updated 07:25 pm EDT, Thu September 27, 2012
Company drops OMAP5 after seeing Apple's A6
Earlier this week, Texas Instruments announced that it was getting out of the consumer-product chip business and focusing on embedded industrial chip uses, a blow to rivals who had been looking at the company's forthcoming OMAP5 chip as a rival to Apple's speedy A6. TI had been supplying Open Multimedia Applications Platform (OMAP) chips based on ARM designs to phone and tablet makers such as Amazon, Motorola, Nokia, LG, RIM and other companies, but was feeling the heat of increased competition and pressure to keep pace.
With TI's exit, the open market for rivals to Apple's A-series of chips is down to Intel's Atom line, Samsung's self-designed Exynos, Qualcomm's Snapdragon and NVIDIA's Tegra line. Like Apple and Samsung, Texas Instruments had built the OMAP lineup on ARM's "system on a chip" that was then customized to various degrees. The yet-to-be-released OMAP5, which may not now make it to market according to AppleInsider, was to be among the first using ARM's latest Cortex A15 as its base.
With Apple's A6, the company made a bold move to combine elements of various ARM chips along with its own unique designs to create a chip that is not as easily classifiable. While the A6 has some features of the Cortex A15, it uses less power and appears to employ dynamic overclocking and other additions. Apple has been actively trying to recruit members of TI's chip design teams to help work on the next generation of A-series chips, given that both companies who design custom-made chips for their own products -- Apple and Samsung -- have completely dominated the smartphone and tablet industries, leaving others with little hope of developing chips that they can sell to manufacturers.
Apple has spent the last several years acquiring a set of chip design firms, and has the advantage of not having to try and create chips that can be used in a wide range of products, so Apple's A-series are usually tailored to the needs of the product it is being used for. This is in part why the company has been able to so rapidly progress from the A4 that powered the original iPad in 2010 to the A6 in the iPhone 5, which is currently rated the fastest smartphone in the industry. Apple has also cleverly created tiers of progressively lower-priced products that can use the older chips, leaving the latest ones to be tailored for the newest products.
Apple's chip designers work in their own separate buildings in Cupertino and in Austin, Texas (the latter alongside Samsung engineers who have their own Apple-focused facility) -- allowing tighter security and secrecy in its plans for future chip designs. While work on an A7 is presumably underway, nothing public has been revealed about it -- and researchers and teardown experts are still discovering intricacies of the A6 that were not previously known. While Apple may seem to have increasing difficulty controlling leaks from its Chinese manufacturing partners, the processor design process appears to be well under wraps. [via AppleInsider]