One of the aspects of Apple’s iPad that people seem to be universally praising is the new A4 processing chip. This is the first chip to come out of Apple’s purchase of P.A. Semi early in 2009. Plans for the company to design its own chips first came to light in April 2009 when The Wall Street Journal reported that the company was going around hiring up talent from multiple semi-conductor companies to come work on internally designed chips at Apple. Apparently the company feared that specifications they were having built into chips built by other firms might leak out to rivals, so doing everything in house helps increase the chances of keeping everything under a veil of secrecy.
The A4 being the first chip out makes sense as the iPad is such a major new product launch, and there is a lot of suspicion that if not the A4, than some other new chip from the Apple chip department will find its way into the fourth generation iPhone this summer.
However, an odd rumor has appeared in the past few days that Apple is in advanced negotiations with Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) to deliver new processing chips for Apple’s workstations and notebooks. This seems like an odd move for a company that is obviously setting up its own microprocessor division. Sure it might be difficult to ramp up multiple chips all at the same time, but would you really want to enter into what would probably be a multi-year contract if you eventually wanted to produce your own chips for those products?
True, at this time these AMD rumors are just that, rumors, but it does make you ponder what exactly Apple is up to with its chip designs. While it wasn’t too terribly surprising that the recent MacBook Pro refresh was still on Intel chips, I figured within the next two years they would be on to some sort of Apple design. This makes me think that possibly the purchase of P.A. Semi, and the hiring of all these designers will be all about just the mobile side of Apple’s business.
If you think about it, there are almost two businesses running inside of Apple now. You have the Mac laptops and Desktops all running the Mac OS, and then you have the mobile side where the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad are all running a totally different OS. The A4, or some version there of, will probably show up in both the iPhone and iPod Touch this year, and then I speculate that this group will just continue to work on future versions of this chip.
I am beginning to highly doubt that this was ever about the Macs as many thought they would be, myself included. The new AMD rumor just seems to make it even more obvious that is what the situation is, and that kind of makes you pondering the future of the company as a whole. With the pouring of this much time, effort and resources into focusing on the mobile division, are Macs going to become the somewhat less loved child of the family as everyone coos over the newborn?
Only time will tell, and a lot of this is speculation, but it is beginning to feel like there is a pretty major shift going on over at Apple, and it’s getting a bit obvious which child is getting the most love.