What’s Inside Apple’s Tablet?

In a week from now, Apple may announce a new kind of a tablet-styled computing device that has more names than Black Eyed Peas has hits. But the important question for me is what’s inside. Today we have some details on device’s innards.

RIP Microprocessor Startups

I’ve been talking about the enormous amount of cash it takes to create any kind of chip company and expressing doubts about the number of startups we will see getting financial backing to create truly innovative ideas in semiconductors. Analyst Linley Gwennap apparently feels the same way, because he looked at the sale of P.A. Semi to Apple and the recent sale of Montalvo to Sun (likely for less than the $73 million it raised) and concludes:

“The Apple deal will double the $126 million invested in P.A. Semi, a positive return but modest by VC standards. With the possible exception of RMI (which predates Dobberpuhl’s company), we expect P.A. Semi will be the last processor startup to generate a positive exit after such sizable funding. Montalvo will probably be the last processor startup to even raise that kind of money. Microprocessors have become a big-boy game; newcomers need not apply.”

As the last big microprocessor startup standing, Raza Microelectronics (RMI) was the brainchild of Atiq Raza, who formed a company that was later bought by AMD and turned into one of the company’s core microprocessors. RMI has raised more than $120 million to build communications and networking processors. I don’t want to believe it’s the end of startups trying their hand against the likes of AMD or Intel, but until we come to a breakthrough in materials, ways to reduce the IP hurdles or the cost of masks and design, entrepreneurial chip engineers will have to focus on power managment and cooling, MEMS and RF.

Will the DoD Fight Apple Over P.A. Semi?

Ever since Forbes.com reported that fabless chip company P.A. Semi was being acquired by Apple for $278 million, there has been a lot of debate as to why. I thought it was all about the iPhone, but not everyone agreed.

And as we argued, news started leaking out that some powerful P.A. Semi customers were hopping mad over the deal. The Department of Defense is worried that Apple will stop production of the PWRficient processor that is designed into many new armed services initiatives.

On Monday (April 21), P.A. Semi informed its customers it was being acquired and it could no longer guarantee supplies of its chips. The startup did not identify the acquiring company but said that company may be willing to supply the chip on an end-of-life basis, if it could successfully transfer a third-party license to the technology.

The EE Times further adds:

The source said he is aware of more than 10 defense systems using the PWRficient CPU, one of which recently forecasted it will use 70,000 of the chips over the next ten years. The board company alone forecast it would sell $100 million in products based on P.A. Semi chips over the next four years. Users include defense giants such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, the source said.

Apple Buys Non-Intel Chip Maker

I don’t think this will show up in tonight’s quarterly report, but Forbes is reporting that Apple bought chip company P.A. Semi with the apparent hopes to use them to create chips for the iPhone. Unsurprisingly, Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not comment on our purposes and plans.” Mr. Dowling, I realize that Apple doesn’t usually comment on any question that a news outlet might ask you, but how are we supposed to run Windows Mobile on our iPhones if you don’t tell go with a small Intel chip?

I jest, don’t attack!

This is interesting, though because Intel claims that its new mobile-targeted chips will be “central to handheld computing.” It seems that the purchase of this small (150 employees) company is to remind Intel that just because they are in Apple’s computers, doesn’t mean they will be in Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch.

I have never heard of P.A. Semi, but they created a super non-power-sucking 64-bit dual core microprocessor in February 2007 that they claim is 300-400 percent more efficient than other processors.

Apparently, negotiations with P.A. Semi took place at Steve Jobs’ home. If that is true, what does it take to get a meeting with Jobs at his home? I am no CEO, but that seems like a pretty big honor to be invited to a CEO’s home.

(via Forbes)

With iPhone In Mind, Apple Buys Chip Maker

Apple has acquired PA Semi, microprocessor design firm for $278 million in cash, reports Forbes’ Erika Brown. PA Semi was started by Dan Dobberpuhl, a chip designer closely associated with Alpha and StrongARM chips developed by Digital Equipment.

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.

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