Apple Dropping Intel?

Apple is said to be looking at moving away from Intel on the Mac towards ARM. This of course wouldn’t be unfounded giving the iOS platform is already using ARM. I’m certain Apple already has Mac OS X working on ARM chips for development purposes, just like I’m sure they had Intel versions all the years leading up to the x86 transition. Secret builds, and perhaps slightly buggy, but existing and working.

Will Apple switch? I could see them doing so for a lighter more power efficient laptop, however there’s a lot of x86 software out there I can’t see being ported over easily. I also can’t see them using ARM with some sort of Rosetta like layer of emulation. I think that would negate the pro’s.

I’m skeptical of Apple switching, at least right now, but I’m sure they are experimenting, and have been for a long time.

Apple’s A6 CPU It’s Own Design?

Anand Lal Shimpi blew my mind with a report:

The A6 is the first Apple SoC to use its own ARMv7 based processor design. The CPU core(s) aren’t based on a vanilla A9 or A15 design from ARM IP, but instead are something of Apple’s own creation.

I had just assumed Apple licensed the designs as they have in the past. I figured with their interest in silicon designs that they would want more control in the future, but not to this level.

This just shows what sort of cash Apple has in the bank. I can’t imagine anyone other than Samsung possibly going this route, and even Samsung wouldn’t likely do it for just one product of theirs.

Raspberry Pi!

I’m pretty psyched about these little guys. Can’t wait to play with this one. Here’s why I’m so interested in them:

  1. It’s cheap – While it’s not as cheap as a TI MSP 430 Launchpad, it’s cheap enough that I could break one and not cry too much about it. That’s amazing if you remember when a computer was one of the most expensive things a person could own besides a house and car just a matter of years ago.
  2. It’s a familiar stack – The problem with the TI MSP 430 or Arduino is that they require working in an unusual environment for many/most people. Arduino is intuitive, it’s beautiful, it’s fun. But it’s hardly familiar. The MSP 430 takes me back to a time when I was too young to code. Linux on ARM is really Linux. The stack is familiar. You can run modern scripting languages we use every day. The learning curve is awesomely non-existent. Python, Ruby, Perl, Ruby, Bash? All can be run on ARM.
  3. It’s power efficient – I’ve been playing with Linux on ARM hardware for a while now. It fascinates me. The hardware is cheap, but it’s also power efficient. These little guys run on almost nothing. They require no fans, they generate almost no heat (which is energy remember). PC’s use lots of power. ARM doesn’t. Leave it on, run it like a tiny desktop server. Use it for tasks where it’s not worth leaving a PC on. It’s awesome.
  4. Encourages Innovation – Nothing encourages innovation like a low barrier to entry. $35, an Ethernet cable and a small cheap SDHC card and I’ve got a dedicated computing device that can hook up to any modern TV or display. For a few more dollars I could get a Bluetooth or USB WiFi adapter. In almost no time at all I can put something useful on there as it’s a familiar and well established software stack. Nothing encourages good or bad ideas like a low barrier to entry. Hardware wise, this is about as low as you can get right now. It’s the Cloud Computing or VPS of hardware.

Tiny ARM hardware can change the world. You could put internet enabled gadgets anywhere. Want to have a Twitter account that tweets every time the refrigerator is opened? That circuitry isn’t terribly complicated (essentially it’s a Hall effect sensor + a magnet) and writing a script that would read that input and post it to a Twitter account isn’t terribly hard it’s only been done a million times in every language ever written.

iPhone 2nd Generation

So more is coming out about the next iPhone, which we all know is going to be 3G. Someone found evidence of it in the recent update to the iPhone SDK. The SGOLD2 chipset will be replaced with the SGOLD3, which supports 3G networks (as we all expected). Looking at the specs some interesting things come out:

  • ARM 926 CPU capable of running up to 312 MHz – This isn’t that much more than the existing iPhone which is said to be underclocked to preserve battery life. Don’t expect much change here.
  • 5 Megapixel camera support – Capable, but don’t expect to see 5MP. I suspect it will be upgraded to 3MP and no higher to conserve costs.
  • MPEG4 / H.263 hardware accelerator – Sigh, no H.264 support. That’s a bummer. Apple could still use hardware support via another chip.
  • Support for video telephony, streaming, recording and playback – I wonder if Apple plans to utilize this. Video telephony could work over 3G networks (AT&T already did it with an LG CU500v). But it would require a potentially reworking the location of the camera on the phone.
  • 3G upgradeable with WCDMA coprocessor – Very interesting since this could allow Apple to offer the iPhone on CDMA networks, though the largest (Verizon) is going to become LTE a varient of GSM. That’s the largest CDMA network in the US. Still CDMA support will be needed for Japan.

Walt Mossberg initially said this is going down in 60 days, but now he’s retracted that statement. I still think a June timeline sounds about right. WWDC 2008 is June 9-13, 2008. Sounds about right.