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Apple chose Intel over chip start-up

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.

by MacNN Staff





  1. GodsiPod



    It's about windows stupi

    Hey, sounds like you've got some great tech that would have served us well, but with Intel chips, PC users can now run Windows, allowing them to switch with great ease and far less fear.

  1. Peter Bonte

    Joined: Dec 1969



    This was just for a plan B or other developments like a PDA, mediacenter or tablet that may or may not be coming. The chip from PA Semi just isn't intel compatible so clearly not suitable for the direction Apple wanted to go with its home computers.

  1. bokubob

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I don't think it had much to do with Windows. It's fine for the people who want to do that, but I can't see Steve Jobs actually figuring Windows into a platform change strategy. ("Hey, if they don't like OS X, they can use Windows!"....)

    Instead, I think the key is in that the processor won't be ready until 3rd quarter (can you imagine waiting that long, with tiny speed bumps in the powerbook line, and then having a rev 1 product.) and then the production problems with IBM, I can't imagine that IBM would have more problems than a little startup.


  1. willed

    Joined: Dec 1969



    While the products of this 'startup' are still speculation and vapourware, faster PowerBooks have been available for about five months now.

    'nuff said.

  1. Dakota Kid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    production capacity?

    The processors sound great. The problem for Apple is that many things have sounded great, such as the infamous 3 GHz in a year roadmap from IBM. It always seemed, however, that Apple was held back by delays and supply constraints when the time came.

    By moving to the x86 platform, Apple is now assured of being able to keep up with the Wintel world (and have access to Intel's huge fab capacity). Given the experience with the G4 over the past few years, some certainty on availability is important.

  1. chas_m



    Boo hoo

    Straight from Florida -- some crocodile, er alligator tears for PA Semi. While I hope that Apple will toss these guys a bone for some future product, they must be on crack if they think that Apple was ready to wait for ANOTHER slow-moving chip company to get its act together.

    If they feel a little "used," well that's perhaps understandable, but if they talk too much about this they're going to find themselves shut out of whatever other product the company had in mind to use them for down the road. A little professionalism is in order here, PA Semi.

  1. umijin

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Faster Bricks

    Yeah, faster PowerBooks that are overweight compared to their Windows Intel counterparts.

    I dunno of PA Semi was legit, but I remain unimpressed with the 15" and 13" Intel Macs that eventually came out.

  1. Wutzo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Just remember the x704 533MHz Bipolar PowerPC chip from exponential...

    Never came to life..

  1. JeffHarris

    Joined: Dec 1969


    It's about VOLUME

    While the PowerPC processors are superior in many ways to Intel processors (, I think the REAL reason, beyond the Core Duo and it's cousins, is the fact that intel has a proven ability to ship processors in VOLUME.

    Motorola and IBM were NEVER able to either meet their own processor road maps OR deliver chips in volume as Apple needed them. Ultimately, this was a killer for sales... remember the G4 stuck at 500mhz for what, 18 months... and deal breaker. Couple that with IBMs lack of desire to put forward the resources necessary to produce low-power G5s for the PowerBook/iBook/Mac mini lines and you can see exactly why Apple made the switch.

    It's a shame, because the PowerPC chips had lots of advantages over Intel chips.

    BUT now that Macs can run Windows, either via dual-boot or via a virtual machine, it's all moot.

  1. Eriamjh

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Finally, good news..

    Apple has been screwed enough by suppliers not meeting demands. A new chip from a startup had too much risk!

    Long live Intel.

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