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ARM shows possibly iPhone-bound multicore mobile processor

post #1 of 32
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ARM is demonstrating the first working example of a multicore processor that may dramatically speed up smartphones. Meanwhile, Apple is looking for iPhone engineers that can write multithreaded code that may take advantage of ARM's breakthrough.

Limiting press exposure to a private event, the chip designer along with ST-Ericsson is running a chip based on its Cortex-A9 architecture on a Symbian-based test device at this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The design uses between two and four cores and is a successor to the ARM11 technology that dominates the market, including the Samsung chip in all current iPhone and iPod touch models. Just as on a desktop, apps can split their work across multiple processors; ARM touts it as potentially much faster than a single-core processor, but says it could ultimately use less power by completing the same work with two cores at half the clock speed or by finishing other tasks sooner.

Aside from its edge in parallel tasks, the Cortex-A9 platform also has twice as much floating point math power as previous designs. Moreover, it gives each core a NEON media accelerator that performs some of the functions that would normally be reserved for a digital signal processor, such as media encoding or decoding. ARM bases these on Simple Instruction, Multiple Data (SIMD) instructions like those found on most modern full-size processors.

A diagram of ARM's Cortex-A9 processor with its maximum four cores.

Both ARM and ST-Ericsson are quiet on how much progress the functioning chip represents. Officially, neither expects widespread use until the end of 2009 at the earliest opportunity. However, the public debut is an important step forward for the company, which counts most major embedded processor creators as licensees that in turn build the processors themselves.

And while the exact usage if any of Cortex-A9 in a future iPhone is equally a mystery, the test has a potentially deep impact on Apple's own plans. The Cupertino, Calif.-based firm is widely accepted as being a new but long-term client of ARM's and, as such, has easy access to the new architecture as well as its own eventual replacements.

Apple's recent acquisition, PA Semiconductor, is known to be developing a custom ARM chip specifically for iPhones.

Whether or not Cortex-A9 is used to any degree, a spate of recent Apple job postings hint that the iPhone maker is at least pinning its hopes on mobile multicore processing, even if it opts for its own designs. Listings show the company recruiting engineers for iPhone applications, media interfaces and photo utilities, and all ask that successful candidates ideally have experience writing multithreaded code -- the software ingredient necessary for exploiting the presence of two or more processor cores.
post #2 of 32
Keep in mind while reading the usual AI hype that ARM have had a SMP processor (4 way) for several years.
post #3 of 32
I think the iPhones out already have a dual core processor, or something to that effect. More cores may be helpful.

Also, I think SIMD means single instruction, multiple data.
post #4 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

I think the iPhones out already have a dual core processor, or something to that effect. More cores may be helpful.

Also, I think SIMD means single instruction, multiple data.

Neither version of the iPhone has a Dual Core Processor.

Your a fricking moderator. Do some research before passing on BS.
post #5 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

I think the iPhones out already have a dual core processor, or something to that effect. More cores may be helpful.

Also, I think SIMD means single instruction, multiple data.

http://www.arm.com/products/CPUs/ARM1176.html is the processor the iPhone has. Just one core. If the rumours regarding allowing background processes holds up, it's possibly that iPhone 3.0 will have another core to support the "more" processes. We'll see... More cores doesn't necessarily help, and certainly can make things harder.
post #6 of 32
Ive been holding off to buy an Iphone because i had just started my contract for my other phone a year ago but ive been telling myself no matter what Im buying the follow up to the 3G because i think this will be Primetime for the iPhone, but now with this info im starting to think that this year may not be after all and that I should wait for the next NEXT iPhone to get one lol

Unless ofcourse they implimented it in the upcoming iphone which I highly doubt. If they do though count me in, and even if they dont I might get one anyways if theres enough improvements to make this version worthwhile.

Either ways im excited for both the next iPhone and the future lower power multi-core:

Imagine that, a unibody multi-core processor iPhone sounds sweet
post #7 of 32
iPhone Rev 4

Quad Core ARM
Dual Core PowerVR

Yes.
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post #8 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

Also, I think SIMD means single instruction, multiple data.

Indeed it does.
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post #9 of 32
why wait for teh next next iphone? by the time it's about to be released there will be rumors of the next next next next iphone and you'll hold out for that.

you might as well hold out for one with 16 TB of storage that runs maya and can record 1080p video at 240 fps while simultaneously driving your car. personally, i just want a2dp in my next iphone.
post #10 of 32
I want my next iphone to be the same as my current (3G) iphone, only 1/3 the size, with a 3X bigger screen, and 2 weeks of battery life when simultaneously video conferencing, playing video games and watching porn.

is that so much to ask?
post #11 of 32
I hate to rain on everyone's parade, but I did want to point out that 'multi-threading' and multi-processor' are very different concepts. Multi-threading means (I think) having multiple software processes broken down into threads and executed simultaneously. It is a way of running mutiiple apps, initially on a single processor.

