Apple's PA Semi working on next-gen ARM chip for iPhone

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
The boutique chip design firm purchased by Apple earlier this year has been tasked with developing a specialized ARM processor for the next-generation iPhone, one of the company's engineers has revealed.



A New York Times blog post points to the public LinkedIn profile of PA Semi's senior principle architect Wei-han Lien, where he lists his current job function as "Senior Manager Chip CPU Architect at Apple" managing the "ARM CPU architecture team for iPhone."



The small revelation appears to confirm speculation that Apple was indeed the "leading handset OEM" who purchased earlier this year "a long-term architecture license" to ARM's current and future technology portfolio for use in its future mobile products.



Although analysts have long fingered an ARM-based processor at the heart of the first two generations of the iPhone, Apple has refused to confirm or deny the specific type of chip employed by the handsets.



Without providing details, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs told the Times earlier this year that his company's $278 million acquisition of P.A. Semi would drive the future of Apple's handheld products.



"PA Semi is going to do system-on-chips for iPhones and iPods," he said.



By returning to its roots and developing its own brand of ARM chip in-house, Apple stands to keep a tighter lid on its future product plans while possibly saving on costs at the same time. It will allow the company to innovate in a way going forward that will differentiate its handheld products from a growing array of competitive devices that will be left to rely on technologies available to the broader industry.



Separately, Apple is also believed to be the mysterious licensee of Imagination Technologie's current and future PowerVR graphics technologies, which will be tied into future ARM-based iPhone system-on-a-chip (SoC) designs.



For a more detailed explanation of how all the pieces fit together, please see AppleInsider's two page report: Apple's bionic ARM to muscle advanced gaming graphics into iPhones.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 60
    Reading a story like this makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside having just bought an iPhone yesterday.



    Oh well life goes on!
  • Reply 2 of 60
    Looks like Wei-han Lien is about to be out of a job. Keep us updated...
  • Reply 3 of 60
    This may be used in their enabled handheld line, but I still think that the P.A. Semi purchase is more focused on the Mac side of the things.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by razorpit View Post


    Oh well life goes on!



    Unless you plan on waiting at least 6 months for a new iPhone to be announced, and more likely 12 if it's going to be used in a new iPhone design, then your purchase isn't at the bleeding edge of their update cycle.
  • Reply 4 of 60
    Not unless it was an intentional leak, which is atypical from Apple.
  • Reply 5 of 60
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    Looks like Wei-han Lien is about to be out of a job. Keep us updated...



    That would be unfortunate, but it doesn't look like much of a revelation, even if it's not something Apple wants outsiders to know. The skills of someone like that is probably not something they want to lose, I would imagine a reprimand of some sort and that's all unless it happens again.
  • Reply 6 of 60
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,819member
    Here's hoping that Apple will finally be able to put a stop to hacking and jailbreaking the iPhone. With a custom processor it would seem this is a possibility. Jailbreaking has done enormous damage to the Apple brand reputation not to mention lost revenue and profits.
  • Reply 7 of 60
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post


    Here's hoping that Apple will finally be able to put a stop to hacking and jailbreaking the iPhone. With a custom processor it would seem this is a possibility. Jailbreaking has done enormous damage to the Apple brand reputation not to mention lost revenue and profits.



    Lost profits I can understand, but damage to brand reputation? I think that's a bit much, I certainly haven't seen evidence of that. A custom processor isn't going to do much if it's the software still has security holes.
  • Reply 8 of 60
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post


    Here's hoping that Apple will finally be able to put a stop to hacking and jailbreaking the iPhone. With a custom processor it would seem this is a possibility. Jailbreaking has done enormous damage to the Apple brand reputation not to mention lost revenue and profits.



    Sorry, I had to laugh at this.....
  • Reply 9 of 60
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,698member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    Looks like Wei-han Lien is about to be out of a job. Keep us updated...



    Highly unlikely. This is hardly a revelation. As the AI article states, Steve himself had already said that PA Semi were going to be working on SOCs for the iPhone and iPod. The only thing this adds is a confirmation that they're going to stick with the ARM architecture, which in any case was somewhat of a no-brainer.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post


    Here's hoping that Apple will finally be able to put a stop to hacking and jailbreaking the iPhone. With a custom processor it would seem this is a possibility. Jailbreaking has done enormous damage to the Apple brand reputation not to mention lost revenue and profits.



    Is this a joke post? I can't quite tell. I hope it is.
  • Reply 10 of 60
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post


    Here's hoping that Apple will finally be able to put a stop to hacking and jailbreaking the iPhone. With a custom processor it would seem this is a possibility. Jailbreaking has done enormous damage to the Apple brand reputation not to mention lost revenue and profits.



    And who said you Americans couldn't do satire. Fantastic job.
  • Reply 11 of 60
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    Lost profits I can understand, but damage to brand reputation? I think that's a bit much, I certainly haven't seen evidence of that. A custom processor isn't going to do much if it's the software still has security holes.



    I'd argue that Jailbreaking of the iPhone increased sales of the EDGE iPhone dramatically, has sped up the development of Apple's SDK and has made the iPhone better because of it.



    Similar to how the hacker community quickly jumped onto getting dual boot working on the first Intel Macs (that seems so long ago) which prompted Apple to release earlier than intended (or at all) the ability to dual boot Windows with a complete set of proper drivers.
  • Reply 12 of 60
    My predictions for MacWorld 2009:



    Steve is going to debut some product that includes a chip designed by PA Semi. My guess is it will be a iphone variant that will start Steve's plan to expand the the iphone into family of products.

