TSMC to replace Samsung as A6X chip manufacturer for upcoming iPad devices

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Date: Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013, 08:14
Category: Hardware, iPad, News, Processors

The company may not have the prettiest logo in the world, but they DO have a killer Apple contract that a lot of people in their industry would love to have.

Per channelnewsasia.com, after years of rumors, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is said to finally begin trial production of A6X chips for Apple’s fourth-generation iPad this quarter, further marginalizing Samsung’s role in Apple’s supply chain.

TSMC has been contracted to manufacture the A6X chip found in the latest iPad. A report published on Wednesday said trial production of the mobile chips will begin in the first quarter of the year.

Apple has long been rumored to be interested in switching its mobile chip manufacturing from Samsung to TSMC. The iPad maker, which was once Samsung’s biggest customer, has been looking to remove Samsung from its supply chain as the two companies are engaged in a number of patent infringement lawsuits around the world.

Recent reports had indicated that Apple planned to have TSMC begin producing mobile chips in 2013. But some reports pegged a late 2013 start date as more likely.

With the latest rumor pegging TSMC’s deal as only for trial production of the A6X, it’s still unclear exactly when TSMC-produced chips could begin appearing in Apple’s iOS devices. Currently, all of the mobile processors used in the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV are built by Samsung at its chip fabrication plant in Austin, Tex.

Switching its chip manufacturing from Samsung to TSMC is expected to be a complex transition that could take Apple as long as 18 months to complete.

Rumors that surfaced last month pegged TSMC has the most likely company behind a mysterious “Project Azalea” that numerous states are competing to win. The secretive project involves an unnamed semiconductor manufacturing company considering a new chip fabrication plant in four potential states: New York, California, Texas and Oregon.

The chip manufacturer behind the “Azalea” project is said to have ties to Apple, which has led numerous reports to suggest TSMC as the most likely company behind the mystery project. The states bidding for the contract have signed nondisclosure agreements, making the company unknown.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple hiring dozens of Israel-based former Texas Instruments chip engineers

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Date: Wednesday, December 5th, 2012, 06:06
Category: Hardware, Processors, Rumor

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Never doubt the power of hiring the best engineers you can find.

Per The Next Web, Apple has reportedly hired a number of former Texas Instruments engineers living in Israel, with the new employees said to bolster the tech giant’s research and development resources in the region.

Sources familiar with Apple’s developing Israel-based operations have stated that the company has been hiring “dozens” of engineers to work in the cities of Haifa and Herzliya, the latter of which being the home base of purchased the flash memory maker in December of 2011.

The sources went on to say that Apple is picking up former TI employees who were laid off in a culling of 250 jobs at the company’s Ra’anana location, which itself is part of a larger global workforce cutdown of around 1,700 employees. According to TI Israel’s website, the Ra’anana campus was responsible for wireless connectivity solutions like WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS and OMAP products. OMAP, or Open Multimedia Applications Platform, is a type of system-on-a-chip developed by the Texas-based company currently being used in portable devices like Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD.

Apple in April was reported to be gearing up for a major hiring campaign to fill spots at its Israel R&D center located in Haifa’s Scientific Industries Center, which boasts a collective of high-tech companies like Google, Intel and IBM. The recent TI Israel hires won’t be the first for Apple, as former Deputy CEO Etai Zaitsman is said to be working on the Haifa initiative headed up by Aharon Aharon, a veteran of Israel’s tech industry.

In May, users discovered a number of listings on Apple’s job board for SoC engineers located in the Haifa and Herzliya Pituah regions of Israel.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini to retire next May

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Date: Monday, November 19th, 2012, 08:54
Category: News, Processors

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Come next May, someone new steps in as head of Intel.

The processor giant announced on Monday that president and CEO, Paul Otellini, has elected to retire as an officer and director of the company effective next May according to the Washington Post.

Otellini’s retirement caps a career of nearly 40 years of continuous service to Intel and its stockholders. His distinguished tenure includes eight years as CEO, during which he is credited with managing the company through challenging times and market transitions. In a statement Monday, Otellini said he plans to remain an advisor to the company’s management following his retirement.

“I’ve been privileged to lead one of the world’s greatest companies,” Otellini said. “After almost four decades with the company and eight years as CEO, it’s time to move on and transfer Intel’s helm to a new generation of leadership.”

Over the next six months, Otellini will work with Intel’s chairman Andy Bryant and senior management on a leadership transition that will include a CEO search conducted by the company’s board of directors. Intel says it plans the consider both internal and external candidates for the chip maker’s top seat.

In addition, Intel also announced Monday that the board has approved the promotion of three senior leaders to the position of executive vice president: Renee James, head of Intel’s software business; Brian Krzanich, chief operating officer and head of worldwide manufacturing; and Stacy Smith, chief financial officer and director of corporate strategy.

