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A Close Look At Apple's A4 Chip

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the a-novel-in-five-parts dept.

Handhelds 245

PabloSandoval48 writes "Apple's A4 processor is heavily influenced by Apple's long-established relationship with Samsung and represents an evolution rather than a revolution in circuit design. A team of experts takes a look at the evidence on A4 in an attempt to determine its origins and the influence of recent Apple acquisitions in the area of chip design."

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pr4ocessor (0)

whrrr (1087271) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604402)

guess I'll go RT4FA

Re:pr4ocessor (0)

whrrr (1087271) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604600)

having read the article, I feel inclined to sadly report that no one has found any shiny new apple 'pr4ocessor' technology at their local bar, which would have been much more exciting than a fat-fingered r key.

Re:pr4ocessor (-1, Offtopic)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604740)

I'm using Windows Se4en

yay (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604410)

first comment?

Re:yay (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32605232)

Nope.

Evidence On The A4 (5, Funny)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604448)

A team of experts takes a look at the evidence on A4 in an attempt to determine its origins and the influence of recent Apple acquisitions in the area of chip design."

The team of experts concludes the A4 was designed by Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Revolver.

Re:Evidence On The A4 (1)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604490)

Yeah, that's about what I got from the article.

Re:Evidence On The A4 (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604568)

The A4 was design by the gimp, in the gay bar, with the fury handcuffs.

As are all apple products.

Re:Evidence On The A4 (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604640)

You get an Apple article on their sales? Its super easy to troll. These tech articles are a little more difficult.

Well played, good sir.

Not sure if this is right... (0)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604460)

...but if I remember correctly, the same A4 chip in the iPad is supposed to be showing up in the new iPhone. Can someone confirm?

Re:Not sure if this is right... (4, Informative)

Graff (532189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604498)

...but if I remember correctly, the same A4 chip in the iPad is supposed to be showing up in the new iPhone. Can someone confirm?

Apple does list the processor in the new iPhone 4G as being an A4:
iPhone Design [apple.com]

Re:Not sure if this is right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604732)

What are you reading? Its the 5th highlight on the page you listed....

"Apple engineers designed the A4 chip to be a remarkably powerful yet remarkably power-efficient mobile processor. With it, iPhone 4 can easily perform complex jobs such as multitasking, editing video, and placing FaceTime calls. All while maximizing battery life."

Re:Not sure if this is right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32605016)

What are you reading?

Re:Not sure if this is right... (1)

atrain728 (1835698) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605254)

What do you mean you people?

Re:Not sure if this is right... (1)

Graff (532189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605398)

What are you reading? Its the 5th highlight on the page you listed....

Erm, someone asked the question and I provided the link that confirmed that the A4 was the iPhone processor. What's the problem here?

I wasn't asking that question in my post, I was answering it. That's exactly why I used the html <quote> tag, to show that I was quoting someone.

Re:Not sure if this is right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604742)

slips off the tongue, I know, but it's the iPhone 4.... you see, it's neither a 4G phone NOR a 4th GENERATIONAL iphone product... only a 3G cell phone and the THIRD HW Gen from Apple, though it is the 4th iPhone ... so we call it... because they named it thus...

iPhone 4

Re:Not sure if this is right... (4, Informative)

pohl (872) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605494)

How is it not the 4th model of the iPhone? There was the original, which spoke the 2.5G Edge protocol, then there was the 2nd one which spoke a 3G protocol, then there was the 3rd phone - the 3GS - which added a faster processor and video recording, and now there is the 4th phone, dubbed the iPhone 4.

Re:Not sure if this is right... (5, Funny)

TheTrueScotsman (1191887) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605556)

That sounds like the basis for a religious text.

Re:Not sure if this is right... (3, Informative)

MBoffin (259181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604754)

This is overly pedantic, but it's the "iPhone 4", not the "iPhone 4G". It is the 4th generation of the iPhone, so it's "4G" in that sense, but it does not make use of any 4G mobile network.

You are right but it does use 4G networks (1, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605246)

This is overly pedantic, but it's the "iPhone 4", not the "iPhone 4G". It is the 4th generation of the iPhone, so it's "4G" in that sense, but it does not make use of any 4G mobile network.

Well since we are being pedantic, the iPhone 4 (and 3Gs for that matter) has full support for a variety of 4G networks being deployed, basically LTE.

AT&T is supposedly doing some trials next year and rolling out 4G in 2011.

Re:Not sure if this is right... (1)

Graff (532189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605310)

This is overly pedantic, but it's the "iPhone 4", not the "iPhone 4G". It is the 4th generation of the iPhone, so it's "4G" in that sense, but it does not make use of any 4G mobile network.

Yeah, it has been called the iPhone 4G in the press for some time and my brain hasn't reconciled its actual name with the name that has been used for the past year or so. That being said, it does support 4G once it becomes available as a service for iPhone-capable networks.

Re:Not sure if this is right... (0, Offtopic)

dingen (958134) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605424)

This is overly pedantic

No it's not, it's just being correct and calling things by its right name. It's not a bad thing to be precise.

Re:Not sure if this is right... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605466)

It's not a bad thing to be precise.

Unless "being precise" means calling something "Kinect". :p

Re:Not sure if this is right... (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604562)

According to the article,

Despite offering only an optimized version of a standard CPU, the A4 is becoming increasingly important to Apple's strategy with it appearing now in the iPhone and surely in iPod touches to be released in September—not to mention any future iOS product lines.