    It won't be a next gen iphone but something else....perhaps the iphone "nano" or even an iphone "pro". It won't be called an imobile or an itablet because the sad reality is we are stuck with AT&T and their primitive 3G data plans and old fashioned celluar tech. 4G isn't here yet. So its still going to be an "iphone" type product.

    Whatever the mystery product that Steve will show off at MacWorld you can bet its going to be a wireless product. The new macs will be there but......so what.



    And there will be nothing exciting at the October 14th macbook event. Just updated macbooks with aggressively slashed prices.
  • Reply 13 of 60
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    I'd argue that Jailbreaking of the iPhone increased sales of the EDGE iPhone dramatically, has sped up the development of Apple's SDK and has made the iPhone better because of it.



    Similar to how the hacker community quickly jumped onto getting dual boot working on the first Intel Macs (that seems so long ago) which prompted Apple to release earlier than intended (or at all) the ability to dual boot Windows with a complete set of proper drivers.



    It can be argued, by forcing Apple to respond to these things on a schdule that they do not envision, leads to things like the crap they released for the 2.0 software.

    Now THAT is not good for the brand and does cost money.

    I understand the notion of forcing the software and hardware designs to move forward and make for a better consumer experience.

    But it is not without pain, ramming down Apple's throat the need to add features not currently planned at a rate of change they clearly can not handle.

    I'm not in favor of a final solution that would kill off jail-breaking, unless it would mean Apple would improve stability in the product line. At this point, it looks to me like their forced response to certain issues is coming too fast and could be a result of pressure from it's own devloper base and not from the competition or their competitions developer base.



    We've seen lots of delays for their products, and even with the delays the quality has not been very good. Probably by scaling back Snow Leopard they will be able to maintain and at least not get worse.



    I do think the iPhone 3.0 will be so propriatary that jail breaking will be a thing of the past, good or bad.
  • Reply 14 of 60
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    This may be used in their enabled handheld line, but I still think that the P.A. Semi purchase is more focused on the Mac side of the things....



    I'm not saying you are wrong, but I don't know where you get that from when every story on these developments specifically mentions ARM. The only likely destination for ARM chips are mobile devices, the absolute fanciest "closest to a real Mac" one of that category being the mythical tablet. Even if they come out with the tablet, it's far more likely to be running iPhone OS-X than Mac OS-X.



    On a side note could someone who knows anyone at Apple let them know how absolutely stupid, lame and confusing their OS nomenclature is?
  • Reply 15 of 60
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wbrasington View Post


    It can be argued, by forcing Apple to respond to these things on a schdule that they do not envision, leads to things like the crap they released for the 2.0 software.



    That is certainly true, but that is Apple's fault for releasing poor code, not the hacker community's. In the long run, competition is making Apple produce better products.



    Quote:

    Probably by scaling back Snow Leopard they will be able to maintain and at least not get worse.



    I'm not sure what scaling back SL means. What they have stated so far s a lot of work to the OS X foundation. There are a great many things that can go wrong with Grand Central and OpenCL. Dropping PPC will definitely help, but if they add Resolution Independence as standard I think that SL will be a pretty wonky at first.
  • Reply 16 of 60
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,594member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post


    Here's hoping that Apple will finally be able to put a stop to hacking and jailbreaking the iPhone. With a custom processor it would seem this is a possibility. Jailbreaking has done enormous damage to the Apple brand reputation not to mention lost revenue and profits.



    Wrong - How many jail broken iPhones were there? These were walking advertisements for a product not yet on the market in many territories. Highly targeted marketing at that. And lets not for a minute delude ourselves that Apple and the carriers in the said territories didn't see that. The most effective viral campaign ever.
  • Reply 17 of 60
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    T... I'm not sure what scaling back SL means. ... I think that SL will be a pretty wonky at first.



    To millions of people around the world, "SL" stands for "Second Life" and while I'm sure that's the dominant usage of those initials for the past five years or so, there are undoubtedly many, many others as well.



    Is it really that hard to simply spell out "Snow Leopard?" And for those who are just so hot to use poor acronyms at the drop of a hat, why not use a text expander utility. That way you can continue to use the lazy contractions and the the rest of us can actually make sense of what you are writing.
  • Reply 18 of 60
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post


    To millions of people around the world, "SL" stands for "Second Life" and while I'm sure that's the dominant usage of those initials for the past five years or so, there are undoubtedly many, many others as well.



    Is it really that hard to simply spell out "Snow Leopard?" And for those who are just so hot to use poor acronyms at the drop of a hat, why not use a text expander utility. That way you can continue to use the lazy contractions and the the rest of us can actually make sense of what you are writing.



    In all fairness, before your post, I've never seen anyone mention Second Life here.
  • Reply 19 of 60
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    In all fairness, before your post, I've never seen anyone mention Second Life here.



    I only use the Apple related abbreviations on Apple-related forums. I had to look up Second Life as I had absolutely no clue what it meant.



    Sometimes you have to learn a new trick. I know I found 'HD' and 'HDD' annoying at first after spending so many years using 'HD' to refer to hard drive.
  • Reply 20 of 60
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    This may be used in their enabled handheld line, but I still think that the P.A. Semi purchase is more focused on the Mac side of the things.




    I doubt it. PA Semi is into low-powered chips, which Apple is going to use in their consumer electronics.



    They'll stay Intel for their Macs as it gives an advantage in gaining market share for their Macs.
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