Of course that would still be an advance for the iphone, where no background apps are allowed currently. But I suspect the current iphone uses multi threading for things like mail and SMS.
post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by desarc View Post

why wait for teh next next iphone? by the time it's about to be released there will be rumors of the next next next next iphone and you'll hold out for that.

you might as well hold out for one with 16 TB of storage that runs maya and can record 1080p video at 240 fps while simultaneously driving your car. personally, i just want a2dp in my next iphone.

Uhm in spite of all the lovely sarcasm. I could hold of buying the next iPhone because as you may or may not have read I just got a phone a year ago and im still oncontract for it, and its not a horrible smartphone. hence why seeing as my contract is another two years because here in Canada the norm is three. Im not in a rush to get one. I just want one. and if I know that possibly better things will come for the following upgrade as oppose to this one. Why the hell would I go pay extra money to get one now. while in on a plan contract. When I could just get the next next one at a better price\
post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by hawkeyedoc View Post

I hate to rain on everyone's parade, but I did want to point out that 'multi-threading' and multi-processor' are very different concepts. Multi-threading means (I think) having multiple software processes broken down into threads and executed simultaneously. It is a way of running mutiiple apps, initially on a single processor.

Of course that would still be an advance for the iphone, where no background apps are allowed currently. But I suspect the current iphone uses multi threading for things like mail and SMS.

Multi-threading is an absolute must for using multiple processors. A normal app should spawn about 2 to 6 threads (very rough numbers), Valve Software did a great presentation on how multi-threading should be done, ie., deciding between granularity of threading which has tradeoffs in different threads waiting for each other to complete.

So, that said, multi-threading code on an iPhone is a must anyway to prepare for future CPUs (and even say to prepare for dualcore Atom), and if iPhone goes dualcore ARM this year, than yay! for background apps/processes.

We shall see...

PS. I'm not a coder but hopefully one would get the gist of what I'm trying to say. Seriously, there was a really excellent Valve Software presentation on how multithreaded coding for multicore CPUs applied to the future of gaming. Maybe it's floating around on the intarweb somewhere.
post #14 of 32
Put the miniport on one of these new iPhone or iPod Touch devices and it could replace the laptop and desktop by hooking into a big monitor.
post #15 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by hawkeyedoc View Post

I hate to rain on everyone's parade, but I did want to point out that 'multi-threading' and multi-processor' are very different concepts. Multi-threading means (I think) having multiple software processes broken down into threads and executed simultaneously. It is a way of running mutiiple apps, initially on a single processor.

Of course that would still be an advance for the iphone, where no background apps are allowed currently. But I suspect the current iphone uses multi threading for things like mail and SMS.

The iphone's OS, being UNIX-based, is inherently multi-threaded. Whether applications are or not is another matter. And yes, you're right, multi-threaded != multi-processor, although multi-threading is a requirement for an application in order for it to take advantage of multiple processors.
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post #16 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Whether or not Cortex-A9 is used to any degree, a spate of recent Apple job postings hint that the iPhone maker is at least pinning its hopes on mobile multicore processing, even if it opts for its own designs. Listings show the company recruiting engineers for iPhone applications, media interfaces and photo utilities, and all ask that successful candidates ideally have experience writing multithreaded code -- the software ingredient necessary for exploiting the presence of two or more processor cores.

It's pretty much impossible to write any modern Internet application without knowledge of writing multithreaded code. That has absolutely nothing to do with multi-core processors (unless you're writing kernel level OS code for managing threads).

I put "experience writing multithreaded code" on any of my job descriptions that require more than the simplest web programming. Apple's probably tired of hiring people who because they can throw some php together they think they know how to program.
post #17 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

Multi-threading is an absolute must for using multiple processors. A normal app should spawn about 2 to 6 threads (very rough numbers), Valve Software did a great presentation on how multi-threading should be done, ie., deciding between granularity of threading which has tradeoffs in different threads waiting for each other to complete.

So, that said, multi-threading code on an iPhone is a must anyway to prepare for future CPUs (and even say to prepare for dualcore Atom), and if iPhone goes dualcore ARM this year, than yay! for background apps/processes.

We shall see...

PS. I'm not a coder but hopefully one would get the gist of what I'm trying to say. Seriously, there was a really excellent Valve Software presentation on how multithreaded coding for multicore CPUs applied to the future of gaming. Maybe it's floating around on the intarweb somewhere.

So, what you are saying is that even though Apple promised background applications to run that are not their own they need a new processor to do this.

This would make ALL 3G owners that purchased the iPhone after this was announced decived by Apple and the current 3G iPhone can't handle the mulit-tasking needed to run background applications.