.... Yes.

Re:Not sure if this is right... (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604796)

There are processors sprouting-up like weeds. Intel x86, PowerPC, ARM, Cell, Atom, A4, .....

Re:Not sure if this is right... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604934)

we've always had different names for different products in the same family.

Intel x86 and Atom are the same x86 family

Arm and A4 are in the same Arm family

Cell is a powerpc core with added cores for "multimedia processing"

Re:Not sure if this is right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32605076)

PowerPC is just about dead in general-purpose computers, x86 has been around forever...

It's really more like Apple is sprouting up a bunch of ARM devices and sadly, not opening them as much as any given x86 system.

Re:Not sure if this is right... (0, Offtopic)

POTSandPANS (781918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605142)

FTA:

What we found was an APL0398 chip, presumably the next-generation processor from the APL0298 that we found in the iPhone 3GS.

The power of A4! (5, Funny)

Noren (605012) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604464)

I hear that the new A4 chip will allow the iPad to grow to 210 × 297 mm [wikipedia.org] !

Not interesting. It's a consumer-grade processor. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604508)

I don't see what's so interesting here. It's a standard, general-purpose, consumer-grade embedded processor. There are billions of these around in all sorts of devices.

Is this one of those things that people get excited about just because it's from Apple, but is otherwise totally unremarkable?

Re:Not interesting. It's a consumer-grade processo (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604572)

I don't see what's so interesting here. It's a standard, general-purpose, consumer-grade embedded processor. There are billions of these around in all sorts of devices.

Is this one of those things that people get excited about just because it's from Apple, but is otherwise totally unremarkable?

I think it is just because it is Apple. For some reason, the thought of Apple being involved in processor design makes these people jizz in their pants.

Re:Not interesting. It's a consumer-grade processo (1)

capo_dei_capi (1794030) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604718)

What makes it interesting is indeed only that it's made by apple. However, if you have a look at these market cap numbers, you may see why this could have some significant implications:
Apple [yahoo.com]
Intel [yahoo.com]

Re:Not interesting. It's a consumer-grade processo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604820)

Don't get too caught up measuring market cap. It's a number that financial analysts like to toss around, but it has little bearing in the real world.

Just look at what Apple sells, versus what Intel sells. Apple sells a huge number of over-priced products that provide little to no productivity improvements. People buy Apple products for entertainment, for pleasure, and as a status symbol. A hipster looking at Facebook on his iPad bought with daddy's money isn't contributing anything to society, aside from consuming a few $5 lattes and putting some cash in Starbucks' coffers.

Intel, on the other hand, goes out of its way to provide the most value at the lowest price possible. Their products are used not just for entertainment/pleasure/status symbols, but many users actually use them to get real work done. The real value that Intel provides is far greater than that which Apple could ever hope to provide.

It's foolish to compare them on market cap.

Re:Not interesting. It's a consumer-grade processo (1)

capo_dei_capi (1794030) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605050)

I agree, and admit that I put it unnecessarily sensationalist. I'm certainly not claiming that Apple will be producing chips for enterprise servers anytime soon. However, I do believe that we will never see an Apple product equipped with an Intel Atom. Further, I wouldn't say that the iPhone is without "business cred".
Anyway, I also vaguely remember that when Apple switched their computers from PowerPC to Intel, they said something about being pragmatic about processor choices, and that the day when they switch from Intel to another manufacturer's processors might come fairly soon. So, who knows, maybe another 5-10 years down the road we will see powerbooks based on Apple processors...

Re:Not interesting. It's a consumer-grade processo (0)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604628)

I don't see what's so interesting here. It's a standard, general-purpose, consumer-grade embedded processor.

Not exactly, which is what the article is all about. While the A4 is nothing revolutionary, it's not an off-the-shelf item either. Apple took a general purpose processor and re-designed it specifically for use in its mobile devices.

Re:Not interesting. It's a consumer-grade processo (0, Troll)

lederhosen (612610) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604726)

Of course it is an off-the-shelf processor, with an Apple logo on it.

Can I ask you what part that is not off the shelf (logo not counted)?

What part is redesigned *specifically* for their devices (logo not counted)?

Re:Not interesting. It's a consumer-grade processo (3, Insightful)

Cochonou (576531) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604966)

Well, if it's off-the-shelf, where can I procure it ?
This SoC is no more off-the-shelf that any ASIC, even if built from already-designed IP blocks.

Re:Not interesting. It's a consumer-grade processo (1, Interesting)

lederhosen (612610) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605166)

Of course its not literally off-the-shelf.

Neither is a Atom CPU with a different logo painted on it (and to be specific so that you do not misinterpret me, I do not claim that the only difference of the A4 is the logo).

The parent of my post said was:
"While the A4 is nothing revolutionary, it's not an off-the-shelf item either. Apple took a general purpose processor and re-designed it specifically for use in its mobile devices."

I see no evidence for that Apple redesigned anything. Do you know any re-design that is made "specifically for use in its mobile devices"?

Re:Not interesting. It's a consumer-grade processo (5, Interesting)

Ixokai (443555) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605124)

Did you read the actual article? Do you know anything about how the ARM architecture works?

