Archive for the ‘ Apple ’ Category

Apple reportedly to hand processor orders to TSMC

Apple is reportedly looking to outsource the production of its A4 processor as well as the next-generation ARM Cortex-A9-based A5 processor to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), according to industry sources. The Apple A4 processor is currently exclusively produced by Samsung Electronics, and the previous S5PC100 used in the iPhone 3GS was also developed and manufactured by the Korean company.

TSMC declined to comment on the report.

With Samsung now competing directly with Apple with its own smartphones and tablet PC, Apple is reportedly concerned about leakage of its processor technology to a major rival in the end-use market.

In fact, Apple already began handling some A4 orders to TSMC in 2010 when Samsung’s capacity was unable to fulfill strong demand of Apple devices, the sources said, adding that the move at the time was perhaps to test TSMC’s capability.

According to Digitimes Research, the iPad 2 will support an enhanced version of the A4 and the A5 will power the iPhone 5. TSMC will initially produce the improved A4, and could likely become the exclusive manufacturer of the A5.

via Apple reportedly to hand processor orders to TSMC.

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Qualcomm’s Not a Shoe-In at Apple – TheStreet

Qualcomm’s Not a Shoe-In at Apple – TheStreet.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Qualcomm (QCOM) is in the running for a slot in the next Apple(AAPL) iPhone, but reports of a victory could be greatly exaggerated.

Apple appears to be lining up its field of parts suppliers for the iPhone 5 due out next year, and Qualcomm may be in the mix. A report by Taipei’s Economic Daily News Thursday cited by AppleInsider suggests that Qualcomm may provide the so-called baseband or wireless communications chips for the iPhone 5 and a new version of the iPad.

The reports helped send Qualcomm shares up 2.5% to $45.44 and knocked down chip shop Cirrus Logic(CRUS) 8% in Thursday morning trading.

While it’s no doubt certain that Qualcomm is among the field of designated suppliers for the upcoming LTE 4G version of the iPhone, it’s very likely that the primary vendor has yet to be chosen, say analysts familiar with Apple’s bake-off contests.

Infineon’s(IFX) wireless unit, which agreed to be acquired by Intel(INTC) a month ago, is the incumbent chip supplier to Apple’s iPhone and a leading candidate for the 4G job.

Also vying for the business is ST Ericsson, a 4G chip-making joint-venture between STMicro(STM) and Ericsson(ERIC).

If true to its track record, Apple will have a demanding list of feature requirements and prices to narrow the field to one primary vendor, say analysts.

The problem for Qualcomm is political.

The San Diego chip giant has been a key supplier to Motorola(MOT) and HTC for Google(GOOG) Android devices that compete against the iPhone.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor is also expected to be in some of Microsoft’s(MSFT) Windows Phone 7 devices coming next month, putting it squarely in the wrong camp.

The favorites in this race are Infineon and perhaps more attractively ST Ericsson, which is expected to be very eager to gain the iPhone design win and the primary supplier role, say analysts.

So while Qualcomm is certainly in the field, it’s doubtful to be the outstanding winner in Apple’s eye.

Apple to Use TSMC-Made Qualcomm Chips for iPhone, Daily Reports – Bloomberg

Apple to Use TSMC-Made Qualcomm Chips for iPhone, Daily Reports – Bloomberg.

Apple Inc. ordered Qualcomm Inc. baseband chips for the next versions of the iPhone and iPad, replacing Infineon Technologies AG, the Economic Daily News said, without saying where it got the information.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. will make the chips for Qualcomm, the Taipei-based Chinese-language newspaper said.

Apple should build a fab

a fab today. But what about in the near future? I’m s

via Apple should build a fab.

With Apple and its key foundry partner, Samsung Electronics, on a collision course in several end-user markets, Apple should consider building its own fab to make the A4 chip for its iPad and iPad. Apple should think about building a wafer fab. I’m not joking or merely trying to be provocative. I’d even bet that Steve Jobs has flirted with the idea.

Apple should consider—and I mean just consider—building its own fab to make the A4 (the engine for the iPad and iPhone) and follow-on processors. And at some point, an Apple-owned fab might be a necessary evil.

Fabs, of course, are expensive, and for years Apple has done fine without one. As a traditional OEM, Apple bought components, integrated them into systems and sold the finished products, content to let its chip suppliers shoulder the fab burden. Why mess with the formula?

