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Apple has done a lot of bold things in the recent decade. The company switched to x86 from PowerPC, it introduced a phone with a touch-screen and a personal computer in slate form-factor as well as designed its first system-on-chip aimed specifically at its own devices. Apparently, now Apple wants to design its own processor micro-architecture, something that may potentially give its products tangible performance advantages over competitors.

At present Apple is looking for experienced qualified engineers to work/lead the micro-architecture design of a CPU. The job includes designing micro-architecture according to performance and functionality requirements. In addition, Apple wants to hire an experienced and well rounded CPU design professional to work on the definition, design, and implementation of a CPU core. The candidate will be expected to work closely with architects in product definition and feasibility analysis.

A micro-architecture is an implementation of particular CPU architecture that may or may not include enhancements, special instructions or special-purpose accelerators. For example, AMD Bulldozer and Intel Sandy Bridge are two x86 micro-architectures, whereas Intel/Marvell Xscale were micro-architectures based on ARMv5 architecture. Business models of companies like ARM Holdings allow to license a design and layout already developed by the licensor's engineers (which means that the logic is ready to be integrated into a system-on-chip), just a core design (which means that licensee has to implement the actual layout and then integrate the logic), or the architecture itself. By contrast, Intel licenses only x86 architecture alone to AMD and Via Technologies.

Apple's wish to design a micro-architecture practically indicates a plan to develop its own chips from the ground up, something, the company has never done before.  It is presently unclear which architecture Apple plans to take to create its own micro-architecture, but one of the natural choices could be ARM as the company has a lot of experience with a variety of ARM-based designs and implementations. Less likely scenarios for Apple are x86 or PowerPC, which will ensure truly high performance levels, but which development costs are extremely high.

Since Apple does not sell chips, it is highly likely that its micro-architecture (based on whatever architecture) will remain exclusive for its own devices, such as iPad tablet, iPhone smartphone or whatever other low-power products the company may introduce in the future. SemiAccurate web-site suggests that going forward Apple may even develop a powerful ARM micro-architecture that will be suitable for fully-fledged Macintosh personal computers, provided that Apple Mac OS will be able to work with ARM chips.

With its own micro-architecture (it is even not important what architecture Apple licenses), Apple will be able not only offer exclusive features and unique levels of performance, but its devices may obtain capabilities truly not available on products from other companies. Besides, Apple will further tie its hardware with its software, something that it has been trying to do historically.

Apple did not comment on the news-story.

Tags: Apple, , , Intel, x86, AMD, PowerPC, Marvell


Comments currently: 7
Discussion started: 12/30/10 07:44:59 PM
Latest comment: 01/02/11 03:17:40 PM
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and next week Asus will start developing their new GPU architecture.

Give me a break, Apple won't pull this off; just like Intel with their stand alone graphics.

Think how long AMD and Intel took to get to where they are now in CPUs. Apple thinks they can just jump into the game because they have been making sleek trendy designs? I hope they go bankrupt trying this.
0 0 [Posted by: LedHed  | Date: 12/30/10 07:44:59 PM]

Bye bye Intel, good riddance x86.
0 0 [Posted by: bereft  | Date: 12/31/10 01:10:18 AM]
- collapse thread

I think you mean Bye Bye Apple
0 0 [Posted by: LedHed  | Date: 12/31/10 06:34:22 AM]

It is quite likely that Apple has some concept in mind which is not well handled by current CPU architectures.
Introducing a new CPU is not an impossibility for an enterprise with Apple's resources, especially as there are now very capable foundries able to produce billion transistor chip designs efficiently.
It has always been a surprise to me that the excellent design elements of the Amiga were not pursued and developed, even though the current use patterns would seem tailor made for the video and audio friendly aspects of that architecture. Apple may simply have a comparably better idea and the confidence as well as the resources to implement it.
0 0 [Posted by: etudiant  | Date: 12/31/10 06:35:17 PM]

Didn't they buy P.A. Semi for this sort of work?

@LedHed, you do know other companies like SAMSUNG, FreeScale, Marvell and etc. also design their own micro-architectures (even if they are based on ARM). Micro-architectures don't have to be from different families to become a "new micro-architecture" as the article has shown. Thus, Apple can easily create a new micro-architecture if they want. It can be based on many designs, even IBM licenses out PowerPC as a basis for a new custom micro-architecture. ARM, as we all know does this as well. Even Sun Microsystems (now Oracle), does this as well with their SPARC architecture (Fujitsu is an example of a licensee with SPARC).
0 0 [Posted by: deltatux  | Date: 01/01/11 12:03:00 PM]

@deltatux samsung uses arm, freescale (along with AMCC and IBM) use ppc, marvell uses DEC's arm that Intel sold them, and P.A. Semi, the chip company apple bought a couple years back was using PPC and had an ARM license.

there are indeed some fresh micro-architectures out there, but they tend to be pretty niche, and not targeted to personal computing space.

i would love to see Apple take up P.A. Semi's mantle, and release incredibly integrated, power efficient high performance chips. p.a. semi came in swinging with absolutely-everything-onboard extremely high-i/o dual core power efficient ppc chips, and had all the promise. from the outside world's perspective, apple purchasing them took the hot new young guns (actually a bunch of ex-DEC folk, &c) out of the world, and left the PC world back at it's old status quo; all in all, an extremely tragic event mourned by many. hopefully Apple will at least use the incredible tech they were developing-- might i suggest for XServe, or perhaps Apple just wants competitive independent infrastructure for whatever the Apple cloud is going to have to do.

of course, Apple, if you really want to shake up the PC world, become a silicon company and sell us PA Semi chips. we'll buy them. the US military insisted you keep selling the one and only chip they did release, and man did we anticipate seeing more of these incredible things-- why not capitalize on this awesome tech in part by selling it to others? do you really think performance and power efficiency and integration are such a competitive advantage that you want to be a chip company for yourself? seems awfully costly an investment to hold for just yourself.
0 0 [Posted by: rektide  | Date: 01/02/11 01:48:14 PM]

I didn't realize Samsung made CPUs...

Also Apple coming into the market is much less likely that VIA who has shown they can make awesome chipsets and have CPUs. Apple is just like Dell saying they are going to.
0 0 [Posted by: LedHed  | Date: 01/02/11 03:17:40 PM]


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