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5% of Apple core staff said on mobile CPUs, going all SSD

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.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. worksafe

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2010

    +2

    Not Big Enough

    I have heard that Apple was working on a combination HD/SSD unit which would makes sense since SSD's don't have the capacity that todays HD's do and until SSD's start ramping up the GB's on them their not going to be accepted as widely as HD's are, today.

  1. Orbifold

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2010

    +1

    smartphone suppliers not good enough

    Apple is becoming vertically integrated because suppliers are still producing components small and efficient enough for laptops and dumb phones but not good enough for smartphones. Henry Ford made steel and grew rubber trees for Model T's before suppliers could. Apple also has exclusive rights for Liquidmetal that should result in even thinner phones with fuel cells instead of batteries. Eventually, suppliers will catch up and then Dell will make a good phone but until then Apple is raising barriers to entry.

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +4

    Interesting News

    The SSD comment is a given, so not so interesting, but if Apple does have that much effort being put into chips, and if they have good people on staff, it could mean interesting things for the future of the industry.

    In that, for a very long time, there was basically one chip company--Intel. AMD was sort of tagging along releasing budget chips, but they were a distant second, and there was no third, period. ARM has shaken that up, but having a system builder also be a top chip producer would be something that to my knowledge hasn't happened since the '80s.

    It would also be a unique competitive advantage--ironically, one that could play out the exact opposite of the PPC era, or a fantasy version of the G5 era where that early performance lead kept pace with Intel.

    It's also worth noting, in terms of scale, that Apple could more or less buy Qualcomm at its current market cap, and could easily buy a majority stake in Intel at its current value, just with cash on hand. So in terms of finances, at least, Apple CERTAINLY has the money to do something big.

  1. iphonerulez

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Nov 2008

    +11

    That huge amount of reserve cash

    gives Apple an awful lot of leverage over most companies. There's almost nothing that Apple can't do to give themselves an edge over rivals. That's why I don't see why Wall Street continues to claim that Apple is being pressured by a company such as Amazon because it's offering a mediocre Fire tablet at a low price. I'd swear, it's as if Wall Street doesn't have a clue to Apple's global strength and I don't know why being that it's so obvious. It's highly unlikely that Apple will buy either Qualcomm or Intel because there'll likely be cries of monopoly or unfair business practices of cornering the market. Other computer companies are going to try to keep following Apple, but there's going to be a point where it won't even be possible. Even now, Apple has its aluminum unibody MacBook Air and other companies are having to go to fiberglass because they can't get enough aluminum or aluminum machining facilities. Apple having its own designers for ARM processors are like Apple being in the position of Intel if Intel decided to give exclusivity to their processors to only one or two companies. I honestly don't know what Apple could do that would be allowed to take out most of the competition so that Wall Street would give the company some respect.

  1. Inkling

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Jul 2006

    +3

    comment title

    "I have heard that Apple was working on a combination HD/SSD unit..."

    Let's hope that rumor is true. I'd love to get the combination in next years Mac mini, particularly if the OS was smart enough to conceal the fact that it was dynamically placing oft-used apps and documents on the SSD portion.

  1. facebook_Jeff

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2011

    +3

    Que up the fandroids...

    "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." You just know all the fandroid idiot wannabe's will spin this in the negative....Where's AndroidFTW been lately? He's been pretty quiet....maybe he finally got his account pulled.....

  1. chas_m

    Joined:

    +4

    I doubt SSD/HD hybrid

    I think Apple will be going all SSD. Yes, at the MOMENT that would be a hideously expensive thing to do, but knowing Apple I think what they would do is put a modest ssd in there for the OS and apps (which generally don't take up a whole lot of space) with room for a standard-form-factor 2nd drive. Hint: maybe where the optical drive USED to go ...

    Also, I think SSDs are on the verge of a price breakout/capacity increase where we could see bigger capacities selling for about the same price as the small capacities are now ... that's not happening tomorrow, but it could happen in the next couple of years.

  1. facebook_Robert

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2011

    +2

    It's not that complicated

    I've used an SSD drive as my main drive for ages now. It's not that complicated. Most of my machines just have a 200GB SSD boot drive, and thats good enough.

    However, on some machines I also have a 1TB secondary drive - a traditional drive.

    "Hybrid" drives are always a bad idea. Because if a file is not on your SSD, retrieving it is slow....the last thing you want to do is have slow downs or 'hiccups' at seemingly random times. Putting videos on your slow, but large drive, makes perfect sense, they are plenty fast enough to play the video. Put everything else on your fast SSD.

    Look, I've been using SSD not only for my own machines - but on large data warehouses as well. You don't want any auto caching scheme - even the highest end, multi-million dollar hybrid schemes from large storage vendors - they suck.

    You can, for example set up oracle to use some SSD, and some traditional drives - but you have to know your application and tune it manually.

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