Because Apple, with the iPhone and iPad, has become more systems house than traditional OEM. Like Cisco and IBM, Apple now designs its own complex ASICs. It even acquired IC design houses P.A. Semi and Intrinsity to bolster its ASIC design expertise.

What’s more, Apple and its key foundry partner, Samsung Electronics, are on a collision course in several end-user markets. But as a foundry, Samsung gives Apple a sweet deal for ARM-based processors and NAND flash supply. That makes it hard to walk away. There’s no guarantee another foundry vendor would offer preferential treatment or pricing.

So the Apple-Samsung foundry arrangement isn’t likely to dissolve anytime soon. But ego could be the third wheel in this relationship.

I believe Jobs wants more control of the supply (and perhaps manufacturing) chain to buffer his company from the chip industry’s boom and bust cycles. In boom times, for example, foundries struggle to keep up with demand, and OEM customers are at a disadvantage—a position from which strong egos don’t like to negotiate.

Meanwhile, Samsung and Apple are competitors in the smartphone, PC and tablet PC markets. Today that doesn’t worry Apple much, because the companies are worlds apart in branding. Apple’s brands are known the world over and are synonymous with cool. Samsung, too, builds solid, interesting products. But can you rattle off the names of its phone models and TV lines? Didn’t think so.

Apple and Samsung’s existing arrangement suggests a relationship in flux. Apple buys Samsung’s ARM-based MP3 chip set for the iPod. For the iPad and iPhone, however, Apple designs the ARM-based ASICs, and Samsung makes them on a foundry basis.

Apple today seems to call some of the shots at Samsung. The South Korean company recently announced a $3.5 billion fab expansion plan in Austin, Texas. Most of the spending will be funneled into Samsung’s logic business, and much of that will go toward serving Apple requirements, according to my sources.

Samsung’s logic business is currently centered in its home country, a geopolitical hot spot. I’d venture a guess that North Korea’s recent saber rattling in the direction of its southern rival made Jobs uncomfortable, and he nudged Samsung to make the logic-capacity investment in Austin.

Still, push might one day come to shove. As Samsung accelerates its smartphone activity, enters the tablet market and reenters the PC market, its identity as a competitor to Apple could weigh more heavily on the pair’s foundry relationship, and Jobs would want to exert more control over the A4’s supply.

I don’t expect to see Apple build a megafab for NAND flash; that kind of investment, given the dictates of Moore’s Law, would be unsustainable. But I could see Apple building a traditional, smaller-scale logic fab to gain more control over the A4 and its follow-ons.

Logic fabs can cost $4 billion to maybe $10 billion to build out, depending on the tool sets, but Apple could swing the funding. I am sure Texas would pick up some of the tab for a new fab on its soil. The same goes for New York.

In an age when real men go fabless, I concede it’s an unconventional idea. You might think it’s absurd. But an Apple A4 fab today could keep the iProduct franchise in hay—and Samsung at bay.

EETimes.com – Who’ll provide the power behind the mainstream business tablet?

EETimes.com – Who’ll provide the power behind the mainstream business tablet?.

I recently got An iPad to try as part of our analysis work on the Apple tablet, and it is becoming apparent to me that devices of this class will grow to be as popular as the current crop of e-mail-enabled smartphones.

Today we all carry our BlackBerries from meeting to meeting. Soon we’ll be

toting far more powerful devices-ones that will be at home in the netbook’s current market space while also performing some of the tasks now assigned to laptops.

The emerging platforms-including tablets that can be docked to a keyboard and clamshell designs with two screens, such as the MSI prototypes demonstrated at the International Consumer Electronics Show-promise to revolutionize electronic support of collaborative work.

Several questions about these devices come to mind. Who will own the major sockets once tablets enter the mainstream? Whose CPU will be the go-to processor for powering such a device-will it be Intel’s Atom, or will ARM find its cores in use? Which companies and technologies should we be watching?

When I got the iPad, Acer’s Aspire One netbook had already been collecting dust in my desk drawer for more than a year. I had never made good use of the Acer netbook; the screen felt small and clumsy, with its Windows panels and other accessories, and even for casual Web browsing, I preferred my larger laptop.

