updated 12:20 pm EDT, Sun October 9, 2011
Apple said with 1,000 CPU engineers
Apple has over 1,000 engineers working on its mobile processors, the late Steve Jobs purportedly mentioned a few weeks ago. An unnamed but "veteran" CEO said shortly after Jobs' resignation that the iconic Apple CEO had told him there were "1,000 engineers working on chips." With 20,000 workers in Apple's non-retail staff, TechCrunch noted in getting the leak, that amounted to five percent of the entire company.
The source explained it as singular goal to improve mobile technology as much as possible. A combination of this and a broader move to flash-based storage were going to be key to Apple's entire strategy in the future. While iOS devices and the MacBook Air were already all using solid-state technology, all of Apple's devices were eventually headed this route, something which could see a major rethink of its design.
"Getting low power and smaller is the key to everything," the source said. "Form factor no longer becomes an issue."
Apple started on the path to creating its own processors in 2008, when it bought PA Semiconductor with the express goal of designing mobile processors. While its designs are all variants on ARM architecture, it has shown a growing intent to make its designs stand out from the off-the-shelf chips from NVIDIA, Qualcomm, or TI that would justify such a large contingent for a company that isn't dedicated solely to processors. Recent benchmarking has shown that the A5 beats out Samsung's chips despite theoretically running at a lower clock speed, making the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 faster in many areas than the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Apple may be ramping up its efforts to preserve that lead. It's expected to switch to TSMC for the quad-core A6 and eventual A7 to be one of the first with a new 28 nanometer process. If true, it would have an early advantage over NVIDIA's rushed 40nm Tegra 3 and head off companies like Qualcomm that are also using 28nm. The A6 as such could widen the performance lead over most Android tablets and help keep the iPad 3, and later the 2012 iPhone, out in front.