designs

Such a move would return Apple back to the days before its 2005 partnership with Intel, which resulted in Macs from 2006 on being nearly identical under the skin to standard commodity Intel-based PCs. Throughout the 1990s, Apple designed various custom chipsets for Macs and other devices, as noted in the article How Apples PA Semi Acquisition Fits Into Its Chip History.

Having the resources and expertise to develop custom mobile chipset variants using standard ARM cores would enable the company to build more efficient mobile devices that are harder for competitors to clone with off the shelf parts. A CNET reviewer noted that Microsoft's Zune was a near exact copy of the iPod internally. That would no longer be possible once Apple developed its own custom processors and supporting chips.

It would also allow Apple to reinvest its blockbuster iPod and iPhone earnings into developing components perfectly suited to its own roadmap rather than being constrained to use more general purpose devices that include, for example, licensed support for Microsoft's Windows Media DRM, something that Apple has never used in the iPod line.

And Intel?

Apple's deal with PA Semi initially led some pundits to think that the company might abandon Intel to return to PowerPC processors, because PA Semi had been working with specialized PowerPC designs. However, Apple's relationship with Intel will more likely match its evolving relationship with ARM: increasing the use its own custom chips in conjunction with standard ARM or Intel processors or cores, thereby differentiating its offerings while retaining compatibility with existing software.

Combined with Mac OS X Snow Leopard's new Grand Central process management and hardware delegation in OpenCL, Apple will have the necessary software support ready just in time to take advantage of new desktop hardware developments that emerge from its PA Semi acquisition. That should result in a new crop of Intel Macs that advance beyond commodity PCs in features and performance.

Intel may also serve as Apple's specialized ARM manufacturer, since the company has no chip building capacity of its own. Alternatively, Apple could also return to Samsung to build its custom ARM processors, or work with Texas Instruments, which was an early investor in PA Semi and was widely rumored to be its components manufacturer.
post #2 of 14
Excellent move!
post #3 of 14
Agreed. I can't imagine anything but good coming of this.

And I think the speculation that it is Apple is spot on. What other company could it be?
The true measure of a man is how he treats someone that can do him absolutely no good.
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The true measure of a man is how he treats someone that can do him absolutely no good.
  Samuel Johnson
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post #4 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xian Zhu Xuande View Post

What other company could it be?

Dell
alles sal reg kom
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alles sal reg kom
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post #5 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by gar View Post

Dell

Aren't they selling TV sets or somthing?!
Apple Fanboy: Anyone who started liking Apple before I did!
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Apple Fanboy: Anyone who started liking Apple before I did!
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post #6 of 14
great news.

I just want Apple to make everything on their own so no one can have same chips or other parts. It will make them so competitive to Windows and others. I would love see Apple and Linux take over at least 50% of the PC market. Windows needs some break, i am very afraid of Windows 7 to monopolize the world.
Apple had me at scrolling
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Apple had me at scrolling
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post #7 of 14
We welcome the new overlord of chips... now with Apple's investments in Intel & Samsung... It's riding the... WELCOME to silicon valley... the Apple way..
post #8 of 14
Spot on as always Daniel. I know today's news from ARM would prick your ears!

Apple aren't wasting their time on slablet Macs with Atom. ARM is where it's at, and if they have their way it's where it's going to stay.
post #9 of 14
Makes sense.

When Apple purchased PA Semi they said they didn't want the PPC derivatives, they wanted the engineering talent. Which means custom chips. PA Semi also worked with ARM chips, and worked with very low power alternatives.

So I'd certainly think future iPhones/iPods. If they only started working on it when Apple bought PA Semi then there's still a fair wait - if they started a year earlier and their partnership culminated in the Apple purchase, then we could see it sooner.

Does the recency of this quarterly report mean they could only have started in the last quarter?

ps. How about an AppleTV with ARM chip and iPhoneOSX
post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveGee View Post

Aren't they selling TV sets or somthing?!

Apparently, they are working on another music player.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121738346889295815.html

Supposedly, they hired that wit Enderly to advise them on it.

