Apple's proprietary iPhone chips may not surface till next year

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Apple's fairly public plans to design a family of exclusive chips to power its next-generation iPhone and multi-touch handheld products may not fully materialize until sometime next year, according to the Wall Street Journal, which provides an overview of the matter with a few additional details.



The report published Thursday recaps the Cupertino-based company's acquisition of the 150-person P.A. Semi chip design firm and the subsequent hires of two key (1, 2) chip architects from ATI/AMD, including former chief technology officer of AMD's graphics products group Raja Koduri, who the financial paper says started work at the iPhone maker this week.



It adds, however, that the company's efforts to amass its own team of chip designers may be even more extensive than once thought. In particular, the report points out that there are more than 100 people listing current Apple job titles on their LinkedIn professional networking profiles with past expertise in chips, including veterans of Intel, Samsung and Qualcomm,



The Journal even rifled through Apple job postings on a variety of employment websites and turned up dozens of interesting calls for chip engineers, including two listings for people versed in handwriting recognition technology, others for designers with expertise in chips for managing displays, and one for a position that involves "testing the functional correctness of Apple developed silicon."



Citing people familiar with the matter, the paper went on to note that Apple even participated in a job fair this month "for soon-to-be-unemployed engineers at memory chip company Spansion," which filed for bankruptcy last month. Similar efforts were reportedly in motion even before the company's acquisition of P.A. Semi in April of 2008, which has largely been seen as its most significant move towards internally developed silicon to date.



As has been noted repeatedly by AppleInsider, and confirmed by comments from Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, this emerging family of chip designers spearheaded by the P.A. Semi crew is being tasked with crafting a future generation of chips for Apple's multi-touch devices that will deliver advanced gaming graphics and specialized features while simultaneously improving battery consumption and allowing the company to maintain more secrecy around its intellectual property.



"People familiar with the situation say Mr. Jobs told P.A. Semi engineers last April that he wanted to develop chips internally and didn't want knowledge about the technology to leave Apple," the Journal said. It adds that company executives have long shared their concerns that information shared with outside vendors regarding current iPhone chip designs -- which include tweaked versions of broadly available Samsung processors -- may have have found their way into chips sold to rivals.



Still, Apple's is said to be facing its share challenges in developing its first batch of custom chip designs, with "people familiar with Apple's plans" suggesting the specialized processors may not turn up in shipping products "until next year at the earliest." If true, this would raise new questions about the components making their way into the third-generation iPhone due this summer, which is expected to sport a noticeably different architecture from the first two generations of the touch-screen handset.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    vinney57vinney57 Posts: 1,162member
    Ooh First! (that's the tradition isn't it?)



    Very smart strategic move - pedal to the metal.
  • Reply 2 of 35
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member
    unless apple has it's own fab, there will be leaks



    they will still have to send the tapes to china for the samples to be manufactured and some of those could be "lost" or "extra" copies made
  • Reply 3 of 35
    ivan.rnn01ivan.rnn01 Posts: 1,822member
    Glad to think same way WSJ does. Just commonsense to use...
  • Reply 4 of 35
    floccusfloccus Posts: 138member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post


    unless apple has it's own fab, there will be leaks



    they will still have to send the tapes to china for the samples to be manufactured and some of those could be "lost" or "extra" copies made



    Two things:



    First, while it would make better sense from a supply chain point of view to fab chips overseas, there are fabs in the US they could utilize most likely.



