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Apple's A6 Details and Timeline Emerge

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the from-deep-in-the-bowels-of-cupertino dept.

Portables 123

MojoKid writes "For a CPU that hasn't seen the light of day, there's a great deal of debate surrounding Apple's A6 and the suggestion that it may not appear until later in 2012. The A6 is a complex bit of hardware. Rumors indicate that the chip is a quad-core Cortex-A9 CPU built on 28nm at TSMC and utilizing 3D fabrication technology. While the Cortex-A9 is a proven design, Apple's A6 will be one of the first 28nm chips on the market. The chip will serve as a test case for TSMC's introduction of both 28nm gate-last technology and 3D chip stacking. This is actually TSMC's first effort with an Apple device. The A4 and A5 have both historically been manufactured by Samsung."

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And the title of the datasheet reads ... (-1, Troll)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232714)

"Turning DRM into iDRM" (invasive direct rectal machiavellism)

New and inventive features to make people pay hundreds of bucks monthly ... after paying near a thousand bucks for the device itself.

Re:And the title of the datasheet reads ... (2)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232738)

Awkward, off-topic and pathetic rabble. Troll credentials rescinded for immediate review by troll committee.

Unbelievable (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37232728)

Steve's not dead two weeks and already Apple fumbles the ball. STACKED chips? How is the next iPad going to be as thin as it can possibly be when they start stacking chips?

Re:Unbelievable (1, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232736)

Not sure if this post was intended to be serious, but we're not talking about stacking them to a particularly large height. A single wafer is far thinner than any practical phone thickness, and a few of them stacked is still super-thin.

Re:Unbelievable (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232936)

Of course I have no idea about what we're talking about, neither do you. But hypothetically adding extra layers and making a chip thicker automatically creates heat issues, since that extra layer or two must act as a thermal insulator, trapping heat in the middle.

Re:Unbelievable (1)

repetty (260322) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233852)

Indubitably.

Re:Unbelievable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37233908)

Stacked chips will be like Pringles. Now to deal with the heat think of Pringles with ridges. Does that help?

Re:Unbelievable (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#37234392)

Well both you and the poster are correct. The current A4 [ifixit.com] and A5 [informationweek.com] are stacked as other many other package on package [wikipedia.org] chips. However, normally the memory is stacked on the CPU. In the case of the A4 and A5 the L2 cache is stacked on the ARM cores. The CPUs are not stacked probably for the heat problems that you mention.

Re:Unbelievable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37236194)

Not necessaily. Metal layers act as heatsink and are very good at transmitting heat from the chip to the surface. If we're talking about multiple stacked chips, with in-between silicon wafers, then heat dissipation is indeed an issue. That's one of the reasons why they want to thin the silicon wafers to the max to stack them.

Re:Unbelievable (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 3 years ago | (#37238422)

A single wafer is far thinner than any practical phone thickness, and a few of them stacked is still super-thin.

Just try telling that to Mr. Creosote.

Stacked Chips (5, Funny)

narcc (412956) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232762)

I bet they'll try to patent this "innovation" -- even though they clearly stole the idea.

For goodness sake, Pringles has been stacking chips since the 1960's.

Re:Stacked Chips (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37232806)

No Pringles only got around in 2001 or so.

Re:Stacked Chips (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232942)

I used to eat Pringles as a kid and I'm 40+. They have been around and stacking chips for longer than you think.

However there is more prior art - casinos have been stacking chips for many decades...

Re:Stacked Chips (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233380)

You're thinking of stacking the deck, Casinos have been stacking the deck for many decades.

Re:Stacked Chips (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232934)

Pringles claimed that they were stacking cakes. They lost a court case in the UK over this a couple of years back - for strange historical reasons, you pay VAT on crisps, but not on cakes. Pringles had been avoiding paying VAT by claiming that, because they were made from baked dough, they were cakes and not crisps.

Re:Stacked Chips (4, Informative)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232996)

They lost a court case in the UK over this a couple of years back - for strange historical reasons, you pay VAT on crisps, but not on cakes.

The strange historical reasons being that some bright spark thought they could be really clever by only charging VAT on "non-essential" items, thus creating endless work for lawyers and committees arguing over what was "essential".

...and as anybody who watches QI knows, the official definition is that "cakes" go hard when they are stale [wikipedia.org] , whereas biscuits* go soft.

* That's biscuits as in British English, i.e. cookies or crackers - not scones (which I guess are cakes).

Re:Stacked Chips (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37236496)

The idea of not charging VAT on essentials is a good one in that it reduces the tax burden of the poor. But why exactly are cakes essential and biscuits aren't?

