updated 02:05 am EDT, Mon April 28, 2008
DoD to contest Apple?
With little incentive to continue selling PowerPC-based chips, the US Department of Defense may plead its case against Apple following the announcement of the $278 million buyout of startup chipmaker PA Semi. The acquisition appears to be focused on the company's intellectual property and talent for reducing chip power consumption rather than its products, the report notes. Last week, the EETimes said that Apple may have to face the ire of the U.S. Department of Defense following its planned acquisition, as its customers expect Apple to end-of-life its current chips that are used in a wide variety of military devices.
Citing unnamed sources, the EETimes claims that PA Semi's PWRficient processor is designed into DoD programs in every major branch of the armed services and that its chips are used in more than 10 defense systems made by companies such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon: one of its customer reportedly had plans on purchasing more than 70,000 chips over the next ten years.
"I don't know how a Lockheed Martin or a Raytheon would take the news that the part might not be available after a few months or perhaps two years," the source told the publication. "Typically, these military program last for many years," he added.
PA Semi's flagship chip is a dual-core 64-bit PowerPC variant that consumed as little as 15W while running at up to 2GHz. As Apple has already transitioned its entire Mac lineup to the x86 architecture, the focus may be on the underlying technology, development, and patents used to drastically shave power consumption.
The report claims that PA Semi's flagship chip, when introduced in February of 2007, delivered significantly greater performance than others on the market while shaving power consumption by as much as 30 percent.
Apple's focus could be on the talent on made that innovation possible, including the founder who has a long history of maximizing chips' power efficiency.
"The milestone marked a hat trick for founder Dan Dobberpuhl who led teams that brought both ARM and MIPS architectures to new lows in power consumption. At Digital Equipment Corp., Dobberpuhl helped design the StrongARM chip that eventually became the XScale processor," the EETimes wrote. "Later, he launched a startup called SiByte that created a low-power MIPs processor acquired by Broadcom."
A day before the deal was announced, PA Semi told its customers that it could no longer guarantee supplies of its chips, but that it may be willing to supply the chip on an end-of-life basis, if it could successfully transfer a third-party license, likely the IBM PowerPC license, to the technology. In the same email, P.A. Semi customers were also told that Apple was not interested in the startup's products or road map, but is buying the company for its intellectual property and engineering talent.