While presiding as CEO from the end of 2005 through the end of 2011, Otellini helped grow Intel’s annual revenue from $38.8 billion to $54 billion, and generated cash from operations in excess of $100 billion.

Shortly after assuming to leadership role at Intel, Otellini teamed with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to help shift the Mac away from PowerPC processors and towards Intel’s — a transition that helped fuel Apple’s resurgence in the PC market. He’s also credited with transforming Intle’s operations and the cost structure for long-term growth, as well as achieving breakthrough innovations like High-K/Metal gate, 3-D Tri-gate transistors, and dramatic improvement in energy efficiency of Intel processors.

20% Samsung price hike could affect Apple’s margins by 1-2%

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Date: Wednesday, November 14th, 2012, 07:53
Category: iPad, iPhone, News, Processors, retail

The ne’er ending fight between Apple and Samsung continues.

Following up on yesterday’s story about Samsung potentially raising the cost of building mobile processors for Apple, such a change would be expected to reduce the company’s overall margins by as much as 2 percentage points.

Per AppleInsider, Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray noted on Wednesday that the processors built by Samsung at its chip fabrication plant in Austin, Tex., are the core component of Apple’s iPhone and iPad. The chips tend to represent between 6 and 9 percent of the total component cost of a given iOS device.

A report surfaced this week that claimed Samsung has increased the price of its mobile processors for Apple as the two rival companies are driven further apart.

Munster said a 20 percent increase in chip prices would result in a hit to Apple’s margins between 1 and 2 percentage points. He also said that he would not be surprised if the price increase turns out to be accurate, “given the legal tension” between the two companies.

But he also buys in to rumors that Apple plans to move its chip production away from Samsung, and will have assembly of its custom processors like the A6 found in the iPhone 5 handed to another company, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

“We believe that if Apple were to move to another vendor in the next year or two, they may be able to negotiate better chip prices, which would roll back the impact from the Samsung price increase,” he said.

But in the meantime, Munster said it appears Apple has no choice but to continue its partnership with Samsung, even if the Korean electronics maker did put a massive price hike in place.

Piper Jaffray has projected that while Apple’s margins will dip during the December quarter in the face of a number of major product transitions, margins will quickly improve in the company’s fiscal year 2013. Munster has called for Apple to earn gross margins of 41.5 percent for calendar years 2013 and 2014.

“It does not appear that new product launches for iPhone 5 and iPad mini carry significantly different margins than prior launch margins for the same product lines,” he said.

Margins have been a major concern among investors in recent weeks, as Apple’s stock has taken a major hit. But most analysts have stood by Apple. Chris Whitmore of Deutsche Bank said last month that concern over Apple’s margins has been “overblown,” and that the reduction is “nearly entirely cyclical and not structural.”

Stay tuned for additional updates as to the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys as they become available.

Rumor: Samsung initiates 20% price increase for iOS device chips

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Date: Monday, November 12th, 2012, 08:05
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Processors, Rumor

I think it’s about time we just rename “Apple” and “Samsung” as the “Hatfields” and the “McCoys”, because this is going to drag on for a while.

Per MarketWatch, Samsung has allegedly increased the price of its mobile processors by 20 percent for just one company: Apple.

The details come from an unnamed person allegedly familiar with negotiations between the two companies.

The person indicated that Samsung asked for a “significant price raise” for building chips such as the A6 chip found in the iPhone 5 and the A6X processor that powers the fourth-generation iPad.

Apple apparently balked at the terms of the deal at first, but eventually accepted the 20 percent price hike, as it could not find any other company to build its mobile processor.

All of Apple’s application processors for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch are made by Samsung. The company produces the chips at its fabrication plant in Austin, Tex.

Samsung is expected to build a total of 200 million chips for Apple this year. The companies have allegedly signed a long-term supply contract through 2014.

Although though Samsung remains the sole supplier of Apple’s custom chips found in the iPhone and iPad, the company has long been rumored to be pursuing a chipmaking partnership with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. One report from last month claimed that TSMC could begin building quad-core 20-nanometer chips for Apple as soon as late 2013.

And in October it was said that Apple was getting “serious” about moving chip production away from Samsung. Around the same time, Apple also hired away former Samsung chip designer Jim Mergard, who also designed and developed chips for AMD for 16 years.

Last week, one report claimed that Samsung was expecting to lose a portion of its future chip orders from Apple. It indicated that the Korean electronics company may put off construction of a new fabrication facility because of the expected decrease in orders.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Analyst: ARM-based Macs “inevitable”, though still a ways off

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Date: Tuesday, November 6th, 2012, 09:24
Category: News, Processors

Apple’s future may be in the hands of ARM some day.

