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.