When Apple launched the iPad back in the 2010, it surprised the tech world by announcing that it was powered by their own A4 System-on-chip (SoC). Since then it has used its own chips for iOS devices like the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad mini.
Even though iPhone 5 and the 4th generation are powered by dual-core A6 and A6X chip respectively, they’ve managed to outperform quad-core processors that are powering smartphones and tablets from its rivals.
Apple seems to have achieved this by using its own ARMv7 based processor design. The CPU core(s) aren’t based on a vanilla A9 or A15 design from ARM IP, but instead are something of Apple’s own creation.
It is speculated that Apple created its own ARM based CPU core by licensing the ARM instruction set architecture rather than licensing ARM’s Cortex A15 core as the original design goal for ARM’s Cortex A15 was targeted at servers.
Bloomberg now reports that this has given Apple enough confidence to consider switching from Intel chips to its own chips.
Apple engineers have grown confident that the chip designs used for its mobile devices will one day be powerful enough to run its desktops and laptops, said three people with knowledge of the work, who asked to remain anonymous because the plans are confidential. Apple began using Intel chips for Macs in 2005.
While Apple is now committed to Intel in computers and is unlikely to switch in the next few years, some engineers say a shift to its own designs is inevitable as the features of mobile devices and PCs become more similar, two people said. Any change would be a blow to Intel, the world’s largest processor maker, which has already been hurt by a stagnating market for computers running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows software and its failure to gain a foothold in mobile gadgets.
Apple has acquired a number of companies such as fabless semiconductor companies – P.A. Semi in 2008 and Intrinsity in 2010 and flash storage controller designer – Anobit in 2012 to build its in house expertise in chip design.
It also looks like Apple did not work with Samsung on the development of its new A6 processor and simply used them as a foundry to manufacture the chip. Samsung had apparently contributed to the design and development of processors used in previous generation iPhones.
It’s quite clear that Apple sees this as one of the major differentiators in the crowded, highly competitive smartphones and tablets markets, which accounts for a significant portion of its revenues, so we won’t be surprised if Apple takes this route even for Macs.
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