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Apple buys chipmaker PA Semi

updated 09:40 am EDT, Wed April 23, 2008

Apple buys PA Semi

In an unusual deal, Apple has announced a decision to buy PA Semi, a microprocessor design company. An Apple spokesman, Steve Dowling, has declined to elaborate on the reasons or terms of the deal, except to say that Apple "buys smaller technology companies from time to time," and it does not comment on "purposes and plans." It is atypical however for the company to buy hardware firms, particularly as it has come to rely on ready-made components from a variety of manufacturers such as Intel, Samsung and Infineon. A source cited by Forbes claims the deal cost $278 million in cash.

PA Semi is 150-person company that designs low-power chips, and was founded in 2003 by Dan Dobberpuhl, formerly a lead designer on the Alpha and StrongARM chips created by Digital Equipment. The acquisition has thus fueled speculation that Apple intends to design custom processors for devices like the iPhone or the iPod, possibly as a means of distinguishing its platform, but potentially in order to retain high margins on the sale of each unit.

The connection between PA and Apple runs back several years, as at one point Dobberpuhl intended to design a chip based on PowerPC architecture; the switch to Intel CPUs for Macs ultimately ended any talks, but Apple is said to have watched the company closely ever since.

Forbes notes that it will likely be at least a year before Apple products with PA Semi chips are released. It is also rumored that while Apple is promising to support its acquisition's current customers, the company will eventually make PA Semi technology exclusive.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. starwarrior

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Smart Guys

    Perhaps he (Mr Apple) needs a small group of guys that can ask Intel the right questions to help guide the furure.

  1. fritzair

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Lock out the competition

    Maybe Apple has found a chip which when installed on the mother board will recognize the system software, Apple system software. Keep the riff raff from buying off the shelf parts and making illegal Macs?

  1. chucker

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    power

    If you look at their website, it says they make energy efficient chips based on the Power architecture,

    sorry to dig up that old (non-)joke, but does that mean we finally get a G5 powerbook!

  1. jreades

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Low-Power Devices

    I would have thought this ties back to the iPods and (always on the horizon) tablet of some sort. Developing a custom 2G/3G phone chipset would seem like a lot of extra work because of regulations and network constraints, but for devices using little more than bog-standard WiFi/Bluetooth the market benefits of devices that are very stingy with their power draw could be substantial.

  1. UberFu

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Power Processors

    Dig thru PA Semi's site some and you'll find the mention of the POWER Architecture_ RISC Chips baby !

    The owner of the company was the designer of some of the original 64-bit chips from 25 years ago_ So he's got a piss load of experience building 64-bit Processors_

    Not sure what Apple has in mind as they just switched their main product line from RISC POWER to Intel x86 - as the processors that AP Semi makes can be utilized in nearly every product that Apple makes currently_

    But the main thing I did get from this is that Apple may be looking at them for their chipset design skills and not necessarily manufacturing_ But again the whole RISC thing throws me as they just left the platform and the chip design is different from RISC to x86_

    interesting_

  1. bearcatrp

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    My guess.....

    would be apple could make RISC chips for servers only and leave intel chips for the desktop!

  1. starwarrior

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Reminiscing

    It started with the (8 ft)**3 CDC 7600 with its 128 bit word used for finding small digital signals in among the noise. Integrating of hardware integrated software in small storage devices was very important then. As time moved on the requirement to do the same job in a (8 In)**3 package arose. In 1984 fast large storage still drove the hardware and software of computer design. Some $500 million 1984 dollars was poured into the Motorola RISC 16 and 32 bit processors by the Defense Department. Mainly driven again, by the need for fast in depth signal processing. Microsoft was becoming software bloated at the time, but had seemed to bet on the growth in storage hardware. Apple took the smart route. Even though being a 1976 birthed Apple fanboy, I was still amazed that Apple had the insight to hang onto the hardware and software approach of the RISC processor architecture. It was my first total appreciation of the genius of the inter workings of Apple and that they would not be a flash in the pan company because they lucked into an 8 bit thing in a garage.

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    huh

    but why would they go back to RISC chips when they just successfully converted to x86? Seems counterintuitive. Perhaps more knowledgable minds than mine could shed some light.

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    RISC for servers

    I meant to say, 'why would they go back to RISC chips *for servers'

  1. bearcatrp

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Servers

    Just look at IBM's servers and what they use for processors. RISC. They seem to be doing good in that market. Apple could use this to enter the enterprise market with some powerful RISC servers.

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