The iPad manages screen real estate much more carefully. The ability to rotate the screen to find the right orientation for the task at hand is a great feature; combined with Apple’s famous interface to pan and zoom via touchscreen finger gestures, it allows me to browse almost as comfortably as I can when using my 24-inch desktop monitor.

But would the iPad have enough power to enable me to work with business applications, which nowadays are predominantly Web-based? To determine this, I ran some software-based system testing.

I first pointed the iPad to the well-known SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, a test designed to measure a browser’s JavaScript execution performance. The tablet executed the test in 10.2 seconds.

I then ran the same test on the Aspire One, and the result was 20.7 seconds. Disappointing, considering that the Atom N270 used n the Aspire One is still found in plenty of netbooks, and, according to CPUBenchmark.net, the modern Z and N series CPUs for netbooks and mobile Internet devices are pretty much comparable to the N270.

Next, I ran Google’s V8 test suite and got an even bigger difference.

Whereas SunSpider code measures the cumulative time to run the test, the Google V8 test suite computes the inverse of the geometric mean of multiple test components. Essentially, the SunSpider test measures “how slow,” while the Google V8 test measures “how fast.” For the V8 test, the more points, the better. The iPad scored 97.8 points and the Aspire One a mere 21.6.

The intimal tests on the Aspire One were done using the default Microsoft Internet Explorer browser. I subsequently installed Apple’s Safari on the Acer device, and the netbook sped up like a Ferrari: The SunSpider test took a mere 2.8 seconds, and Google V8 scored 446 points.

At the end of the day, the Aspire One is more than four times faster than the iPad, provided you change the default IE browser to Safari or something comparable; otherwise, the Acer netbook is two times slower than the Apple tablet.

Considering both benchmarking results and the browsing experience, the Atom-powered netbook with default IE8 has severe performance limitations when using rich Web applications, while the ARM-powered iPad is quite adequate with Safari. The Atom processor’s speed advantage seems to be lost as soon as you run certain Microsoft software on it (.net and IE).

Indeed, for Web applications the IE engine is substantially slower than virtually anything else on the market. Microsoft has promised to improve the speed in IE9. But the increase might come at the expense of other features, such as security.

I also ported Netlib’s Whetstone and Dhrystone to the iPhone software development kit and to Microsoft Visual Studio. For the Microsoft platform, I compiled them both into .net and native code. Dhrystone is a fixed-point test; Whetstone focuses on floating-point. In modern computing, serious number crunching ought to be done in optimized primitives libraries (vector operations, compression, image and voice coding, BLAS, cryptography, XML parsing, regular expression parsing and the like), so I used single precision for the Whetstone test. The results are shown in the table below.

An interesting benchmark published in IEEE Journal suggests the recent ARM-based Tegra 2 outperforms recent Atoms.

Benchmarking is good, but today two things matter more in terms of performance: the speed of primitives, and the speed of bytecode (potentially, JITcompiled) written in Java, C#, Python, Perl or Flash (increasingly used to drive business logic and tie together primitives in multimedia application and games).

The Apple SDK provides for native, noninterpreted code using a rapid application development (RAD) environment, whereas on most other platforms (Android, Windows, webOS, Google applications), RAD normally involves some sort of bytecode. The two noticeable exceptions are the QT library, currently owned by Nokia, and Apple’s SDK. This is why code compiled in Apple’s RAD tool outperforms code produced by Microsoft’s RAD tool.

Nonetheless, my feeling is that bytecode will still be the choice for the majority of business logic. It will be interesting to compare the performance of the ThumbEE/Jazelle-enabled ARM platform with a recent Atom for Java and .net (for Atom only). I believe that ARM received a major competitive advantage through its years of work on bytecode acceleration (Jazelle) and JIT execution (ThumbEE).

On the primitives side, Intel’s open-source OpenCV and threading building blocks are widely used. Intel has the outstanding Integrated Performance Primitives, Math Kernel Libraryand XML Parsing Accelerator, but the blocks are not part of any popular development platform; each must be purchased separately.

When we develop for the Intel platform, we want the code to be compatible not only with Intel processors, but with others (such as those from AMD and Via Technologies) as well. In order to leverage the platform fully, Intel or and Microsoft must take the lead, standardize an accelerated primitives API across IA-32/IA-64 platforms and make sure that it is available in all deployments and development tools.

