updated 10:10 am EDT, Thu May 21, 2009
Apple ARM Cortex Job
Apple has posted a job listing that hints at the company's future hardware direction for the iPhone, iPod touch and possible other devices. The position for a High Perform/Low Level Programmer asks for someone familiar not only for programming assembly-level code for ARM processors, which Apple already uses in its handhelds, but for the NEON vector math units used in the newer Cortex architecture for the mobile chips. Apple is especially concerned about experience with vector math and particularly values anyone with additional knowledge of vector units through general CPUs, such as Intel's SSE or the AltiVec units found on PowerPC G4 and G5 cores.
Outside of supporting the newer ARM reference designs, the listing hints that graphics are a major component of the position. Apple hopes the recruit will implement "optimized pieces" of the Mac OS X image rendering system and will often end up working on visualization with other teams.
While it's uncertain whether the position will relate to custom Apple designs made with the help of recently acquired PA Semi or else optimization for other companies' chips, it points to Apple continuing to advance the processors in its handhelds and especially reinforces the company's recent swing towards graphics that has involved hiring former ATI executives.
Vector-based math is already a common element of modern graphics chipsets, which are often based on many small cores that are well-suited to vector operations; technologies like NVIDIA's CUDA or OpenCL can repurpose the cores for non-visual vector calculations as well as other tasks.