updated 09:05 am EDT, Sun September 12, 2010
ARM Cortex-A9 SoC, with Web 2.0 - Apple TV bound?
Following the recent release of Apple's revised, and ARM-based, Apple TV set top box (STB) ARM and Trident have joined forces to deliver next-gen STBs. The partnership aims to deliver Web 2.0 functionality, including Flash, to new STBs as they seek to better integrate the internet, internet TV, and broadcast TV in future products. The forthcoming system-on-a-chip design will be ARM Cortex-A9-based, and are broadly similar to the recently announced Samsung implementation of the ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core design of its new Orion chip, destined for the next generation of smartphones and tablets.
The new capabilities offered by the upcoming platform counter Intel chief Paul Otellini's claims that the Google's decision to utilize an Intel-based solution for its Google TV, instead of the ARM Cortex-A8 architecture chosen for the Apple TV, would give it a technical advantage. Even though the new Apple TV uses a A4 ARM Cortex-A8 design, a number of devices including Samsung's Galaxy S phones and HTC's Desire claim to offer the 'full internet' using this existing ARM architecture with their implementation of mobile Flash 10.1, as part of their Android 2.2 updates. However, in truth, Flash 10.1 has so far failed to live up to Adobe's performance claims for its implementation of mobile Flash, as seen in early testing of mobile Flash 10.1 on Motorola'a Droid 2.
ARM is well-known in the tech industry, and its ARM Cortex-based designs already power most of the current smarthphones on the market, as well as tablets such as the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Trident, is less well-known to the public; however, it claims to be one of the top three semiconductor system-on-a-chip providers to the leading STB manufacturers.
Although not yet confirmed, Apple is likely to implement its own version of the Cortex-A9 architecture outlined by ARM and Trident in a future revision of the Apple TV. While it has also yet to be confirmed that Apple is running a version of iOS on the new Apple TV, it had long been rumored to be the case prior to its release. If, not, it would be the first time Apple has implemented the A4 without iOS. A similar rumor also suggested that app functionality might also be a feature of the new Apple TV, which did not prove to be the case on its launch.
If Apple is indeed running a version of iOS on the new Apple TV, the capabilities of the new platform detailed by ARM and Trident suggest that if Apple does not add app functionality to this version of the Apple TV in a future software update, it could well become a part of a more fully-featured Apple TV hardware revision in future.
The diagram of the ARM-based architecture just announced (included below for reference) could also well reflect the architecture adopted by Apple in its new Apple TV, as it indicates that it could be used in conjunction with an ARM Cortex-A8 implementation as well.