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Apple to use Intel MID chips for iPhone?

updated 02:15 am EDT, Wed October 3, 2007

Apple and Intel Moorestown

Apple may switch from a custom architecture for the iPhone to an Intel reference design once the technology falls into place, according to early reports from part makers. Although a teardown of the first run of the iPhone revealed that it uses an ARM-based processor and a custom mainboard, the company is said to be investigating a switch to Intel's future mobile Internet device (MID) architecture known as Moorestown. The new platform is based on a much cooler 45-nanometer manufacturing process than the chips in today's handheld PCs and would not only be ten times more power-efficient in active use than the first Intel handhelds but would consume ten times less power while idle -- which could allow for nearly all-day battery life, according to Intel.

Such a move would have an impact on both Apple itself and the market as a whole, say the insiders. Intel has so far positioned the MID as an interim step between limited-use devices and full-fledged UMPCs with many of the full software features of the latter but a reduced mobile OS and a narrower focus. An iPhone using the same platform would open Moorestown to smartphones and other more universal handhelds. Notebooks could also be affected, the sources add.

The change would also bring the iPhone's codebase closer in step with that of the company's Mac computer range. ARM was technically designed by Intel but has never been software compatible with Intel's more widespread x86 core, and was ultimately spun away from the semiconductor firm to be used and modified by third parties like Marvell. A Moorestown-based iPhone would ease development for Apple by allowing mobile editions of Mac OS X to share some new features from the full OS editions without rewriting or recompiling instructions.

Moorestown is not due to launch until 2009 but would be based heavily on its 2008 predecessor Menlow, which would also use the smaller manufacturing process and is expected to support the wireless Internet technology Apple would need for an updated iPhone. 3G (HSDPA), WiFi, and WiMAX (4G) will all be options for the 2008 design and should be in place or improved in time for Moorestown's release.



By Electronista Staff
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  1. Peter Bonte

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2001

    0

    no apps

    For me this is the main reason Apple is not allowing 3P apps, switching to new hardware is much easier now and no legacy code to support.

  1. kgretton

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2005

    0

    Intel did not design ARM

    The ARM architecture was not designed by Intel but rather by a UK company called Acorn, a provider of 6502-based systems to education in the UK.

    They recognized the need for a high-performance 16-bit architecture and developed the ARM processor.

    ARM stands for Acord RISC Machine - RISC referring to a reduced instruction set computer versus the complex instruction set computer (CISC).

  1. JulesLt

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2005

    0

    Apple ARM

    As agreement to the above, the ARM CPU was designed in the UK as one of the first RISC processors - with some backing from Apple, who first used it in the Newton.

    Unlike Intel's x86 chips, and more like Power, ARM licensed the design to other manufacturers, including Intel.

    It was this business that Intel sold that off to Marvell.

    And yes, I buy the overall story - don't forget the comment from Intel's CEO about working with Apple on 'new devices'.

  1. InsideTronics

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2007

    0

    Intel StrongARM

    Just to complete previous comments, ARM Ltd. and Digital (DEC) co-design a version of the ARM core, called StrongARM. Later, DEC sold the business to Intel, looking for a new platform to replace the old i860 and i960 RISC processor lines. The StrongARM was discontinued, and Intel launched a new, more powerful version: the XScale. In June 2006, Intel sold the Application Processor line, based on the XScale, to Marvell, keeping the Communication Processor line (also based on XScale core). Why did Inted sell the successful PXA processors to Marvell? The answer is the Moorestown arquitecture. Intel planned to replace the ARM based line of processors with a low power one-chip-PC x86. Next year, we will see if Intel are right or not. Apple and the iPhone would be a good starting point.

    insidetronics.blogspot.com

  1. Clive

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Jan 2001

    0

    Intel reference

    Maybe this is what Apple wants, but isn't it going to be hard for Apple to differentiate on hardware features if everyone, including them, is using Intel reference designs!?

  1. Terrin

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2006

    0

    Not really

    It doesn't seem to be an issue with Apple's Macs. Intel provides the chips, but I believe the motherboard is specific to Macs. Moreover, it really is the marriage of hardware and software where Apple differentiates itself. Finally, who says other people will use the Intel processors?

    You wrote, "Maybe this is what Apple wants, but isn't it going to be hard for Apple to differentiate on hardware features if everyone, including them, is using Intel reference designs!"

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    0

    Re: no apps

    For me this is the main reason Apple is not allowing 3P apps, switching to new hardware is much easier now and no legacy code to support.

    So no 3rd party apps because Apple MAY change the processor. h***, why bother allowing them on the mac, then?

    And can't they do something like a universal binary, anyway?

  1. Clive

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Jan 2001

    0

    re: not really

    It doesn't seem to be an issue with Apple's Macs. Intel provides the chips, but I believe the motherboard is specific to Macs. Moreover, it really is the marriage of hardware and software where Apple differentiates itself. Finally, who says other people will use the Intel processors?

    I don't know what the issue is with Macs, but a "reference design" isn't the same as a processor. It basically means that this is the whole package of chips and motherboard, you can change a few things, but not much.

    I also think it's unlikely that Intel will manufacture chips/designs just for Apple.

    My main thought with "maybe this is what Apple wants" is that perhaps Apple just wants to manufacture as cheaply as possible - ie limit the R&D required on such devices. We'll see how the iPhone does over the longer term, but there isn't a great market for premium-priced phones: how much more expensive can it be than Treo/Windows Mobile devices with similar features?

    I think you can see this in the iPod market, where Apple is continuously under pressure to add features and cut the cost, because there are a large number of high-end vendors competing with Apple.

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