    Second, this issue w/ leaks is more the design houses which produce what Apple is asking for and selling that to others. Anyone could just buy whatever device gets Apple's new silicone and try to reverse engineer it, its just harder than having Samsung give you the same chip b/c you asked them for it.
  • Reply 5 of 35
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    I was hoping that the PA Semi work would come out this year. Is this an all-or-nothing endeavor with chip design or can the consolidate small parts slowly over time into their SoC design?
  • Reply 6 of 35
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,797member
    I didn't think these things would show up that quickly. I remember people insisting that Apple was working on these chips a year before Apple bought the company.
  • Reply 7 of 35
    virgil-tb2virgil-tb2 Posts: 1,416member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    ... Apple's is said to be facing its share challenges in developing its first batch of custom chip designs...



    should be:



    "... Apple's is said to be facing its share of challenges in developing its first batch of custom chip designs ..."
  • Reply 8 of 35
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,756member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post


    should be:



    "... Apple's is said to be facing its share of challenges in developing its first batch of custom chip designs ..."



    Well, if you want to get picky, I would like to know what they are talking about when they say "Apple's is..."

    It could be Apple's chip design team--or it could be a visiting -'s- cut off from an inappropriately used "it's."

    I don't really care, but as long as you brought it up...
  • Reply 9 of 35
    dagamer34dagamer34 Posts: 494member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post


    unless apple has it's own fab, there will be leaks



    they will still have to send the tapes to china for the samples to be manufactured and some of those could be "lost" or "extra" copies made



    The technology may be "leaked" but it's much less likely that a data sheet about a custom Apple chip will be leaked with it. Plus it also makes figuring out how the chip works in order to copy/hack it a LOT harder if it's nowhere near an off-the-shelf part.
  • Reply 10 of 35
    agaaga Posts: 42member
    While component costs are Cheap. Push off building your own. Keep up the R&D.

    When component costs increase - Build your own at a price no one else can match, because of R&D.



    Buying up IP and future IP, great for the legal play.

    Using that IP to bait your opponents for the priceless play, endless amounts of fun.



    $30 Billion plus cash on hand, enough to supply that fun run.



    Only thing to watch out for - those guys in Washington that might need some.\
  • Reply 11 of 35
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,273member
    I figured Apple would be delivering the fruits of PA Semi crew labor in 2010.



    It just makes sense in a way because we're at the beginning of nextgen core introductions from ARM (Cortex A8 and then A9 MP) and even Imagination is bringing multi-core GPU to the table.



    These cores will be available en masse in 2010 and there will be custom designs built around them.



    I'm glad Apple's moving from off the shelf parts to custom design. A tailored suit almost always looks better than off the rack.



  • Reply 12 of 35
    aphelionaphelion Posts: 736member
    With the PA Semi acquisition and recently added talent, Apple stands to advance the state of the art for mobile internet devices. This advance will be limited to Apple products because no competitor will be able to match the R&D and expertise need to create similar SOCs.



    Any designs that this effort produces will be strongly protected by IP patents and not that easy to copy, even if massive mounts of money were available to create knock offs.



    Aphelion
  • Reply 13 of 35
    quinneyquinney Posts: 2,526member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aga View Post


    While component costs are Cheap. Push off building your own. Keep up the R&D.

    When component costs increase - Build your own at a price no one else can match, because of R&D.



    Buying up IP and future IP, great for the legal play.

    Using that IP to bait your opponents for the priceless play, endless amounts of fun.



    $30 Billion plus cash on hand, enough to supply that fun run.



    Only thing to watch out for - those guys in Washington that might need some.\



    Nice



    You should post more than once a year
  • Reply 14 of 35
    I have been in the chip synthesis business for a long time. Even if Apple were to leverage all of the IP in the current ASIC designs it got with the P.A. Semi deal it would take a good 9-12 months to design a new SoC that would provide additional functions.



    Given Apple's penchant for providing great product differentiation I would think they would want to make some MAJOR changes to the existing IP they already have. With the recent big name hires (the two from AMD) it's clear Apple is going to do some really big stuff. Doing big things takes time.



    Even when they are done with the design part of the process (getting to the "tape out" stage) they then have manufacturing and testing of the new hardware. Then software can get a crack at the new hardware. All of that takes time. It's not done in a couple of months.