Its sort of a "plug and play" architecture-- they license out the core design, the Cortex A8, but that design isn't set in stone. It includes options and modules that you can decide what to include or not, and there's all kinds of ways you can choose to optimize it and modify it to suit your needs.

Some people take this design and market their own customized version of the architecture for various purposes -- Nvidia's Tegra is one such. Its an ARM chip, but not all ARM chips are created equal (and it depends greatly on the purpose one customized an ARM chip for).

The A4 isn't some entirely new sort of chip-- its not as custom as Quallcomm's Snapdragon-- but its also not the same as any other chip on the market. They left some things out. They added some things in(or, more, changed some things). They tweaked its design to suit their purposes. Its not a general-purpose chip, needed for multiple vendors and different device types, so they left off some things to optimize it.

Therefore... its not off-the-shelf. You can't buy one. If you're an ARM-licensee, you could make one if you really wanted if you peered close enough and figured out which modules all the various parts on the die are.

Re:Not interesting. It's a consumer-grade processo (4, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605602)

Plenty of companies do this. They do it sometimes without being experts in processor design, by having others help them customize off the shelf processors. They're just taking an ARM core, and then adding stuff on the periphery. They're not changing the core itself; not optimizing the pipelines, not adding instructions, etc. It's not even to the level of re-design.

Processors chips are basically at the stage now where you can customize them. This is analogous to me going to a store and building my own PC from off-the-shelf boards and parts; or maybe going to a web site and choosing which components I want in my PC.

This article is of interest in terms of the detective work and reverse engineering though. But it seems uninteresting in terms of it being about Apple.

Re:Not interesting. It's a consumer-grade processo (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604996)

I don't see what's so interesting here. It's a standard, general-purpose, consumer-grade embedded processor. There are billions of these around in all sorts of devices.

Isn't that sorta like saying a Core i7 is just another x86 chip. It's a standard, general-purpose, consumer-grade processor. I don't know about you but I can't design an ARM chip and you discount the work of engineers who did the design work. From what I know about it, Apple designed the chip to be more powerful and and more energy efficient than a standard A8. Making something to do both isn't an easy task. Now it won't turn into the next Skynet but it is an improvement for those who might use it.

Re:Not interesting. It's a consumer-grade processo (1)

mr_matticus (928346) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605522)

Is this one of those things that people get excited about just because it's from Apple, but is otherwise totally unremarkable?

No more or less unremarkable than Snapdragon, Tegra 2, or any of the other similar products that are of great interest in this space. Those are all fairly standard ARM cores, too, but nobody's saying anything about their limited scope of customization as being "off the shelf".

It's more likely that this is one of those things that provides a springboard for bitching about Apple out of selective and convenient comparisons, because that Apple logo is a waving red cape in the bullfightingshit arena. Instead of exploring the technical achievements and engineering, it devolves into a bitchfest by people with nothing better to do than call each other fanboys.

A4? (-1, Redundant)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604500)

A team of experts takes a look at the evidence on A4 in an attempt to determine its

A4?....A4!!!! I GOT BINGO!

Re:A4? (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604522)

Apparently we spell bingo differently in my world.

Re:A4? (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604588)

Around here, we spell bingo link this: L-A-I-D

Total Vertical Integration - Scary (-1, Troll)

recoiledsnake (879048) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604544)

Looks like Apple is looking to dominate the entire vertical space from the silicon in the chip and selling directly to consumers with Apple stores along with all the software that consumers buy. And it wants a cut of everything:

1. Hardware of the iDevices
2. Monthly kickback from AT&T on iPhone users monthly fees. (This is the real reason for exclusivity to shitty AT&T, Apple is just too greedy)
3. A forced 30% cut of all software sales for the iDevices.
4. And now a 40% cut of ad sales in Apps(while conveniently banning Admob).

Looks like Apple is leaving no stone unturned to make money hand over fist and is rolling in billions of cash. What boggles the mind is why can't they pay a few more bucks to the people working in Foxconn(who are jumping off buildings) who actually make these iDevices? Couldn't hurt Apple's bottomline really that much, can it?

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (3, Informative)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604680)

What? Pay people more? Unthinkable. [slashdot.org]

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (4, Interesting)

Zelgadiss (213127) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604744)

3. A forced 30% cut of all software sales for the iDevices.
4. And now a 40% cut of ad sales in Apps(while conveniently banning Admob).

So Apple reduces developer's profit, but they still continue to support them, helping along their growth in to a monopoly.***
And if they do becoming a monopoly, they will have the power to cut of a developer's "oxygen supply" but banning them from their app store.

***Lets face it, iDevices are on the verge of being the "standard" platform for mobile applications.

PS: I figured since my karma is already shot from criticising Apple in a previous story might as well let it going all the way down.

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605046)

***are you sure about this one? Even when looking at impressive number of apps in their store...very large part of those were ebooks packaged as single app. Or audiobooks. Or many non-stellar games (subpar n-th clones or in style of flash games. Having an ebook reader, audiobook player and flash support sort of covers most of the mentioned categories). Better not go into "entertainment" section; but take a look at apps which are essentially packaged rss feeds or UIs for webpages (is mobile Safari suddenly not enough?) or mobile radio stations.
Come to think of it, that's sort of in spirit of how Apple probably wants to be the gatekeeper...