While I like the man personally, he's almost always wrong, so good luck to them with that.
post #11 of 14
As cool as it would be to have Macs with custom graphics cards and audio cards I am concerned that it might affect things like gaming. True I don't play a lot of games because I have a Wii for that but if Apple had custom graphics and audio chipsets they would have to do a lot of work to ensure that OpenGL is able to fully mimic the features of graphics cards that most of the games support.

EA's titles don't support Intel graphics chips only NVidia and ATI so if Apple made custom chips then it stands to reason none of these machines would be supported by EA. Not that I'm a fan of EA, I consider them to be talentless hacks but they are a big name that are finally "supporting" the Mac.

Maybe at the same time as making their new chipsets they can build Wine or Cider into Mac OS X and get it to fool the games into thinking they are running on NVidia or ATI. That way if the chips are as awesome as we would expect them to be we could show those idiot PC users that Macs can not only play PC games but can play them infinitely better than PCs can. The benefit to us is that we can buy any PC game and run them on the Mac.
post #12 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by GregAlexander View Post

Makes sense.
ps. How about an AppleTV with ARM chip and iPhoneOSX

now thats what i'm talkin' about!

add a multi-axis accelerometer based remote(or a few) and you've got the beginnings of a bad-arsed gaming console then too.
post #13 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by lowededwookie View Post

As cool as it would be to have Macs with custom graphics cards and audio cards I am concerned that it might affect things like gaming. True I don't play a lot of games because I have a Wii for that but if Apple had custom graphics and audio chipsets they would have to do a lot of work to ensure that OpenGL is able to fully mimic the features of graphics cards that most of the games support.

EA's titles don't support Intel graphics chips only NVidia and ATI so if Apple made custom chips then it stands to reason none of these machines would be supported by EA. Not that I'm a fan of EA, I consider them to be talentless hacks but they are a big name that are finally "supporting" the Mac.

Maybe at the same time as making their new chipsets they can build Wine or Cider into Mac OS X and get it to fool the games into thinking they are running on NVidia or ATI. That way if the chips are as awesome as we would expect them to be we could show those idiot PC users that Macs can not only play PC games but can play them infinitely better than PCs can. The benefit to us is that we can buy any PC game and run them on the Mac.

Any game which does not support Intel graphics chips does so because the Intel chips are either too slow or lacking features required by the game. There's nothing particularly magical about nVidia or ATI's GPUs, other than that they're higher quality and more featureful. No one writes directly for a particular GPU these days, everyone uses OpenGL or DirectX with some Windows applications.

If, say, ATI invents a new feature particular to an ATI chip, game manufacturers may or may not take advantage of that, but they'll do so in an optional way so as to not alienate their customer base.

If Apple did decide to make GPUs for some reason, they would not have to worry about game developer support as long as they're capable of make a chip as good as ATI or nVidia's (or even Intel). If they decide to implement some sort of new esoteric feature, that particular feature may be ignored by the development community, but their chips would still be capable of running modern games.
post #14 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darshu View Post

Any game which does not support Intel graphics chips does so because the Intel chips are either too slow or lacking features required by the game. There's nothing particularly magical about nVidia or ATI's GPUs, other than that they're higher quality and more featureful. No one writes directly for a particular GPU these days, everyone uses OpenGL or DirectX with some Windows applications.

If, say, ATI invents a new feature particular to an ATI chip, game manufacturers may or may not take advantage of that, but they'll do so in an optional way so as to not alienate their customer base.

If Apple did decide to make GPUs for some reason, they would not have to worry about game developer support as long as they're capable of make a chip as good as ATI or nVidia's (or even Intel). If they decide to implement some sort of new esoteric feature, that particular feature may be ignored by the development community, but their chips would still be capable of running modern games.

Let's not kid ourselves, it's all about sales.

Once upon a time, there were many more games for the Mac, but they disappeared when Mac sales went into the toilet. The gaming industry also sees that Mac users, as a group, are less interested in games than PC users.

With consoles becoming such an important component of gaming, computer games are less important anyway.

If Apple's sales continue to increase the way they've been doing for a few more years, and users buy games in good quantities, then we will see more games on the Mac, regardless of how Apple implements its graphics.
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