    I can't wait to see what they come up with. It might take a couple of product cycles, but I see Apple changing the way mobile devices are built on the inside that the competition will not be able to duplicate for a very long time. The term SoC means "System on a Chip". I want to see the ENTIRE system on a single die. Now that would be cool. Just one chip that does it all. Hey, I can dream can't I??
  • Reply 15 of 35
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,273member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lecube View Post


    I can't wait to see what they come up with. It might take a couple of product cycles, but I see Apple changing the way mobile devices are built on the inside that the competition will not be able to duplicate for a very long time. The term SoC means "System on a Chip". I want to see the ENTIRE system on a single die. Now that would be cool. Just one chip that does it all. Hey, I can dream can't I??



    I do too. Stability, performance and a plethora of other admirable traits come easier when you have large scale consolidation into chips.



    I think Apple really is in tune with the new Frontier coming that is distinctly different from the desktop OS paradigm.



    Here Microsoft is not the 800lb Gorilla and as long as Apple can break the reliance on Windows and Office the sky is the limit.



    The future is looking fantastic.
  • Reply 16 of 35
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,642member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post


    unless apple has it's own fab, there will be leaks



    they will still have to send the tapes to china for the samples to be manufactured and some of those could be "lost" or "extra" copies made



    If I remember correctly, PA Semi did devices specially for the Military and Government, that alone will not allow them to fab them in certain counties. There are also plenty of foundries in the US. IBM has some of the biggest and they sell foundry time to lots of companies
  • Reply 17 of 35
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post


    If I remember correctly, PA Semi did devices specially for the Military and Government, that alone will not allow them to fab them in certain counties. There are also plenty of foundries in the US. IBM has some of the biggest and they sell foundry time to lots of companies



    And if Apple makes their phones in the country they could be up higher on list of acceptable HW. I know some high-end Cisco routers are fabbed in the country for security reasons. However, we aren't talking about a a few thousand devices that are so so expensive that rolling in the extra cost of manufacturing is an issue. Can Apple handle (say in 2010) the volume of 40 million iPhones and iPod Touches being made state side and would such volume be enough to make the added cost of manufacturing negligible.



    PS: It was stated that Apple was working with PA Semi well before the buyout and that the fruits of this would appear by this year. Now it's 2010 because of these GPU designers coming into Apple?
  • Reply 18 of 35
    jazzgurujazzguru Posts: 6,435member
    I wonder if Apple also might be considering designing some proprietary chips for Macs down the road.
  • Reply 19 of 35
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    And if Apple makes their phones in the country they could be up higher on list of acceptable HW. I know some high-end Cisco routers are fabbed in the country for security reasons. However, we aren't talking about a a few thousand devices that are so so expensive that rolling in the extra cost of manufacturing is an issue. Can Apple handle (say in 2010) the volume of 40 million iPhones and iPod Touches being made state side and would such volume be enough to make the added cost of manufacturing negligible.



    PS: It was stated that Apple was working with PA Semi well before the buyout and that the fruits of this would appear by this year. Now it's 2010 because of these GPU designers coming into Apple?



    i read a similar story a few years ago about clothing being made in china. there is a lead time of 6 months or so and if fashions change then you are screwed. some company started making stuff in the US because it was a lot faster to react to market changes
  • Reply 20 of 35
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,797member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post


    I do too. Stability, performance and a plethora of other admirable traits come easier when you have large scale consolidation into chips.



    I think Apple really is in tune with the new Frontier coming that is distinctly different from the desktop OS paradigm.



    Here Microsoft is not the 800lb Gorilla and as long as Apple can break the reliance on Windows and Office the sky is the limit.



    The future is looking fantastic.



    We always have to keep in mind the answer Jobs gave in an interview when he was back at Next. He was asked about what he would do if he were back at Apple. His answer:



    "I would milk the Mac for all it was worth, and then I would move on to the next big thing."



    I don't remember the exact wording, but that summarizes it up.



    It sure do look as though it's what he's doing.
Sign In or Register to comment.