“Late Tuesday, in response to questions from Forbes.com, an Apple spokesman said Apple has agreed to buy a boutique microprocessor design company called PA Semi. The company, which is known for its design of sophisticated, low-power chips, could spell a new future for Apple’s flagship iPhone, and possibly iPod products as well,” Erika Brown, Elizabeth Corcoran and Brian Caulfield report for Forbes.

“The 150-person chip company, P.A. Semi, was founded in 2003 by Dan Dobberpuhl, who was a lead designer for the well-regarded Alpha and StrongARM microprocessors developed by Digital Equipment in the 1990s,” Brown, Corcoran and Caulfield report.

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not comment on our purposes and plans,” said Apple spokesman Steve Dowling. He declined to comment on the value of the deal, which a person familiar with the deal suggested was done for $278 million in cash. Apple is due to announce its quarterly earnings Wednesday,” Brown, Corcoran and Caulfield report.

“The decision to center the iPhone design around a chip that Apple could own marks a significant strategic choice by Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs, and is aimed at ensuring Apple can continue to differentiate its flagship phone as a raft of competitors flood the market. According to a source affiliated with the chip company, Jobs and Senior Vice President Tony Fadell led the tiny group of executives who spearheaded the acquisition, which included negotiations that took place in Jobs’ home,” Brown, Corcoran and Caulfield report.

“Although no current Apple products use P.A. Semi chips, Apple executives kept a close eye on the work of the start-up. Talks of acquiring P.A. Semi began only in the past few weeks. Employees have been notified of the deal,” Brown, Corcoran and Caulfield report.

“It will likely take at least a year before products incorporating P.A. Semi designs are ready… insiders suggest that Jobs plans to use future P.A. Semi chips exclusively within Apple products,” Brown, Corcoran and Caulfield report. “At that point, executives believe the company will have created a unique asset–a powerful microprocessor that sips power lightly and so can support just about any imaginable applications Apple’s software gurus can imagine.”

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “MacVicta” for the heads up.]

A rare, sizable Apple acquisition is always big news and, if Forbes’ speculation bears out, has the potential to keep the current and future fake iPhone makers (Nokia, Samsung, LG, HTC, etc.) trailing far behind Apple. We’ll have to wait for more details to arise before we can better size up Apple’s intent. Apple has some history with PA Semi, see this related article: Apple shunned chip start-up PA Semi for Intel – May 19, 2006