“Given Apple’s super-secretive ways, it’s quite a shock to find a company engineer disclosing something about the iPhone’s future innards on a public social networking site,” Ashlee Vance reports for The New York Times. “Wei-han Lien, the senior manager of Apple’s chip team, dished out the morsel on LinkedIn, saying he’s busy at work crafting an ARM processor for the next-generation iPhone.”
“While it’s a minor revelation, Lien’s statement would confirm what many have expected ever since Apple acquired chip start-up PA Semiconductor in April for close to $300 million,” Vance reports. “PA Semi had assembled an all-star cast of chip engineers, including Lien, and Apple confirmed that it bought the company for that talent. In a June interview with The Times’ John Markoff, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs went one step further, saying the PA Semi team would work on designing brand-new processors for future iPhones and iPods. The only question was which kind of processors.”
“The current iPhone includes ARM processors, which are very common in the mobile device industry. ARM Holdings is a British firm that licenses out its processor designs to other companies, who tweak the chips to suit their needs. While Apple refuses to confirm it, the company uses ARM processors made by Samsung in the iPhone, according to numerous analysts,” Vance reports. “By developing its own ARM variant, Apple could create a processor that meets the specific needs of the iPhone and iPod, building support for functions such as the touch screen or scroll wheel into silicon and possibly savings on costs by reducing the number of processors needed in each device.”
Prior to Apple’s purchase of the company, P.A. Semi attracted “the attention of military equipment suppliers who were intrigued by the low-power qualities of PA Semi’s chips. (They consume less than 20 watts apiece.) People familiar with the Defense Department’s intentions say that PA Semi chips are set to go into missiles, computers in fighter jets and surveillance equipment,” Vance reports. “‘By all accounts, the PA Semi chip is meritorious,’ said Will Strauss, an analyst with Forward Concepts. ‘There really was nothing else quite like it.'”
Vance reports, “When Apple bought PA Semi, it had no intention of morphing into a military supplier. The Defense Department, however, received push-back from suppliers who had already committed to long-term designs based on the microprocessor. These equipment makers urged the Pentagon to pressure Apple into continuing to supply PA Semi’s chips for several years, according to people familiar with the negotiations, who declined to comment on the record because of Pentagon restrictions. Apple eventually caved.”
There’s much more in the full article here.