There is of course very worthwile content; few percent probably (on a platform which itself is a very small part of those mobile ones on which one can install apps). With equaivalents typically available on other platforms, "for quite some time" not being uncommon.

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604822)

You do realize that the suicide rate at that Chinese plant is actually *lower* than the national average, right?

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604884)

Yes, but these deaths can be tenuously linked to Apple! zOMG TEH STEVE JOBS IS KILLING INNOCENT CHINESE FACTORY WORKERS!!! Never mind that Foxconn is the one who determines and pays their salary not Apple or any of the other contractors of Foxconn's plants.

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32605402)

Funny how a guy named "Lunix Nutcase" consistently provides one of the few voices of reason around here.

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (4, Insightful)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604844)

What boggles the mind is why can't they pay a few more bucks to the people working in Foxconn(who are jumping off buildings) who actually make these iDevices?

Because Apple isn't responsible for the salaries of Foxconn employees? And why do you single out Apple in contrast to the dozens of other huge companies that contract with Foxconn like Microsoft, Logitech, Intel, Cisco, Dell, Nokia, HP, or Sony?

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (-1, Troll)

lederhosen (612610) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604998)

If Apple is so innocent, why do you even have to mention the names of the other companies???

You are not trying to spread the guilt, are you?

You're spreading something for sure (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605214)

If Apple is so innocent, why do you even have to mention the names of the other companies???

If Apple is so guilty, then why NOT mention those other companies?

You have to answer that first before you are allowed any more paranoid rants. You are trying to defect all ills of the world to fall upon Apple's shoulders. Has any other company but Apple in fact even offered a bonus to workers who work on the products the companies are having produced there?

Even if all of them are evil, Apple is less so if only because of that one aspect. Yet, you single Apple out - so obviously you have some other motive in mind rather than Foxconn worker well being. It's pretty sick to take advantage of Chinese suicides to further your own holy crusade against Apple (and Apple only).

Re:You're spreading something for sure (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605630)

Though some of those companies rely to much lesser degree on Chinese OEMs (the way Apple set up themselves like that). Most of their workforce elligible for any raises...also not there.

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32605376)

> And why do you single out Apple in contrast to the dozens of other huge companies that contract with Foxconn like Microsoft, Logitech, Intel, Cisco, Dell, Nokia, HP, or Sony?

Because this is a comment on an Apple story, perhaps? The flipside of massive publicity whoring à la Apple is commensurately increased discussion of all the company's activities, including the less savoury ones. When /. starts running nine stories a day on Cisco, we might get more discussion on their employment practices.

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605580)

Well, to be fair - at least part of the companies you mention didn't set up themselves in a way which makes them rely to such a large degree on Foxconn (or similar); having their own fabs, most of them not in China, for starters.

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (0, Redundant)

recoiledsnake (879048) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605640)

What boggles the mind is why can't they pay a few more bucks to the people working in Foxconn(who are jumping off buildings) who actually make these iDevices?

Because Apple isn't responsible for the salaries of Foxconn employees? And why do you single out Apple in contrast to the dozens of other huge companies that contract with Foxconn like Microsoft, Logitech, Intel, Cisco, Dell, Nokia, HP, or Sony?

This story is about Apple, and it's known that Apple has the highest margins by a big lot among all the companies that you have listed.

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (4, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604918)

Looks like Apple is looking to dominate the entire vertical space from the silicon in the chip and selling directly to consumers with Apple stores along with all the software that consumers buy. And it wants a cut of everything:

For your conspiracy theory to make some sort of sense, Apple would have to get a cut of anything that Samsung makes. It doesn't. Apple contracted Samsung to make a chip for them. Like other customers, Apple created their own design for Samsung to manufacture. Unlike other customers, Apple went deeper into the design customizations than other customers. Samsung does not owe Apple for any other ARM chips they make for other customers; and it is unlikely that Apple will allow Samsung to manufacture the A4 for their other customers.

1. Hardware of the iDevices

The last time I checked, Apple made their hardware or contracted parties to make it. This is no different than any manufacturer these days. Dell, HP does exactly the same Are you objecting that these companies make money off their own products?

2. Monthly kickback from AT&T on iPhone users monthly fees. (This is the real reason for exclusivity to shitty AT&T, Apple is just too greedy)

Many cell phones makers have exclusive contracts with carriers for certain models that have kickbacks. When a carrier advertises "free" phones, do you really think that the manufacturer really got no money when you got a free phone with a new contract/contract extension.

3. A forced 30% cut of all software sales for the iDevices.

I believe that is something called "overhead" that Apple charges a developer to sell through their store. I don't know if you ever developed for mobile devices before but that is very reasonable. Before the App store, some stores charged 45% plus fees. And this is no different than other stores like Android. If a developer charges no fees for the app, Apple will not charge the developer.

4. And now a 40% cut of ad sales in Apps(while conveniently banning Admob).

Apple is setting up an Ad system. They expect to charge for fees. Are you objecting that they should charge for their work?

Looks like Apple is leaving no stone unturned to make money hand over fist and is rolling in billions of cash. What boggles the mind is why can't they pay a few more bucks to the people working in Foxconn(who are jumping off buildings) who actually make these iDevices? Couldn't hurt Apple's bottomline really that much, can it?