I'm glad I didn't get the 3G and anyone that did should take Apple to court for misleading the public during the WWDC.

This would mean you have to buy the next iPhone or even worse the iPhone after that to get what they promised would be live last September.

I thought Microsoft was bad but they are at least giving away Windows 7 to make up for their poor OS.

Apple should give a new iPhone to anyone that purchased a 3G iPhone.
post #18 of 32
First of all, I think it is irresponsible for the author of this article not to even mention the (single core only - in-order processing) ARM Cortex-A8, which is the direct successor to the ARM 11, and which is already available in many system-on-a-chips from the likes of T.I. (OMAP3), Qualcomm, Samsung, etc. The Cortex-A9 is the successor of A8, and not only adds multi-core support, but the cores are an out-of-order processing evolution of the A8.

Anyways, my point is that it is very unlikely the very next iPhone will use a Cortex-A9 because they are not even sampling yet, and production system-on-a-chips utilizing the cores won't even be in production until Q2 2010. (See T.I. OMAP4).

It is MUCH MORE likely the next iPhone will use a chip with the ARM Cortex-A8 which though limited to single core, is twice as fast as an ARM11 at the same clock speed, and which run at between 600-1000+Mhz. This core is used in the T.I. OMAP3 series which is used in the new Palm Pre..
post #19 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by eAi View Post

If the rumours regarding allowing background processes holds up, it's possibly that iPhone 3.0 will have another core to support the "more" processes.

I doubt that background processes will happen. There are many aspects of the iPhone OS X that need to be sped up and the battery life is good for such a device but it could be better. Having background processes, even with a faster, more efficient HW seems to put it back at square, if not a couple notches behind. IMO, the notification server is the best way to go.

Quote:
We'll see... More cores doesn't necessarily help, and certainly can make things harder.

Assuming iPhone v3 is based on Snow Leopard, and if Grand Central and OpenCL are completed, all the difficultly should be handled by Apple, not the 3rd-party developers.
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post #20 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by desarc View Post

why wait for teh next next iphone? by the time it's about to be released there will be rumors of the next next next next iphone and you'll hold out for that.

This is a very good point especially if you are about to sign a contract someplace else. I waited for the 3G model and I'm very surprised at how quickly it became essential. No other cell phone has demonstrated the utility that iPhone has. It integrates into ones life very quickly.
Quote:

you might as well hold out for one with 16 TB of storage that runs maya and can record 1080p video at 240 fps while simultaneously driving your car.

Letting the iPhone drive takes all the fun out of motoring. But yeah 16TB sure would be nice.
Quote:
personally, i just want a2dp in my next iphone.

Frankly Apple really needs to get serious about Bluetooth and support all the primary profiles. As a potential developer there are a number of very useful apps that could be writen for the iPhone if it where more communicative.


Dave
post #21 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I doubt that background processes will happen. There are many aspects of the iPhone OS X that need to be sped up and the battery life is good for such a device but it could be better. Having background processes, even with a faster, more efficient HW seems to put it back at square, if not a couple notches behind. IMO, the notification server is the best way to go.

Not to burst any bubbles here but you are way off base here trying to support any sort of notification server. The biggest problem with that technique is that you only solve a very small class of problems with the feature.

Now I'm not trying to say we will be running huge Apps like Excel in background on the current iPhone. Everybody should realize that won't fly. What I'm saying is that there is room for all sorts of apps that might never make a network connection yet need to operate in background.
Quote:


Assuming iPhone v3 is based on Snow Leopard, and if Grand Central and OpenCL are completed, all the difficultly should be handled by Apple, not the 3rd-party developers.

Clearly you are not a programmer. Multi thread programming can be either dead simple to do well or the most difficult challenge that a programmer is every likely to have to face. Apple can provide a lot of useful tools but it is the programmer that has to come up with the structures and code to make multithreading pay off.

In any event in many ways Snow Leopard will inherit from iPhone OS as much as iPhone OS has grown up from Mac OS. Apple engineers are already on record saying they learned alot from iPhone OS that could be used to improve Mac OS.

In any event yes the new tools will help, but good multithreaded code requires programmer effort.



Dave
post #22 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by winterspan View Post

First of all, I think it is irresponsible for the author of this article not to even mention the (single core only - in-order processing) ARM Cortex-A8, which is the direct successor to the ARM 11, and which is already available in many system-on-a-chips from the likes of T.I. (OMAP3), Qualcomm, Samsung, etc. The Cortex-A9 is the successor of A8, and not only adds multi-core support, but the cores are an out-of-order processing evolution of the A8.

Anyways, my point is that it is very unlikely the very next iPhone will use a Cortex-A9 because they are not even sampling yet, and production system-on-a-chips utilizing the cores won't even be in production until Q2 2010. (See T.I. OMAP4).