Re:Stacked Chips (1)

mikael (484) | more than 3 years ago | (#37238222)

Some bright spark also thought it would be clever to charge VAT on hot meals and not cold ones.

Re:Unbelievable (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#37237738)

Worse yet, Apple is looking at releasing a "new" ARM A9 processor when TI and Qualcomm are looking at releasing a 28nm A10 processor. Given Apple's history they'll expect this to stay "current" for at least 18 months.

Maybe they'll sue Qualcomm and TI for violating their processors look and feel^W^W^W, sorry, trade dress.

Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (4, Interesting)

rsmith-mac (639075) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232754)

I love my quad core desktop processor, but I find myself scratching my head at the idea of quad core CPU in a tablet. Even with iOS 5's enhancements there's no true multitasking in it or any other tablet/phone OS - every application is interacted with in a full-screen monolithic manner.

Dual core CPUs allow the OS to do one thing in the background and not bog down the device for the running application, but what on earth are you going to do with 4 CPUs when you can only interact with 1 program at a time? This seems like it would only be of benefit to games and a couple other niche uses, otherwise a processor with fewer cores and higher per-core performance like the A15 mentioned in the article would be far more beneficial.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37232772)

But everyone in the Android world is going multicore, and the New Apple cannot allow a multi-core gap. After all, they sell the coolest stuff ever.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (3, Interesting)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232792)

Just because there is only one app running doesn't mean it is running in a single thread. While most apps might not take advantage of multithreading at the moment, if quad core processors become the norm I'm sure you'll see them starting to use it. That is assuming that Apple actually put multithreading into their iphone SDK.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37232818)

Just because there is only one app running doesn't mean it is running in a single thread. While most apps might not take advantage of multithreading at the moment, if quad core processors become the norm I'm sure you'll see them starting to use it. That is assuming that Apple actually put multithreading into their iphone SDK.

Seriously. rsmith-mac (a fitting name in many ways) doesn't seem to have even the most basic grasp of how multi-core CPUs can be used when there's a decent thread dispatcher running (something that Apple has focused on quite heavily).

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (3, Informative)

Graff (532189) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232836)

That is assuming that Apple actually put multithreading into their iphone SDK.

Of course there's threading [apple.com] in iOS. There are examples [xprogress.com] to be found if you google for them.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232868)

Thanks. I wasn't saying that it doesn't exist, I just don't do any iphone programming, so I didn't know.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37234278)

So that means you're like a madman talking a shit out of your mouth?

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37233028)

Classical threading is just one side of the story.

Internally, many frameworks are multithreaded, mostly the ones that deal with audio, video and image manipulations. And with blocks executing on user-created queues, the improvement can easily be felt.

Think applying real-time effects to a 1080p video stream (with a preview) and compressing it to H.264 on the fly. On your phone.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1)

Graff (532189) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233362)

Think applying real-time effects to a 1080p video stream (with a preview) and compressing it to H.264 on the fly. On your phone.

A lot of that sort of stuff is also hardware-accelerated where you hand off a stream to the appropriate API and the device will encode/decode using hardware features while using very little CPU.

My iOS App uses a background thread (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37234234)

All user interface operations have to be done on the "main thread", that is, the thread that was running when your program starts up. If you have a lot of CPU intensive work to do, or will be blocking for I/O to complete, Apple actually recommends that you put that on a background thread. There is support for for threads in both Cocoa (desktop) and Cocoa Touch (iOS).

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (4, Interesting)

Stevecrox (962208) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232798)

For me it's more about the manufacturing yields, the article mentions TMSC are struggling with their 40nm production process and this thing is 28nm being released next year. From what I understand TMSC is being used to remove Apples reliance on Samsung, I wouldn't be surprised if this allows Samsung, etc.. to jump ahead as TMSC don't sound ready to mass produce the chip.

Dual core makes sense because of power saving issues, you can have one low clocked core which is enough for basic phone functionality which is turned off when you started using the phone. In this sense I could even understand a triple core chip, you would have one low power core for when the phones not being used, then when it is you can move OS/Background processes to one core and have a 3rd core for running the main process.

Surely a purpose built GPU would give far better gaming improvements than an additional A9 core.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (2)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232922)

If TSMC are struggling with their 40nm process, what makes anyone think that they'll do better with 28nm? The very idea of lithographic shrinks is that once you have a stable process, you then shrink it in order to get more die per wafer, and hence, a theoretical cost down. Theoretical because in practise, a wafer on a finer lithography is going to be more expensive than a previous generation, particularly if new equipment, yield hits and other parameters are factored in. So initially, the new die would have about the same cost as the current die, but would experience a cost reduction as yields improve, as well as test times (more testing is needed on newer die, and over time, as the maturity of the process is proven, some tests that statistically display consistent behavior may be dropped in order to improve fab thoroughput).