First of all, Apple is not Foxconn's only nor biggest customer. Almost everyone from Dell to nintendo to Intel uses Foxconn. Second, Apple did raise the wages for the employees that work on their products. [slashdot.org] .

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (2, Informative)

medcalf (68293) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605206)

Scary maybe, though I note that the ease of moving between mobile platforms means that Apple is unlikely to ever achieve any real lock-in of users.I think you're pretty far off, though, on items 2, 3 and 4. More basically, it's with the concept of a company being "greedy," which I'll get to after I address the specific points.

Yes, Apple apparently did initially get a portion of the monthly fee. (Piper Jaffrey's analysts put that at $18 per phone per month, IIRC.) I don't believe that is the case any more. My understanding is that this went away when they started offering the iPhones subsidized by the carriers. Even if they still do get a portion of the fees, though, so what? It's a part of the cost of service, not a tool of generating monopoly. (If anything, it's the opposite, as higher-priced iPhone service plans turn away users.)

Yes, Apple gets a cut of 30% on sales of third party apps. So what? They take 30%, and give me (as an iPhone app developer) a platform for sales, a distribution system and a much reduced cost to advertise. The 30% they take for those services is utterly worthwhile, particularly for independent developers.

Yes, Apple takes a 40% cut of ad sales through iAd. And no cut at all through other services, which pay (last I looked) between $0.30 and $1.00 eCPM. Given the ad customers Apple is signing up, I'd be amazed if iAd didn't pay better. (AdMob is among the worst in terms of eCPM, which is the only number that matters to a developer that wants to make money off of advertising.) As to banning AdMob, what do you think would be Google's reaction to Apple seeking analytics on Google searches about mobile devices? My bet is that it wouldn't be much different in effect than what Apple has done. Apple is under no obligation to provide their competitor with a competitive advantage against Apple.

As for companies being "greedy," that's really an utterly irrelevant consideration. All companies exist first and foremost to deliver a profit to their owners/shareholders. If they don't maximize their profit, they are not doing their fiduciary duty, and in most countries (certainly including the US) can be sued for that. Maximizing profit, though, is trickier than you might think. For example, Android is a real competitor to Apple in the phone business. If Apple gets too stupid (as they are in serious danger of with many of their app store policies, and particularly with the lack of transparency to developers and the interminable delays to get bug-fix releases up on the store), then Android will cannibalize iPhone sales. (Eventually, there will be similar competitors for the iPad and the iPod Touch, one assumes.) Thus, Apple can charge so much that customers flee to other platforms, or be so awful to developers that they flee to other platforms taking customers with them, and in the process Apple would have overreached and the market would correct that. So "greed" isn't really involved, because being "too greedy" inevitably leads a company to failure, unless the government is propping the company up. Or, in the American case, the unions whose workers are employed by the company is more to the point.

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605502)

Regarding the last part: you're generally correct of course - too bad that some measures of success work in a bit perverted fashion. Especially when we look at stock market. But also, overall, not rewarding long-term positive societal effects, for example.

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (1)

mystikkman (1487801) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605624)

Yes, Apple gets a cut of 30% on sales of third party apps. So what? They take 30%, and give me (as an iPhone app developer) a platform for sales, a distribution system and a much reduced cost to advertise. The 30% they take for those services is utterly worthwhile, particularly for independent developer

I am getting sick of this argument. The issue is that it's a forced cut and there is no chance for stores that might, say, take only 20%. Same with Admob, if the service sucks, developers will use iAds instead, no need to ban competitors.

The fanboys making these argument seem to be suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (2, Insightful)

Ixokai (443555) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605248)

What boggles the mind is why can't they pay a few more bucks to the people working in Foxconn(who are jumping off buildings) who actually make these iDevices? Couldn't hurt Apple's bottomline really that much, can it?

Uhh, they did -- http://www.electronista.com/articles/10/05/31/said.to.stem.from.internal.investigation/

Further... You know that Foxconn plant isn't like, an Apple exclusive manufacturer don't you? Dell, HP, Playstations, Wii's, Xbox, the Kindle... phones by plenty of other people, and basically practically anything electronic.

But Apple's greedy and is running the sweatshop and should direct a few bucks to the poor guys (... which they did, a 30% raise). No one else does. Bad, evil, greedy Apple does.

The whole suicide thing is way overplayed in the media. Its a sweatshop and can't have anything to do with the fact that Foxconn was paying silly amounts of compensation to families when this happened (a year's salary!), practically giving incentive in a society with very different social values then western ones (look up the differences between a shame and a guilt-based society: they're the former, we're the latter). And it can't be anything like a suicide chain which has happened more then once in this country.

No, It's Apple's fault.

Re:Total Vertical Integration - Scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32605548)

Failed troll

1. True, and why not?

2. False - Apple stopped getting a cut of monthly fees sometime during sales of the original iPhone. They just get a subsidy from AT&T like pretty much all other phone manufacturers.

3. So? Apple is not forcing anyone to develop for the iPhone. I've been in this industry a long, long time, and while the iOS market is pretty saturated, 30% to cover distribution and a lot of the marketing is pretty cheap. iOS developers get a lot more eyeballs on their product that a random independent developer paying for AdWords

4. Again, So? You don't have to use the Apple service. AdMob is not specifically banned. It's their practice of collecting personal info and sharing it with the developer of Android that is the issue.