It is MUCH MORE likely the next iPhone will use a chip with the ARM Cortex-A8 which though limited to single core, is twice as fast as an ARM11 at the same clock speed, and which run at between 600-1000+Mhz. This core is used in the T.I. OMAP3 series which is used in the new Palm Pre..

My thoughts exactly. The A9 is 2 generations away from the current ARM11 in the iPhone. The next iPhone will be A8 for sure.... and there is alot of be excited about in the A8 itself. After seeing what Palm was able to put together using it, I'm really excited to see what possibilities it opens for Apple.
post #23 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by utsava View Post

After seeing what Palm was able to put together using it, I'm really excited to see what possibilities it opens for Apple.

Yeah, maybe they'll figure out how to forward contact details via SMS and how to implement copy and paste
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post #24 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by desarc View Post

personally, i just want a2dp in my next iphone.

You can already get it (in addition to AVRCP) with these adapters:

8Bananas BD-906
Wi-Gear MA110
Sony TMR-BT8IP

Though I agree that it would be nice to have it built-in.
 
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post #25 of 32
Having more processing power and/or multicore really isn't the big limitation I see on the iPhone -- the amount of RAM is. That and being able to properly share the audio output device. Those are the two limitations I'd like to see Apple address.
 
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post #26 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by auxio View Post

You can already get it (in addition to AVRCP) with these adapters:

8Bananas BD-906
Wi-Gear MA110
Sony TMR-BT8IP

Though I agree that it would be nice to have it built-in.

I personally don't want to use a dongle to do the job, it's too risky to the dock connector.
post #27 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

I personally don't want to use a dongle to do the job, it's too risky to the dock connector.

???

That's like saying I don't want to attach any USB devices to my computer because they might damage the USB port. The iPod/iPhone dock connector specification is well known and there are many 3rd parties building hardware to connect to it.

Sure you may drain the battery faster, but that's a price I'm willing to pay to be able to use my iPhone with something like this:

Burton/RED Audex Ear Pads
 
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post #28 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by auxio View Post

???

That's like saying I don't want to attach any USB devices to my computer because they might damage the USB port. The iPod/iPhone dock connector specification is well known and there are many 3rd parties building hardware to connect to it.

It's not so simple. Unless you're Sony showing off a lame ad campaign, or you're someone mocking Sony's ad campaign, you're not going to put the computer in your pocket. At the desktop, it's no problem, not only is it a very short connector, and it's not in my pocket with leverage. With those adapters, you get a big bulky dongle "on the go" and you need some way to keep it from flexing out of alignment of the main body. To make it a comparable situation, stick a USB flash drive into your notebook computer, don't remove it, and carry it around, and see how comfortable you are with that.

I didn't say that bluetooth audio wasn't attractive, I want it too, it just needs to be done better than that.
post #29 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

With those adapters, you get a big bulky dongle "on the go" and you need some way to keep it from flexing out of alignment of the main body.

ok, I agree on the dongle flex/snap problem.

I guess I just never put my iPhone in my pants pocket as I find it uncomfortable, and I usually have some form of jacket with a pocket I can put it into. So the extra dongle isn't a problem. But then maybe it's because I live in Canada and there's only a few months out of the year where I don't have a coat of some type on or with me.

Now using the iPhone with gloves on... that's a real problem for Canadians.
 
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post #30 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by auxio View Post

So the extra dongle isn't a problem.

It may not be a problem, but doesn't it seem a bit absurd and wasteful to have to attach a dongle containing a bluetooth chip when the iPhone has already got a bluetooth chip? It's high time Apple gave the iPhone a full Bluetooth stack. You would have thought that Apple could make some decent wireless earphones too - seems like a missed money-making opportunity to me.
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post #31 of 32
Wireless bluetooth stereo headsets don't necessarily work that well. Your body can easily block the signal. Bluetooth stereo headsets haven't taken off as a popular product, they are of no threat to wired headsets at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

It may not be a problem, but doesn't it seem a bit absurd and wasteful to have to attach a dongle containing a bluetooth chip when the iPhone has already got a bluetooth chip? It's high time Apple gave the iPhone a full Bluetooth stack. You would have thought that Apple could make some decent wireless earphones too - seems like a missed money-making opportunity to me.
post #32 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post

Bluetooth stereo headsets haven't taken off as a popular product, they are of no threat to wired headsets at all.

Most of them look pretty ugly. You would have thought that Apple, with its design expertise, could do a better job, and charge a premium.

Delivering a full bluetooth stack isn't just about A2DP, but about synching/data transfer and peripheral usage. The iPhone has decent video out; if there was a full bluetooth stack you could hook the iPhone to a TV/projector (via the dock connector) and to a bluetooth keyboard/mouse.
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