I'm assuming that the A6 could be capable of performing GPU duties as well, just like nVidia's Tegra.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (3, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233542)

The article is talking about things long in the past, I have a HD5850 in my machine that's almost two years old and built on 40 nm process from TMSC. That process has been fairly stable for a long time now even though it was a bit delayed and early yields weren't as good as hoped. Where they have really struggled is with their 32-34 nm - I don't remember exactly - process that should have gone into the last generation of chips. In short, they ended up simply skipping it since they were due to deliver 28 nm by the time it would be ready. And there's actually three 28 nm processes, LP, HPL and HP which you can call low, mid and high-power. LP is really just for support chips, but it's rumored that HPL will be used for the next generation Cortex and AMDs Southern Islands, while nVidia is waiting on the HP process for their next generation. For the GPU business it just means progress is slower - both AMD and nVidia are stuck waiting for TMSC. For CPUs on the other hand Intel and GlobalFoundries are heavy competitors - GF to take over the business while Intel only produce for themselves - but being a process step behind is like fighting with one hand tied behind your back.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (2)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#37234528)

Going to a second supplier makes sense for most companies including Apple. Reliance on one supplier for a critical part makes some companies nervous. As for Samsung jumping ahead TSMC, it's unlikely to happen soon as Samsung has only started making products on their 30 nm lines within this year. Going to the next step (22 nm) will take a few years for them.

I don't know about using separate cores clocked differently. That seems it would cause more problems than solving the power consumption problem especially if you are actually running two processes that need both at max speed for some reason. The additional engineering as well as silicon space makes it improbable. Apple sorta of solved this problem by making both cores variable speed in the A5 with a max clock rate of 1GHz. This is more flexible solution to the problem.

Maybe someday gaming on a mobile device might require a GPU that is closer to a desktop version but right now other factors says it doesn't make sense. These devices focus mostly on video first than 3D gaming. Even nVidia's Tegra system which uses GeForce GPUs focuses much more on things like H264 decoding than Crysis fps.

Economics 101 (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 3 years ago | (#37237516)

Going to a second supplier makes sense for most companies including Apple.

"Most"? Actual it does NOT make sense most of the time for simple reasons of economics. Virtually all manufacturing has large fixed costs (tooling, engineering, setup, salaries, etc) which have to be recouped somehow. If you produce a small number of units, your per-unit cost climbs steeply. This is 100% of the reason for volume discounts.

The problem with using a second supplier is that you are replicating all of these fixed costs but you can only amortize them over half the number of units. Worse, both suppliers have to be able to scale production in the event the other supplier cannot meet demand. This means your equipment utilization is going to be quite poor since you are keeping production capacity intentionally idle. It is a very rare circumstance where you can second source (on custom products) without incurring very significant extra costs.

Second sourcing only makes sense under one of three circumstances. Huge volume, huge risk or a commodity product. It might make sense for Apple to use a second source supplier but the costs are very real and very significant.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (4, Informative)

Graff (532189) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232816)

Dual core CPUs allow the OS to do one thing in the background and not bog down the device for the running application, but what on earth are you going to do with 4 CPUs when you can only interact with 1 program at a time?

You do know that iPhone apps can do quite a lot in the background, even if only one app can have focus at one time, right? Right now apps are deliberately curtailed to only certain background activities because of the limitations of the amount of cores, adding in more cores and more powerful cores will allow apps to do more in the background.

The limitation of being able to interact with one app at a time is due to UI constraints. Even on a regular computer there isn't much case for multiple programs being visible to the user at one time. For the most part a user isn't able to fully interact with multiple programs at a time, the usual case is to view a document in one app while doing work in another. A better solution to this is to allow programs to share their display engines so that a single program can run and display documents from other programs while only having one program running at a time.

The model of one application running with a few lighter weight processes doing background work makes sense for devices with tight resources and that's the model that iOS is attempting to follow.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (0, Flamebait)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232950)

You do know that iPhone apps can do quite a lot in the background...[]... right?

Yeah, like sending all your data to Apple without your consent, for example.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37233172)

You should report for Fox News. I get all of my tech and science news there. I hear they are looking for fact based news that is fair and balanced...

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (2)

flosofl (626809) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233770)

Yeah, like sending all your data to Apple without your consent, for example.