Short version for the non-experts among us (3, Interesting)

Estanislao Martnez (203477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604550)

The A4 chip doesn't really seem to have any really fancy technologies in it. Mostly, it's just repackaging and combination of other components that already exist, but instead of combining them in the generic, general purpose manner they normally are, putting them all together in one chip allows a bunch of superfluous stuff to be eliminated.

Re:Short version for the non-experts among us (1)

yumyum (168683) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604626)

Apple's own video about the iPhone 4 mentions the power-saving advances of the A4. Not sure what they did though, and the article does not talk about that.

Re:Short version for the non-experts among us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32605156)

Reduced process size and clock throttling, hardly anything new that hasn't been in processors for over a decade

You should all know by now apple is all about making it sound like they were the 1st to do something or invented something fantastic and "magical" when in fact just about 90% of the stuff they do has existed elsewhere for any number of years likely 5+

And some of the stuff that they were the 1st to market with aren't even things they invented. "Retina Display" sorry I didn't know Apple owned LCD fabs? or apple has LCD engineers that trump the guys that have been in the business since the mid 80's? Ill bet if you take that LCD out of the Iphone4 there is a samsung or sharp brand on the back.

Re:Short version for the non-experts among us (4, Insightful)

marcansoft (727665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604708)

In other words, it's just another Samsung processor like the ones in previous iPhones, which were already Apple-custom anyway. A4 is just marketing. Apple has been using more and more custom application processors for a while now; they've just decided to flip the PR switch and use it as an advertised feature.

Re:Short version for the non-experts among us (0)

rsborg (111459) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604872)

The A4 chip doesn't really seem to have any really fancy technologies in it. Mostly, it's just repackaging and combination of other components that already exist, but instead of combining them in the generic, general purpose manner they normally are, putting them all together in one chip allows a bunch of superfluous stuff to be eliminated.

A designer knows he has achieved perfection in design, Not when there is nothing more to add, But when there is nothing more to take away.
-St. Antoine De Saint-Exupery [quotesondesign.com]

Apple is a design company... if you think like a designer you'll see how they make the margins they do.

Re:Short version for the non-experts among us (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605260)

And that differs from any other highly integrated SoC from Samsung or everybody else?

Re:Short version for the non-experts among us (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605190)

From what I know about chips, real estate is important. You only have so much space to put things on a chip. When most companies get a chip from Samsung, they often get a generic chip. Even with customizations, they may have components that they don't need. For example, they may have to take a chip that has camera inputs even though the phone might not have a camera because it matches other specifications. It looks like Apple went further into customizations by specifying what should and should not be in their chip. Overall it appears to helped the performance somewhat but isn't a major breakthrough.

I do think that the PA Semi acquisition did help them with the A4. I don't think they would have had the expertise to do these low-level customizations if they didn't acquire PA Semi. It will be interesting to see developments in the next iteration.

yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604564)

that's some "close look" with not much to show for it.

Useless, plagerized, page view grabbing article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604608)

This is just a re-hash (to put it kindly) of many existing articles spun out and waffled into 5 page views. There is absolutely no information here that hasn't been printed already.

Hubris. (2, Insightful)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604622)

Apple is not a semiconductor company. Sure, they bought one but it's not their core competency. So like everything, they thought they could do a better job than everyone else at this too.

They're going to have to spend money keeping the A4 competitive with other ARM SoC offerings from companies who make them for a living. They're going to have to keep them competitive with the ever-improving Atom chips which are slowly encroaching on sub-watt territory held by ARM. Otherwise, their hardware will lag behind. They're already in a world of hurt with so many vendors ramping to release Android portable devices of all sorts form factors, now they have to compete in the CPU arena too?

I just don't see the point. It'll be interesting in 3 years to look back and see if this was a wise decision.

Born of desperation (4, Insightful)

wandazulu (265281) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604780)

Say what you will about the position Apple is currently in, but they have been screwed over many times by other companies (Microsoft with Office, Adobe with Premiere, IBM with PowerPC @ 3ghz), and they figured that it was critical to their success that they take control of their own destiny.

What they've done is made a streamlined version of an ARM processor that is useful for their current needs; they do not need to "keep up" with anyone in that they get their processor to do what they want it to do for this particular need. If anything, by not having to cater to anyone but themselves, they have the ability to have custom hardware, but still based on the widely-used ARM architecture, so they don't have to completely re-tool when they come up with an A5 or A6 or whatever. Jobs himself said that they are not in the business of licensing their technology. You won't see an A4 being offered in lots of 100 to anyone for other purposes, it's a chip for Apple and their products only.

I was wondering too about the wisdom of this move, but it shows that they are not going to hitch their wagon to anyone's horse but their own, and that they have the ability to modify the horse to pull whatever load is necessary at that moment, a new iPad, new iPhone, AppleTV, whatever.

Re:Born of desperation (1)

GordonBX (1059078) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605136)

Say what you will about the position Apple is currently in, but they have been screwed over many times by other companies (Microsoft with Office, Adobe with Premiere, IBM with PowerPC @ 3ghz), and they figured that it was critical to their success that they take control of their own destiny.

You could argue that they are currently also being screwed over by Intel, who can't offer an i5 or i7 with decent graphics, hence the ridiculous shenanigans that Apple are doing with graphics processor switching in MacBook Pros, and the lack of i5 or i7 in the latest Mac Mini.