The only primitives library for ARM that I am aware of is Accelerate, from the upcoming Apple iPhone SDK 4.0. In my view, ARM has a small-investment/big-payout opportunity. It can provide the development community with a comprehensive set of accelerated primitives, aligned with different levels of ARM CPUs currently deployed.

Further, ARM should play a more active role in the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) project, which is essential for the ARM development ecosystem.

The sooner ARM realizes that it needs to cater not just to the OEMs that license its cores but to the development community and tool-chain ecosystem at large, the faster it can protect its “phone and below” market dominance while expanding toward mobile Internet devices and tablets.

At this point, it is hard to predict whether ARM or Intel will prevail in powering the mainstream tablet market. In addition to performance and power consumption, business factors as well as the overall ecosystem are going to play a substantial role in the outcome.

I believe both ARM and Intel should give more focus to the overall ecosystem (accelerated primitives, effective compilers capable of using extended instruction sets, standard APIs for power management, multicore performance) if they hope to fully leverage the technologies already implemented in silicon.

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iPad will not replace blackberry, as tablet like iPad lacks one key feature. Pocketability.  If you cannot pocket, you’ll not carry along. iPad in blackberry size means iPhone or Android smartphone. Maybe future business fashion embraces extra large pocket on belly to “pocket” iPad.

iPad, however, could replace netbook. What I noticed though these days is that clamshell type is actually more convenient sometimes.  Sleek design combining clamshell and tablet would be ideal for me.

For those devices that replace netbook and possibly work with main laptop for business use, Wintel will win in this domain. I don’t want to  buy all separate software for my office documents.

If MS certifies ARM that window can function perfectly on ARM, then it would be different story.

Now Intel works Android. Why not MS work on ARM?

Apple Buys Intrinsity, a Maker of Fast Chips – NYTimes.com

Apple Buys Intrinsity, a Maker of Fast Chips – NYTimes.com.

Apple wants the fastest chip for its mobile devices and has bought another chip maker to gain an edge over its competitors.

Apple has acquired a small Austin, Tex., company called Intrinsity, known for making zippy versions of a computer chip often found in mobile devices. The deal, which closed late last month and was confirmed by Apple on Tuesday, shows the company continuing to try to gain an edge in the mobile device market by purchasing technology and chip experts.

It is the second time in two years that Apple has purchased a small chip company to gain critical technology for making a faster processor that uses less energy.

“This adds another arrow to their quiver,” said Tom R. Halfhill, a well-known chip analyst for Microprocessor Report. Mr. Halfhill said his industry contacts put Apple’s acquisition price for Intrinsity at $121 million. Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, declined to comment on that figure.

“The purchase price is like pocket change to Apple, and they get a lot of benefit,” said Mr. Halfhill. Apple’s products should handle tough jobs like playing video better than competing gear while devouring less battery life, analysts said.

Ever since Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, unveiled the iPad in February, analysts in the technology industry have been obsessed with its innards. Chip analysts, in particular, zeroed in on the A4 chip that Apple credited with giving the iPad better battery life and more speed than similar devices.

The widespread speculation has been that the A4 chip relied on technology from Intrinsity to get its added processing power.

The speed of mobile device chips are typically measured in megahertz, and one of the more popular chips on the market usually runs at about 650 megahertz. Intrinsity’s engineers found a way to crank that speed up to 1000 megahertz, which happens to be the same speed as the A4 in the iPad.

Intrinsity has been working with a division of Samsung that manufactures chips on this speedy product. The same division of Samsung built the A4 chip for Apple, according to Chipworks, a firm that reverse-engineers and analyzes technology products.

By acquiring Intrinsity, Apple would be able to keep that 350 megahertz edge to itself.

Word of the acquisition began to leak out after technology trade publications noticed earlier this month that a number of Intrinsity employees had started to list Apple as their employer on the social networking Web site LinkedIn. Neither company, however, would discuss their relationship.

The people familiar with Apple’s situation say that efforts to create a new chip for mobile devices from the ground up are stalling. In 2008, Apple purchased another chip maker, called PA Semi, for $278 million. That start-up also specialized in making fast, low-power chips.

