The New Apple iPad Processor The Media Forgot

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While the tech media went into meltdown over the new Apple iPad, scant regard was paid to another Apple innovation: the new Apple A4 processor, which is the heart of the iPad.

Instead of using an Intel or Qualcomm processor, Apple chose to develop its own chip after the company acquired PA Semi in 2008. A start-up chip development company that specialises in developing processors that deliver a long battery life, PA has also concentrated on delivering a processor that can crunch large amounts of data, in particular graphic data.  
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At last week’s launch, Apple CEO Steve Jobs described the new processor as “the most advanced chip Apple had ever used” and said it was crucial to the iPad’s speed, reliability and 10-hour battery life. 
It is also tipped that future iPhones could get a new PA Semi processor in a move that could deliver millions in additional profits to Apple’s bottom line.
“We have an incredible group that does custom silicon at Apple,” Mr. Jobs said, adding that the A4 has “everything in this one chip, and it screams.” 
While Apple will not stop using processors from Intel or Nvidia, insiders are saying that Apple intends to expand the PA Semi processor to other apple devices.
According to the Guardian Newspaper in the UK, the chief executive of Arm has given the strongest hint yet that the company’s technology is inside Apple’s iPad.

 
The UK -based technology group – whose microchip designs are to be found in more than nine out of every 10 mobile phones sold across the world – already has chips in the iPhone and iPod. That has led intense speculation that Apple’s A4 chip, which powers the iPad, incorporates an Arm Cortex-A9 MPCore – the same processor as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip, which powers Google’s Nexus One.
With the A4 processor, Apple is set to become a serious threat to Samsung and Qualcomm, with both companies banking on cutting processor deals with Apple. Industry observers claim that the new Apple A4 offering has taken a major step toward challenging the norms of the mobile device industry. 
Apple’s decision to design its own part is a blow to Intel, which is trying to win a foothold in mobile devices with its Atom product, said Jim McGregor, an analyst at research firm In- Stat. Apple will probably use a version of the A4 in future models of the iPhone, he told BusinessWeek.
“Every step that Apple has taken, from the iPhone to the tablet, has been directly in the sights of Intel, and where it has been wanting to go with Atom,” McGregor said. “Intel has been completely rebuffed.”
A highly secretive company, Apple insiders are saying that the purchase of PA Semi allows Apple to keep product development secret and, by designing its own processors, Apple has a competitive edge over its rivals.
On a negative note, Linley Gwennap, a chip analyst at the Linley Group, told The New York Times, “I don’t see anything that looks that compelling. It doesn’t seem like something all that new, and, if it is, they are not getting far with it.” 
Dean McCarron, a chip analyst with Mercury Research, told the New York newspaper, “From what we have seen so far, Apple’s product seems to stack up evenly with the competition. Clearly, Apple is using their own metric for whatever ‘best’ is.” Apple’s laptops and desktops run on Intel chips, while Samsung has been selling Apple the primary chips for the iPhone. 
Analysts believe Samsung is actually manufacturing the A4 as well, using a common industry design for the core of the chip, while Apple has tweaked other parts of the processor package to suit its needs. 
Analysts are saying that Apple will  capture 7 per cent of the low-end computer market with its new iPad.
“We expect the iPad to compete very well against existing low-end notebooks and netbooks, particularly in the segment of the market where surfing, reading, game playing and emailing dominate the usage model,” says Deutsche Bank’s Chris Whitmore.
He said that Apple will instantly add more than 50 million users to its addressable market.
Last night LG Display confirmed that it was now manufacturing millions of screens for the new iPad, which will be launched in Australia in March. 
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