Monday, September 13, 2010

New AppleTV uses A4 processor; what impact will ARM's A15 have?

According to the latest EETimes magazine, the new AppleTV uses Apple's own A4 processor in place of three Intel chips in the previous design: A Pentium M-class CPU, a memory controller with embedded graphics, and an I/O chip. Those three chips cost Apple $60 to $65 and took up 975 square mm of space. By comparison, the A4, manufactured by Samsung, costs Apple $15 to $20 and takes up 196 square mm of space.

The switch to the A4 explains why Apple won't port the new AppleTV user interface or features to the previous model. It also puts Intel at an increasing disadvantage in Apple's future product plans, since only the Mac family now uses Intel processors.

Another story in the same issue of EETimes has a great deal of potential importance to Apple's future desktop computer plans. ARM, the RISC processor developer that licenses its designs to a variety of semiconductor companies, disclosed a small amount of information about its new 2.5 GHz Cortex A15 processor. This processor is multicore-capable and uses much less power than the current generation of server chips from Intel and AMD. Apple could build a notebook- and desktop-oriented version of the A4 using the Cortex A15 as its foundation, and displace Intel from its product line entirely. The A15 is scheduled to begin shipping in 2012.
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