Apple’s A5, A8 or Ax: the semiconductor angle
Well here we are on the eve iPad2. There will be a lot to digest come 1:00 PM EST tomorrow. iPad2, any new software and the rumoured Joint Venture announcement will be the center of attention for sure. The A4/Ax story that should see chapter 2 tomorrow is an important semiconductor story unfolding outside the […]
Well here we are on the eve iPad2. There will be a lot to digest come 1:00 PM EST tomorrow. iPad2, any new software and the rumoured Joint Venture announcement will be the center of attention for sure. The A4/Ax story that should see chapter 2 tomorrow is an important semiconductor story unfolding outside the spotlight. Compared to iPad2 it is the A4/Ax that will be the numerically bigger seller, now being central to the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and AppleTV. Yes the A4/Ax has a captive customer, but it fills quite a few sockets that other semiconductor manufacturers would love to win.
So what has Apple designed?
Rumours seemed to have converged on the CPU being a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 and the GPU being Imagination’s SGX543. That said there will probably not be too much actually said at tomorrow’s Apple event. The messaging around the Ax might only include the clock frequency, as was the case with the A4, and the number of cores. The latter being in response to the emphasis placed on this by others entering the tablet market.
In expanding their semiconductor design efforts in the last few years it would be a surprise if Apple simply used their designers to glue together licensed IP blocks. Will there be more in the Ax? The Intrinsity designers will likely add their mark to the Cortex-A9 as was done with the Cortex-A8 in the A4. Early evidence may show up in the form of a higher clock frequency than that of an “off-the-shelf” Cortex-A9.
Will there be anything else? There is that comment Tim Cook made during the recent Q1 conference call – “Let me talk in general. On the design side, we design components where we believe we can innovate beyond the market. Most recent example the A4 chip. With the A4 chip we did not believe we had to invest in a fab, so we focused on design.”
Did Apple innovate beyond the market with the Ax? Let the reverse engineering begin.