Per AppleInsider, Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu has gone on record as saying it’s “inevitable” that Apple will merge its Mac and iOS devices at some point, but such a change is not expected to happen for years.

Wu said in a note to investors on Tuesday that he believes it will take Apple some time to optimize its Mac OS X operating system for the ARM processors currently found in the iPad and iPhone.

Intel processors are currently much more powerful for running intensive Mac applications, as well as for development. But he believes that ARM processors will eventually become powerful enough to replace Intel chips.

In his view, making Apple’s entire product line based on custom-built ARM-based processors would simplify the architecture of its devices, and also help to create a more seamless experience for users.

Wu also noted that the Mac represents just 14 percent to 18 percent of Apple’s total revenue. In comparison, the iPhone accounts for between 45 and 50 percent of the company’s revenue, and the iPad is 20 to 25 percent.

Wu’s take was issued in response to a report that surfaced on Monday from Bloomberg, which indicated that Apple’s engineers are confident that the company’s A-series custom chip designs will one day be powerful enough to run the company’s desktop and laptop machines. ARM-based silicon in Apple devices is currently limited to iOS devices.

Monday’s report also suggested a change to ARM processors is not likely to take place “in the next few years.” But it also portrayed a shift to proprietary chip designs as an “inevitable” transition for the company in the future.

Apple is said to have a team dedicated to the project, with engineers working to design a lineup of machines that rely on a common chip design. Apple already employs this approach with its current lineup of iPhones, iPads and iPods.

A potential switch to ARM chips would pose a challenge to Intel, Wu said. He noted that Apples’ 11-inch MacBook Air gets four to five hours of battery life under heavy use, compared to 10 hours of battery life with an ARM-based iPad.

Reports suggesting Apple could power future Macs with ARM processors are not new. One recent story issued in October also said Apple has “deliberated” moving its lineup of Mac computers away from Intel processors, though such a change was said to not be “imminent.”

Apple has made headway in designing its own custom silicon for the iPhone and iPad. Earlier this year, rumors suggested Apple was looking to use its own ARM processors in upcoming iterations of the MacBook, especially in power-critical applications like the thin-and-light MacBook Air.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

ARM lays out specs for 64-bit Cortex-A50 mobile processors, sets release date for 2014

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Date: Wednesday, October 31st, 2012, 06:15
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

No matter how nifty your devices are, it’s the next-gen stuff that smacks of awesome promises.

Per AppleInsider, processor company ARM on Tuesday unveiled new its next-generation of high-performance, power sipping 64-bit chips — CPUs that could power future devices from companies like Apple as soon as 2014.

ARM’s new Cortex-A50 processor series is based on the ARMv8 architecture. The series will initially include the Cortex-A53 and Cortex-A57 processors with new energy-efficient 64-bit processing technology.

ARM said its new system-on-chips will be available for use in products ranging from smartphones to servers. The new chips will be 64-bit-capable, but will also support 32-bit software.

ARM said the addition of 64-bit execution to its A50 chip line will “enable new opportunities in networking, server, and high-performance computing.” The new chips are expected to boost smartphone and tablet speeds while also reducing power consumption.

The Cortex-A57 will be the most advanced high-performance applications processor, while the Cortex-A53 has the distinction of being the world’s smallest 64-bit processor, and ARM’s most power-efficient application processor.

Currently, Apple’s iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV are all powered by custom chips based on ARM’s reference designs. Apple’s work in this area has grown over the years, as the new A6 chip in the iPhone 5 represents Apple’s first custom-designed CPU core.

The A6 chip is based on Apple’s own ARMv7-based processor design, and is not based on ARM’s Cortex-A9 or Cortex-A15 designs. The chip features a gigabyte of RAM with two CPU and three GPU cores, and Apple’s first-ever control of the design allowed the company to customize the performance as they chose.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may be looking to move away from Intel chipsets, begin using its own processors for certain products

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Date: Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012, 07:15
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, Processors, Rumor

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It’s been six years.

Maybe it’s time for a change.

Per Bloomberg Businessweek, Apple has reportedly “deliberated” moving its lineup of Mac computers away from Intel processors, though such a change apparently isn’t “imminent.”

The details come from a profile of Apple’s current state under CEO Tim Cook published Wednesday by Bloomberg Businessweek. Citing two unnamed sources familiar with Apple’s discussions, the report indicated that Apple would like to move away from Intel’s CPUs in its Macs.

“Such a shift would be difficult and isn’t imminent, though it would allow Apple to further distinguish its laptops and desktops from competitors that run Intel’s chips and Microsoft’s Windows software,” authors Brad Stone, Adam Satariano and Peter Burrows wrote.