Re:Born of desperation (3, Interesting)

supremebob (574732) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605178)

IBM Eventually got the Power line of processors up to 6 GHz in their test labs. Apple just wasn't patient enough to wait for it, though.

Re:Born of desperation (4, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605452)

Yes but IBM would have had to make a custom chip for Apple as their generic PowerPCs are made for workstations/servers not consumer desktops. How much would IBM invested in that considering that Apple would only be a small customer. IBM's internal customers would order far more chips. Also another point of contention is that IBM's mobile chip line lagged way behind Intel's offerings. IBM never made a mobile G5.

Re:Born of desperation (1)

dwightk (415372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605662)

IBM Eventually got the Power line of processors up to 6 GHz in their test labs. Apple just wasn't patient enough to wait for it, though.

How much did those 6GHz chips cost? How fast did they get their low-power Power processors? What sort of volume were they making them in?

Re:Born of desperation (2, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605196)

Also they can always leave themselves the option of going back to 3rd party ARM chips or whatever the new big thing is if they fall too far behind with their own efforts. If they keep this option in mind as they move forward, they can certainly leave themselves in a position where doing so isn't even particularly difficult or painful. They've made some serious architecture switches with the Mac platform already, they know how to handle that sort of thing.

Re:Hubris. (3, Insightful)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604902)

They're going to have to spend money keeping the A4 competitive with other ARM SoC offerings from companies who make them for a living.

Why? It's not as if they are marketing the A4 to other companies in competition to those other chips. The A4 is being built for themselves only so it only has to be enough to fit their needs.

Re:Hubris. (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604924)

Apple has some serious funds to make sure the situation never arises again: a 3rd party controlling their future. Call it what you want, it's a ballsy move and I hope they do well at it. There have been a lot of disappointments in the past when they relied on partners' efforts.

Re:Hubris. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604954)

Not taking control of their own chips would be the riskier move, even though I'd also call it more conservative: If Apple does this, they may make something unique and good or they may have to fall back on what everyone else is using. If they don't do it, they only have the latter option. It's not like this is their first jump into customizing the chips that have gone into their computers, and they have plenty of cash if they decide this was a bad move. If they just rode along with everyone else who doesn't have custom chips, they'd have less chance for a competitive advantage.

Re:Hubris. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32604958)

Spoken like someone who doesn't understand the article. Nice Job!

Re:Hubris. (3, Insightful)

droopycom (470921) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605042)

But they are not going to have to spend time and money trying to design a chip that will be able to be used in 10 different products.

See, from my own experience, SoC companies pack more features in their SoC so that they can fit in several products or markets. Apple will only worries about their own devices.

In short, Qualcomm is trying to please 5 or 6 different handsets manufacturers with their snapdragon, each with their own ideas and requests, and they will have to make compromise, while Apple can just focus on getting the exact chip they want for their products.

How is it hubris to make use of what you have? (2, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605312)

Apple is not a semiconductor company. Sure, they bought one but it's not their core competency.

Why can't it be?

Why would a company so focused on making consumer electronics and computers, not decide that over time it is of benefit to move in the direction of also being strong in semiconductor design?

After all, it's not like they built the A4 from scratch thinking they could do better than anyone. That would be hubris. No, instead they took the ARM core and customized around it, which seems perfectly within the limits of what Apple can do given the companies they have acquired. There's no reason to think they are overreaching in abilities here.

Over time they may do more actual design, but it makes perfect sense to start down that road now that they have the capital given the direction they are headed.

I disagree... (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605480)

It helps to keep things in perspective. AMD has a market capitalization of 6 billion dollars. Apple has 4x that in cash alone, and is worth 40x what AMD is. Apple's interest in the CPU market is far less involved than AMD's, so even this isn't a fair comparison. It is a fairly minor investment, considering Apple's size.

Another way of looking at it is that Apple is a company that primarily sells CPUs and other computer components packaged really well. In this context, control over the components is important, especially when the component manufacturers they depend on could one day decide to compete with them. I'd say the security, control, and customization of such an integral part are worth the 1% of their company's value the investment involved.

Re:Hubris. (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605486)

Technically Apple bought a semiconductor design company. From what I understand, Apple wasn't happy with the original iPhone chip. The problem is that they got exactly the chip that they specified. Apple just didn't have the expertise to create the specifications that they needed. So they bought PA Semi.

Re:Hubris. (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605536)

They're already in a world of hurt with so many vendors ramping to release Android portable devices of all sorts form factors, now they have to compete in the CPU arena too?

WTF are you smoking and why won't you share it with the rest of us?

World of hurt? The iPhone 4 is probably going to break all previous sale's records. This is like saying that Apple is a world of hurt because Gateway/Dell/Sony/Toshiba offer more models and sell more quantity than Apple. Yeah, Apple is hurting there too, with their margins and what not.

The truth is that it's inevitable Apple will be sold out in sheer quantity by the Android. But the strengths of their competition are also Apple's strengths:

-Android runs on anything. Which means when android phones add things like gyroscope, most apps will likely be ignore it for the first year since they can't rely on certain features being present. The innovation in this aspect will have lag behind if Apple stays determined. The interface I'm sure isn't as reliable from model to model, and I never heard iPhone users tell each other to download and install the latest firmware (yes, iTunes does it automatically).

