updated 10:10 am EDT, Mon May 22, 2006
Apple avoids chip start-up
Apple is reported to have been in talks with PA Semi, a low-power Power processor maker, prior to its partnership with Intel. PA Semi formed a close relationship with Apple, according to The Register, and both companies shared software engineering work in an attempt to discover how Apple's applications could be ported onto PA Semi's silicon. The PA Semi staff was shocked when it learned of Apple's deal with Intel. "PA Semi was counting on that deal," one source said. "They had lots of guys walking around in a daze when Apple went to Intel. They had no idea that would actually happen." PA Semi's PA6T-1682M -- its first processor -- is set to debut in the third quarter of 2006 as a 2GHz, dual-core chip with 2MB of level 2 cache, two DDR2 memory controllers, and support for eight PCI Express, according to the report.
The chip will be followed by single-core and quad-core chips, and will bring support for the Altivec floating point instruction set that offers a major speed enhancement for scientific and multimedia Mac software. The chip consumes a mere 7 watts of power running at 2GHz, versus Intel's Core Duo which uses between 21 and 25 watts.
PA Semi's technical staff includes vice president of architecture Peter Bannon -- also known as Mr. Tanglewood -- COO Leo Joseph, and vice president of engineering Jim Keller. Several of those engineers performed much of the key work behind DEC's Alpha chip, which consistently remained the fastest microprocessor on the market during the 1990s. PA Semi's Wayne Meretsky was at one time Apple's technical lead for Mac OS during the company's transition to the PowerPC architecture.
Chip analyst Linley Gwennap of the Linley Group wrote in the past that "PA Semi was also widely rumored to have pitched its processor to Apple for use in notebook computers."
"My understanding is that there was certainly interest at Apple, but I don't think anything close to a commitment. I do think there were some pretty high-level discussions going on - possibly something along the lines of, 'We're going to use your product if everything goes well,'" Gwennap said.
Some sources, however, said that negotiations went much further, and some PA Semi executives believed they were almost assured the Apple win. PA Semi CEO Dan Dobberpuhl is said to have believed that Apple's hints of moving to Intel were a bargaining tactic, and was furious when he caught wind of the Apple-Intel deal.