Right, because that *totally* happened. It wasn't a file that was just sitting on the phone accumulating more and more data as everyone else has reported*. You have the truth because you have an axe to grind.

* Yes, that's bad enough, but let's not just make shit up, m'kay?

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (2)

macs4all (973270) | more than 3 years ago | (#37237704)

You do know that iPhone apps can do quite a lot in the background...[]... right?

Yeah, like sending all your data to Apple without your consent, for example.

You're confusing Apple with Android. Only with Android, all your data gets sent to some entity you have no identity for.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37233360)

So your theory is that we need 4 cores to run many lightweight apps at the same time. That doesn't make much sense. To find the real reason, you have to look at cpu hungry apps (e.g. video decoding) and know that running a multithreaded version on 4 cores drains the battery less than running a single threaded version on 1 core. Now it makes sense.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1)

Graff (532189) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233390)

So your theory is that we need 4 cores to run many lightweight apps at the same time. That doesn't make much sense.

My "theory" is that there are a lot of apps that can benefit from having additional cores to run threads on. It doesn't matter if it is the front app doing parallel processing or "background" apps that have registered tasks to be run. Additional cores will get used on iOS devices and they provide additional flexibility to the software.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37233968)

Do you have any example of a useful cpu-heavy "background app"? Sorry but alarm clocks and reminder apps only need 0.001 core. Timesharing is fine for them. Even mp3 decoding requires less than 0.1 core nowadays.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 3 years ago | (#37236760)

Do you have any example of a useful cpu-heavy "background app"? Sorry but alarm clocks and reminder apps only need 0.001 core. Timesharing is fine for them. Even mp3 decoding requires less than 0.1 core nowadays.

Tom tom or navigon?

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1)

macs4all (973270) | more than 3 years ago | (#37237720)

Do you have any example of a useful cpu-heavy "background app"? Sorry but alarm clocks and reminder apps only need 0.001 core. Timesharing is fine for them. Even mp3 decoding requires less than 0.1 core nowadays.

I can think of a few foreground apps that would benefit from as many cores as you care to throw at them:

Multitrack recording apps, like GarageBand.

Video CODEC intensive apps, like iMovie.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (2)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233412)

You're making a few wrong assumptions. Multiple cores doesn't mean all cores are powered on at the same time. It also ignores advances in battery tech and power management (something Apple pays particular attention to), as well as miniaturization allowing larger batteries due to smaller components. We've already seen this in later generations of iDevices.

This will be a boon to game makers to allow more complex AI as well as short term CPU boosts for processes that need it. It also ignores the innate possibilities of parallelism allowed with multi-core systems at a lower MHz.

So your theory is that we need 4 cores to run many lightweight apps at the same time. That doesn't make much sense.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1)

ninetyninebottles (2174630) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233766)

Right now apps are deliberately curtailed to only certain background activities because of the limitations of the amount of cores, adding in more cores and more powerful cores will allow apps to do more in the background.

I think Apple has been very upfront about the fact that limiting available background activities is primarily about power management and battery. Nothing about 2 cores prevents you from maxing them out, it's just that most of the apps that do such a thing do so because they are poorly and lazily coded. Apple's restrictions have always been about forcing developers to make apps that run in a way that will not kill the user's battery and several of the Android developers have made comments about wishing they had done the same. That said, I think Android's model of informing the user of battery usage and trying to automatically curtail it in the OS is a more flexible solution if they can make it work. If they paired it with a stronger vetting system it would probably be better than the iOS solution right now.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37234858)

> Right now apps are deliberately curtailed to only certain background activities because of the limitations of the amount of cores.
No. They're limited to only certain background activities because of the limitations of the battery in the phone, which would be drained really quickly. Quad cores aren't going to help here.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37236726)

> Right now apps are deliberately curtailed to only certain background activities because of the limitations of the amount of cores

Can you please cite a source for this? It seems much more plausible that this is due to power management concerns.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (4, Funny)

perlith (1133671) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232820)

Maybe Apple has finally decided to support Flash?

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (2)

flosofl (626809) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233784)

Maybe Apple has finally decided to support Flash?

Yeah, but with only 4 cores Flash will still drop frames.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#37235972)

Maybe Apple has finally decided to support Flash?

What is Flash? You mean a flash drive? Get the Camera Connection Kit [apple.com] and that will give you a USB port, and it apparently supports flash drives.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (3, Interesting)

Crash Culligan (227354) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232832)

rsmith-mac: what on earth are you going to do with 4 CPUs when you can only interact with 1 program at a time?