-Build quality. For having dozens of models, every goddamn android phone looks like the same basic heap of cheap plastic with the 4 confusing buttons in front. This is just my impression from looking at them quickly at best buy -- but I get the same impression of the PC notebooks vs Mac Book Pros (to be fair, there is the Adamo which I never seen at a store).

I think the Android is great that it is around, the competition is needed because Apple definitely has bad tendencies with no competition, but Apple is definitely not in a "world of hurt" over the Android. More like that it lit a fire under their ass.

As far as the A4, it's likely to be based on an arm processor with their in-house team adding improvements they need. They are definitely not making entire chips from scratch. Little hubris involved. And Atom simply is not going to be touching Arm in low-power performance any time soon.

Chipworks (4, Informative)

edelbrp (62429) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604624)

Chipworks had some interesting eye-candy die photos and a breakdown of the iPad and A4 for those who haven't seen that yet:

iPad Teardown [chipworks.com]

Simple stuff (1)

Singularity42 (1658297) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604658)

Everybody did something like this as a senior year project in EE, and certainly didn't copy something like ARM (that would be points off!).

Needed for TPM? (3, Interesting)

thms (1339227) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604698)

Are there ARM designs yet which support the Trusted Platform Module specification? (Remember this fuzz years ago wrt. Microsoft and TCPA/NGSCB?)

If I were a hardware company and want to sell DRM'ed content with a hardware dongle, this would be the way to go, having the encryption key which ties the media to the device stored directly inside the CPU would make my platform very attractive, maybe even a de-facto standard, for certain media control freaks. And you could make sure that only signed code runs it from the moment it boots, turning it into the ultimate closed system where the producing company stays in control.

Re:Needed for TPM? (2, Insightful)

Zelgadiss (213127) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604790)

Don't know if media companies will want a company like Apple to be the one in control of the said platform.

They already have a taste of it via itunes.

Re:Needed for TPM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32605520)

I've seen this done already with e.g. TI SoC's (to some extent in real existing products, sorry can't name the company). There is not much you can do short of scrubbing off the chips from the PCB and then dissolve them layer by layer. And then you'd still only have one set of keys.

Nothing new to see here, move along, move along.

Re:Needed for TPM? (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605546)

Why would you want to do that? First of all, TPM chips need to be able to be simply updated without affecting the rest of the system and TPM would also need to provide the ability for the end-user to update or delete their keys (in case of theft or unauthorized access), therefore integrating them into the processor would be a Bad Idea (tm) - as soon as somebody does something bad (either a bad firmware update or a hacking attempt) you would brick the whole thing and since it's in the processor, you would have no way of fixing it (since the processor is used by the bootloader or even by the remote debugger). Besides this would also add complexity and suck power for what is in the end a pointless exercise in futility.

TPM is dead and get over it. You can artificially implement TPM in the OS (like requiring signing of apps and content) but people will always be able to control their device. DRM requires that you give your end-user the key to unlock the content whether or not you make it difficult to get to, in the end the key has to go into cleartext somewhere (whether in memory or a dedicated or integrated chip) and with the correct tools somebody will be able to get to it.

Samsung? (2, Funny)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#32604866)

Didn't samsung end up as the last supplier licensed to use Alpha tech?

Since I choose to believe that Apple has resurrected Alpha, no reasoned argument can change my mind :)

ARM and ImgTec (1)

QX-Mat (460729) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605442)

Surely people are missing the next step? Apple want's to bring the SoC design in-house. It's currently a very fragile all-in-one unit provider. You pay for nothing revolutionary in an Apple product, instead you pay for a unique design/interface and the Apple goodwill 'mark-up'. The latter of which is a license the print money. So really Apple need to hit the semi-conductor market to maintain market dominance through R&D. In-house developments don't run the risk of being licenced to your competitor, and give you a technology lead that is hard and expensive to beat.

But did we all forget about the possible purchase of ARM? I don't think it'll happen soon (ARM's stock is higher than 2002). I don't really want it to happen either. ARM licences to far too many companies, therefore there will be monopoly considerations and any deal will be scuppered by a race to it by anyone with £5bln cash: Nokia, Motorola... even IBM or MS. The loss of ARM will actually hurt the "open" fabrication platform they've developed (think of all the individual ARM fabers that are out there... no are licence, no work) and we use benefit from (ARM chip competition has driven down price).

And what about the PowerVR licensing from Imagination Technologies - Apple increased it's shareholding this. I predict that apple will buy ImgTec by the end of the year. Possibly over the summer. They've got an good back catalogue of products, and despite the fact they didn't hire me, I think they're a brilliant acquisition for Apple: real chip fabricating people. A lot of their new stuff is low power which apple lacks experience with. Relying on an ARM development time-table means competitors can get to market relatively quickly, with similar specs. ImgTec are a good fit.

Matt

Rejected CPU Cycle (1)

bmwEnthusiast (1384289) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605576)

There was a data packet that started to have un pure thoughts, so the Apple A4 processor rejected the packet and sent it packing.

Apple hired DEC alpha engineers a while back (2, Informative)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#32605664)

(After a detour to intel who bought patents and quashed them.) The alpha CPU was quite respected in its day. But since it commercially failed like nearly every other none x86 chip family.
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