Apple’s interest in moving away from Intel is not new, but Wednesday’s report is an indication that the desire still exists at the company. Per AppleInsider, Apple had discussions with Intel’s chief competitor, AMD, about switching to its chips for future Macs.

Apple previously differentiated its Mac lineup from Windows PCs by utilizing PowerPC chips built by IBM and Motorola. But in 2005, Apple announced it would switch to Intel microprocessors for all of its Mac hardware. The transition was complete by August of 2006, and starting with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard in 2009, support for legacy PowerPC Macs no longer existed.

While Intel currently powers Apple’s Mac lineup, the company is absent from Apple’s more popular iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad. Intel has instead pushed its own “Atom” processors for mobile devices, but tests have shown that Apple’s latest A6 CPU found in the iPhone 5 outperforms Atom.

While AMD would be an option if Apple were to abandon Intel, Apple has made headway in designing its own custom silicon for the iPhone and iPad. Earlier this year, rumors suggested Apple was looking to use its own ARM processors in upcoming iterations of the MacBook, especially in power-critical applications like the thin-and-light MacBook Air.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

A6 processor found to vary speeds for best possible performance

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Date: Friday, September 28th, 2012, 07:22
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Processors

They say the A6 processor has some cool tricks up its sleeve.

They A6 processor doesn’t have sleeves, but it does have some interesting performance variations. No sleeves, though.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, one possible reason the iPhone 5 has such great battery life is the clever way the A6 changes its clock speed. While originally thought to be clocked at 1GHz, the chip has been clocked at 1.1GHz as well as 1.3GHz by Current Editorials.

While 9to5Mac saw the chip’s speed drop as low as 550MHz, this seemed to do more with an as-yet-updated Geekbench app testing the chip (which also resulted in the 1GHz assumption). A Geekbench update seems to paint a different picture now. By all accounts it appears the chip can change “speeds,” however, resulting in better battery life and dynamically tuning itself to the demand for CPU.

Nifty stuff…now if Apple could just release a much-improved iOS 6 Maps app, most of its problems would be over and it could sit and relax with a margarita this Friday.

Intel releases 14 low-voltage Ivy Bridge CPUs

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Date: Friday, June 1st, 2012, 05:30
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Processors

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It’s just a question of when Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors arrive within an updated MacBook Air notebook.

Per Engadget, Intel on Thursday announced 14 new Ivy Bridge processors, four of which are ultra-low voltage chips that could find their way into Apple’s updated MacBook Air lineup.

All of the ultra-low voltage lineup has two cores and four threads running at 17 watts thermal power design, along with integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000.

Leading off the new batch of Intel’s third-generation processors is the i7-3667U, with a CPU base frequency of 2 gigahertz running as fast as 3.2 gigahertz with Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 Max Frequency, and 4 megabytes of L3 cache. Next down the lists the i7-3517U, which has a base speed of 1.9 gigahertz that ramps up to 3 gigahertz, along with 4 megabytes of L3 cache.

The lower-end Core i5 ultra-low voltage Ivy Bridge CPUs are led by the i5-3427U, which has a base frequency of 1.8 gigahertz that runs as fast as 2.8 gigahertz with Intel Turbo Boost, with 3 megabytes of L3 cache. And the lowest ultra-low voltage CPU announced Thursday is the i5-3317U, with a base frequency of 1.7 gigahertz, max frequency of 2.6 gigahertz, and 3 megabytes of L3 cache.



All of Intel’s Ivy Bridge “Ultra Processors” have support for PCIe Generation 3, as well as Intel’s Secure Key, OS Guard, AES/TXT/vPro and Virtualization technology.

The MacBook Air lineup was last updated nearly a year ago, in July of 2011. The notebooks were equipped with Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors, and gained backlit keyboards and Thunderbolt ports.

Also announced by Intel on Thursday were a handful of dual-core traditional mobile chips that could find their way into other products in Apple’s Mac lineup, specifically the low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, or the Mac mini. The Core i5 and Core i7 mobile processors run at 35W TDP, feature four threads, include Intel HD Graphics 4000, and range in speed from 3.1 gigahertz to 3.6 gigahertz with Intel Turbo Boost.

Intel launched its first batch of Ivy Bridge processors in late April, declaring them the “world’s first 22-nanometer product.” A total of 13 high-end quad-core chips were released in the first round, and it’s believed some of them could make their way into Apple’s updated MacBook Pro lineup.

Rumors have suggested that Apple plans to launch new Macs at its forthcoming Worldwide Developers Conference, which will kick off on June 11. Some reports have indicated that Apple will unveil new MacBook Pros and iMacs at the event, but little has been said of an impending MacBook Air refresh.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.