This assumes that iOS will only ever allow you to interact with one program at a time. This also assumes that iOS doesn't do so already—ever play music while working with another app? It's a question of controls, and finding ways to work with multiple programs that works for the users.

If I were doing it, I'd consider a "half-screen" mode where you can have two apps open, one on each side of the screen. But that's worse than Apple-armchairing, that's UX-armchairing. *shudder*

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37232834)

One core for the OS, one for the apps, one for the antivirus and one for the rootkit.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (4, Funny)

rust627 (1072296) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232926)

And one core to rule them all .......

no, wait, wrong story ........

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232956)

Yeah, you're thinking about Microsoft...

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37233932)

Four cores for the birds so angry...

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (2)

Superken7 (893292) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232848)

It's also about threading. But even then, while developers don't have access to APIs that spawn processes, the OS _does_ multitasking.

Also, it's not only a matter of performance, but it's also a matter of power. A quad core processor allows the thing to scale in an energy-proportional manner. Only need a single core? Appropriate performance and every other core will remain powered down - consuming a lot less power. And for mobile, battery life is King.
Need a lot more power? (games, for example) Yup, its there, just power up all 4 cores and have lots of threads running concurrently.
(At least that's how it works in theory, every chip and implementation will vary in practice)

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37232878)

Remember : " ...640 kB should be enough ..."

There plenty of new applications which could make good use of multicore CPUs :
          AI : facial recognition
                      automatic voice translation
                      reading on lips ...
        Desktop use:
                      replace the desktop : -> connect to a large screen, wireless keyboard, etc

        For regular phone use some cores may be inactivated in order to save energy.

Each core can run more slowly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37233078)

I believe that energy consumption of a transistor is the square of its speed. With double the microprocessors, instead of a faster processor running the less urgent threads, multiple, slower processors can. Thus, power savings.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37233374)

"Even with iOS 5's enhancements there's no true multitasking in it or any other tablet/phone OS - every application is interacted with in a full-screen monolithic manner".
I'm not sure how wrong someone can possibly be, but you're pretty wrong. The iPod App plays music in the background. Music plays while Safari has the screen and is browsing websites. The iPod App plays music while I'm slaughtering the God King in Infinity Blade.

iOS certain "can" multitask, I do it every day.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (2)

Graff (532189) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233438)

Music plays while Safari has the screen and is browsing websites.

Not to mention the file system and underlying OS operations, notification services, location services, and so on. There's a lot of things that run in the background under iOS and more cores is just going to help them run more smoothly.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37234500)

Most which assuming the underlying OS is properly coded, should require effectively 0% CPU utilization. If a MP3 player and notification services requires a 600mhz core, you have issues. Serious issues.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233618)

...but what on earth are you going to do with 4 CPUs when you can only interact with 1 program at a time?

A multi-threaded app would process data more quickly. It's a way of getting more processor power out without raising the clock speed any more.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (1)

thesh0ck (1983948) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233740)

android tables support windowing apps so you can run more than one at the same time next to each other or overlapping in windows.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (2)

patniemeyer (444913) | more than 3 years ago | (#37234328)

I can think of dozens of things that they are dying to use that power for: Pumping 4x the pixels for a high resolution display, doing processing related to speech recognition (even if the matching is done server side), running spotlight indexing on local content as you download it... (e.g. your email and docs from the cloud), playing HD video while doing all of the above, supporting a "mission control" style app switcher with live previews and spaces style switching, supporting airplay in the background while you are using the iPad for something else (maybe even someone else controlling it), games with really good physics simulations (which are dominating the app store and making apple millions) :), multi-way video chat compositing, and ten things only Steve Jobs has thought of...

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (2)

sunfly (1248694) | more than 3 years ago | (#37234366)

OS X has core load sharing built into the OS. Even though you are only doing one task, it can split it up over multiple cores. iOS does do multitasking, but you are correct it is very limited, and almost nothing is exposed to 3rd party apps.

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (2)

vijayiyer (728590) | more than 3 years ago | (#37235662)

Go use OmniGraffle on iPad. You'll want the 4 cores (easily threadable tasks, not enough cores).

Re:Quad Core In a Tablet/Phone? (2)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#37235934)

Even with iOS 5's enhancements there's no true multitasking in it or any other tablet/phone OS

Technically incorrect. Both iOS and Android are TRUE multitasking operating systems, which iOS inherits from BSD, and Android inherits from Linux. So perhaps you only work with one app at a time, but there is far more going on than you realize... all those processes running on your phone in the background? Those are tasks. Even when you're not using it, it is probably multitasking away and you didn't even realize!