But a number of the PA Semi employees have left Apple — many of them disgruntled about their compensation, according to people with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly. Google, in fact, boughtstart-up called Agnilux earlier this month filled with PA Semi engineers.

The Intrinsity purchase was seen as a way to help Apple maintain a lead over other device makers while it deals with these issues.

Mr. Halfhill said Apple appeared to be building its own version of the ARM chip favored by makers of mobile devices. Other chip companies like NvidiaQualcomm and Marvell have made their own versions of ARM, in some cases spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.

Apple’s strategy of creating a custom chip for mobile devices runs counter to its approach in computers in which it purchases chips from Intel.

———-

Now it’s official that Apple bought Intrisity. intrisity hummingbird has been part of Samsung’s AP design. I guess Apple-Samsung collaboration going forward will be getting stronger, as A4 design and process get tied together.

Why Apple likes ARM – Big Tech – Fortune Brainstorm Tech

Why Apple likes ARM – Big Tech – Fortune Brainstorm Tech.

Apple is sitting on a heap of cash – more than $40 billion at last count – and the big question has been what the company will do with it. Investors in London this week are buzzing about one possibility: It might buy ARM.

ARM (ARMH) shares have shot up this week on the speculation, bringing them to levels they haven’t seen since 2002. As of now, it looks like it would cost a suitor more than $8 billion to bag the company.

So what gives? Does Steve Jobs really want to fork over billions of dollars for this company?

The answer, I believe, is yes – he very well might. But there are dozens of other tech companies, and probably a few regulators, who wouldn’t want to see that happen. Why? Read on.

First, try to get past the fact that you’ve never heard of ARM; it is arguably the most important player in the mobile hardware business today. (Take a look at this feature I wrote about the company last year.) The mid-sized U.K. firm develops the basic chip designs at the heart of practically all of the world’s cell phones, from the no-frills handsets common in rural India to the latest iPhone. ARM’s specialty is designing elegant, battery-sipping silicon that’s small enough to fit into gadgets and powerful enough to make them hum.

ARM doesn’t get much attention because of its unique business model. Rather than build its own chips, it simply licenses blueprints to companies including Qualcomm (QCOM), Texas Instruments (TXN), Nvidia (NVDA) and Apple (AAPL). Those companies then customize the designs and give ARM a small cut of every sale. The more sophisticated the phone, the more ARM technology it needs, and the bigger the payment ARM gets.

That’s a very different model from Intel (INTC), the biggest and best-known chip company in the world. Intel designs and builds its own chips in a soup-to-nuts approach that yields big revenues and healthy profit margins. The advantage to this model is that Intel has the talent and resources to produce some of the most powerful chips in the world, using the most sophisticated manufacturing methods. The disadvantage is that Intel makes a limited variety of chips, and there aren’t a lot of options for customization. Customers pretty much have to design their products around what Intel’s selling, not the other way around.

Lately Apple has shown a keen desire to exercise even more control over how its products work; the ARM-based A4 chip in the iPad was designed specifically for that device, and similar Apple-only chips are sure to appear in future iPhone and iPod designs. In fact, Apple gets roughly two thirds of its revenue from products that run on ARM-based silicon today, and that proportion is likely to increase as the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch grow in popularity.

Given its high reliance on ARM technology, Jobs might figure it makes sense to just own the company outright. He certainly can’t allow ARM to get swallowed by a competitor.

All of that said, there are several reasons why Apple might not actually end up owning ARM.

For one thing, there are too many other influential companies – folks like Google (GOOG), LG, Marvell (MRVL), Nokia (NOK) and Samsung – who depend on ARM’s technology to run their businesses, and they are sure to start a bidding war if they believe ARM is in play. Those companies might not have as much cash as Apple, but they can raise a stink.

And then there are the regulators. With so many companies threatened by the prospect of Apple buying ARM, some regulator somewhere would certainly argue that a sale would be bad for competition in the global mobile market. If they allowed Apple to buy ARM at all, I imagine they would demand assurances that ARM technology would continue to be available to Apple’s competitors under decent licensing terms.

Bottom line: It’s easy to see why Apple might want ARM, harder to imagine a deal going through. Can you imagine Steve Jobs owning the intellectual property behind the world’s cell phone chips, and happily licensing it to competitors who are building phones with Google and Microsoft (MSFT)? Me either.