Apple to the Core

apple-ipad-a4-chip-2_270x119.jpgThe Cortex A4 Core that is. I was interested to see the first production use of technology from Apple's acquisition of PA Semiconductor. While most analysts believe Apple should have used off-the-shelf ARM CPU silicon from Qualcomm or Freescale, I believe the benefits of controlling your own hardware outweigh the potential cost saving curve over the long run. Here's why. First, chip design today is very modular and you can choose ready-to-integrate LSI gate arrays in a mix and match fashion. Second, given the size criteria, Apple chose an optimal layout by only putting the necessary logic it needs on-board the A4 rather than taking an entire system-on-a-chip (SOC) from a commodity supplier. Third, they have more control over system enhancements and fixes by being able to flash hardware without waiting on chip manufacturer release cycles. And lastly, they get to keep the intellectual property created by engineering the highest performance per cubic-millimeter and lowest power per dollar and not allowing that learning to accrue to the commercial silicon provider - where it could find itself in non-Apple devices. Just getting the In-Plane-Switching (IPS) display to work right without the power budget hit was amazing. IPS requires two transistors per pixel instead of one, which usually requires more backlight (and hence more power).  Somehow Apple got around that. Who's to say they couldn't get Intel to manufacturer the chip for them?