Doesn't sound true (3, Interesting)

KClaisse (1038258) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232826)

Apple has already had problems in the past with low-stock at launch. Why would they risk having even worse problems using unproven tech at a fab they haven't used before? There's always problems with supply when dealing with smaller fab tech, which will probably be worse with 3D being thrown in.

Re:Doesn't sound true (2)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232864)

I agree. There's no way that Apple is trusting the manufacture of what could be tens of millions of chips to an unproven technology. Even if (and that's a big if) TMSC could manage to get chips delivered on schedule, there's no telling what sort of reliability issues you'd be seeing 6 months down the road... especially with something like "3D" chips. I really don't think that Apple's business execs are crazy enough to take a risk like that.

Re:Doesn't sound true (2)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233030)

I dunno. If there's one thing the last five years have shown, Apple are quite prepared to take calculated risks. Moving to x86 architecture, the iPhone and the iPad were all calculated risks which could easily have gone horribly wrong.

Re:Doesn't sound true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37233540)

What part is unproven? 28nm chips have been shipping for a few months in DRAM and FPGAs. Stacked dies have been around for at least 8 years.

Re:Doesn't sound true (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233684)

More than a few months... different manufacturer, but Intel has been shipping 28nm Arrandale processors for over a year now. :) I have one in the laptop sitting in front of me as I type this.

Re:Doesn't sound true (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233690)

I sit corrected... 32nm for the arrandale. it's the next generation that's 28nm.

Re:Doesn't sound true (1)

Pikoro (844299) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233264)

I'm thinking it's more along the lines of "There is more demand when we can produce less so lets start at a higher starting price point."
Later, when the pace of production can meet demand, they can just let the same price ride until competition shows up. Then, they can reap the benefits of an extra 6-9 months of higher prices, and then drop them when needed with no overhead.

Not sure, I'm not an apple consumer, but has the price of an apple product ever dropped until the next iProduct came out?

Re:Doesn't sound true (1)

flosofl (626809) | more than 3 years ago | (#37233836)

I'm thinking it's more along the lines of "There is more demand when we can produce less so lets start at a higher starting price point." Later, when the pace of production can meet demand, they can just let the same price ride until competition shows up. Then, they can reap the benefits of an extra 6-9 months of higher prices, and then drop them when needed with no overhead.

Not sure, I'm not an apple consumer, but has the price of an apple product ever dropped until the next iProduct came out?

That pretty much never happens. Historically, Apple has a price point and it stays there across multiple hardware refreshes. This is true for the mobile devices as well as computers and laptops. If a price drops, it's typically when a new hardware version is released (like the shift down across the iMac and MacBook Pro models) and the drop is permanent. The only time I remember it happening during a product's life cycle was for the 1st gen iPhone. I seem to recall the subsidizedprice dropping $100 or so a couple months after launch.

What I've seen with the iPhone is Prev Gen phone = $99 subsidized and the new gen is $199/$299 subsidized. That's the only time a currently selling product gets a price reduction during it's life cycle at Apple.

I would guess it would depend on when (2)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#37234092)

So TSMC's 28nm is going to be what is behind AMD and nVidia's next gen GPUs, despite their poor handling of 40nm for both companies. Those guys (nVidia in particular) also have a large first dibs on the production.

So if they are planning on the A6 from there later in 2012, well I could see it. Both nVidia and AMD want to launch new GPUs soon. I'm sure they want a Christmas launch though realistically it'll probably be early next year. Ok well they do those, tons o' chips are made with the 28nm process, the big surge of demand is met, then things are good. Mid to later 2012 comes along and the 28nm TSMC process is stable and the kinks worked out, good to go.

However if they are going to try and do it early 2012, well I think that'd be bad. They'd be seriously supply constrained fighting with nVidia and AMD. While no doubt TSMC would love to give Apple what they want to get their business, they have standing contracts with nVidia and AMD (which aren't small either).

Re:I would guess it would depend on when (1)

MCSEBear (907831) | more than 3 years ago | (#37235718)

Are nVidia and AMD willing to finance a Fab for TSMC? Apple has a history of paying manufacturers enough in advance for their product to finance the plant and equipment needed to build that product.

This certainly changes the the equation when deciding which client should have priority.

Re:Doesn't sound true (0)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 3 years ago | (#37234124)

Low stock is not a problem when you have products as hot as apple's. If there were viable competitors you might have a point

Re:Doesn't sound true (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37234212)

this is not really uncommon in the history of apple

Re:Doesn't sound true (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 3 years ago | (#37235880)

Because they have to. Their competitors are using the 28nm tech also. If it works (which is likely, since you can already get chips produced with this tech from a couple companies) then Apple needs to be in on it rather than stuck with an older, slower, hotter, more power-hungry chip. If it fails, then it fails for everyone and Apple is no worse off than their competitors.

Re:Doesn't sound true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37238364)

Apple's products have often exploited bleeding edge technology in order to get a temporary leg up. Part of what made the iphone so good was its use of a capacitive instead of resistive touch screen. Part of what reviewers thought was amazing "iphone" technology was just apple pushing a better technology before it was well established.

Historically? (2)

A12m0v (1315511) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232858)

The A4 and A5 are not even that old.

What is a 3D stacked chip for a fab? (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232894)

Is TSMC now into doing assembly, in addition to wafers? Since when did it get into the packaging business? I thought that their business model was to ship their wafers to the assembly houses approved of by their customers, in this case, Apple, and that the assembly houses involved would do the packaging for them. From 3D stacked chip, I'm assuming that they'll be stacking multiple die on each other, like in an MCP. What's it in case of an A6 - 4 basic CPU's just stacked one over the other? Some of the signals, like data & address could be easily routed, but quite a number of the control signals would have to be multiplexed so that more than one CPU ain't accessed @ any one time.

The other part of the question - iOS - is it something that's as SMP enabled as OS-X is? From what I've seen of i-PADs, they are not multi-tasking OS's at all - all they do is save the state of an app once you exit it, and resume from that point if you return. If that's the case, how does multiple cores help for this case?

Finally, Apple can make this chip even better for themselves by moving their macs and airbooks to this processor, so that they have just one CPU platform of their own, making it easier to have a common code base for their apps, like Safari, Mail, et al.

Re:What is a 3D stacked chip for a fab? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37233446)

wow, for somebody as completely clueless about every topic you mention, It's amazing
you felt the need to inform the word of you lack of knowledge.

Re:What is a 3D stacked chip for a fab? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37234222)

they are not taking wafers and stacking them up like a club sandwich, its all on a wafer with multiple planes

Re:What is a 3D stacked chip for a fab? (3, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#37234694)

From 3D stacked chip, I'm assuming that they'll be stacking multiple die on each other, like in an MCP.

Stacked chips having been happening a long time. The A4 and A5 are stacked with the CPU and the memory on top of each other. Technically there is no reason why they can't stacked CPUs on top of each other. Practically, I suspect heat is a problem.

The other part of the question - iOS - is it something that's as SMP enabled as OS-X is? From what I've seen of i-PADs, they are not multi-tasking OS's at all - all they do is save the state of an app once you exit it, and resume from that point if you return. If that's the case, how does multiple cores help for this case?

iOS is based on OS X which is based on BSD so yes SMP is there. Your knowledge about iPads is very out of date. The hardware itself is capable of multitasking as you play music while surfing web. The APIs that Apple exposes limits how applications access the multitasking. Fast-switching is the most common used version because most applications don't really need to keep running while not being used. However Apple provides seven different multitasking models [wikipedia.org] in iOS 4 released more than a year ago.

Finally, Apple can make this chip even better for themselves by moving their macs and airbooks to this processor, so that they have just one CPU platform of their own, making it easier to have a common code base for their apps, like Safari, Mail, et al.

Except that ARM and x86 instruction sets are not compatible. You can emulate x86 in an ARM environment but it will be painfully slow. Emulating ARM in an x86 environment will work but there's no real point other than coding and debugging for something like iOS.

Re:What is a 3D stacked chip for a fab? (0)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#37236056)

From what I've seen of i-PADs, they are not multi-tasking OS's at all

You must be a Windows user. Windows users eternally confuse operating systems with interfaces. iOS and Android are true multi-tasking operating systems. The interface currently restricts focus to one app at a time, but backgrounding apps, as well as being based on BSD an Linux respectively, means that iOS and Android both are true multitasking operating systems.

HAHA! (2)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#37232976)

FTA:
" Given the iPhad's dominant market position, "

I wonder who slipped that in there?

What if not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37232998)

this could well not be true - these days Apple takes one sustainable step forward (like incremental development of iPod) - rather than one giant leap ahead that well turn to a giant fall (like Newton).

Blah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37233442)

What this boils down to is jack squat. Every damn time some new chip comes out, there's more marketing diatribe surrounding it than actual functionality. Need I not remind us all of the P4 boner everyone had at the time? Give this thing a month (if that) and the hype will be plaguing something else...

"Stacking" (1)

sunfly (1248694) | more than 3 years ago | (#37234478)

Assume by "stacking" they are referring to (and the article alluded to) something similar to Intel's Tri-Gate transistors?

http://hothardware.com/News/Intel-Announces-New-22nm-3D-Trigate-Transistors/ [hothardware.com]

And not simply stacking and interconnecting like this?

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/rochester-3d-processor,6369.html [tomshardware.com]

NVIDIA has quad A9 already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37234822)

It seems that nvidia has a quad core A9 with GPU, with devices shipping October 2011.

Given that many people are using TSMC, I suspect a lot of fabless chip companies have plans for 28nm in 2012. And Apple is not TSMC's biggest customer by a long shot.

It is the GPU that wil matter! (3, Interesting)

Bram Stolk (24781) | more than 3 years ago | (#37235056)

Apple can afford to bring out iPad3 with a CPU that is not much faster than the current one.
What they can not afford, is stalling GPU performance.

If rumours are correct, and iPad3 will have a retina display, it will need a lot more shader performance to fill that screen with 3 million pixels. As it is now, it is hard enough to get 60fps on non retina displays with moderately complex OpenGL ES2 shaders.

Re:It is the GPU that wil matter! (0)

narcc (412956) | more than 3 years ago | (#37236160)

If rumours are correct, and iPad3 will have a retina display

That's what the rumors said about the iPad2 ...

If you can trust apple to do anything, it's to provide no more than minor upgrades to their products, as we've seen with every iPhone and iPad so far.

It doesn't really matter what they release, millions will still buy it.

Re:It is the GPU that wil matter! (1)

The Dawn Of Time (2115350) | more than 3 years ago | (#37238430)

Do you figure if you just make shit up, it somehow gives your point credence?

Re:It is the GPU that wil matter! (1)

narcc (412956) | more than 3 years ago | (#37238564)

Sorry, what part of my post do you think I "made up"?

The iPad2 was rumored to have a retinal display, and every new generation of iPhone and iPad has been a fairly minor upgrade in terms of specifications and features.

Do you think that millions won't buy the next incremental upgrade?

Quad Core is not just for handhelds (3, Insightful)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 3 years ago | (#37235230)

Apple has been twisting Intel's arm (that IS a pun) about power consumption and threatening to dump their chips in favor of ARM. Another way Intel limits Apple is that their product cycles are tied to Intel's product cycles, which constrains Apple to a parity with other laptop vendors. By moving to a homebrewed CPU, it would give Apple even more architectural control / freedom which would assist in differentiating Apple products from their competition.

Funny how it all comes full circle. Apple suffered from having its unique RISC architecture for many years. Then Apple conformed to X86 for just a few years and leveraged that to get enough marketshare that they can move back to an independent architecture again.

Seth

Re:Quad Core is not just for handhelds (2)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#37235530)

The move from PPC to Intel was more about logistics than performance. Apple might have been Motorola's and IBM's most high profile customer but they would really be a small customer in terms of volume. Due to the nature of Apple's consumer business, their chips would have to be heavily customized requiring more R&D and cheaper by unit as they were intended for consumers. IBM's internal server/workstation division would pay more for PPC chips as they were intended for higher-end computing. Apple would need yearly upgrades and IBM never got the heat/power consumption down to acceptable levels for a mobile G5 chip. Developing mobile technology would require more R&D and I suspect IBM wanted Apple to pay a significant amount towards R&D as none of their other customers would want to use such technology.

Also remember these days no manufacturer wants to keep a large inventory for cost reasons. Motorola and IBM would only make enough chips as Apple would order. Apple also would only order as much as they thought they needed. If Apple upped their order, both companies would have to find a way to shift around manufacturing schedules to keep up. There was very little margin of error there and Apple always had supply problems.

Now contrast this to the cell processors that IBM makes for Xbox and PS3. Both are custom but haven't changed designs in years. Being a static design has allowed IBM to shift production to the smaller 45nm line from 90nm to save costs.

So if you're Apple you are faced with constant supply problems and higher future costs to keep using PPC. Or switch to Intel stock processors where Intel bears the brunt of costs for R&D. Intel has already developed the mobile technology you wanted. Intel can take shifts in orders because if they make more processors in anticipation of your orders and if you don't buy those processors, one of their other customers will.

Now the mobile device market is completely different as everyone uses custom processors anyways. Everyone tweaks their processors for their own needs.

Re:Quad Core is not just for handhelds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37238078)

I agree with your general analysis. However, it would have been beneficial for IBM to work on power consumption now as we're seeing interest in ARM chips for servers. That R&D could have helped them in the market

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