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Apple A4 is an on-chip system

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New details are beginning to emerge about the Apple-produced A4 CPU from Apple, taking advantage of the knowledge of the PA Semi team, a company incorporated in Apple in April 2008 and specialized in creating ARM-based CPUs. During the GlobalFoundries event in Las Vegas, the Bright Side Of News site had the opportunity to speak with ARM's CEO Warren East. East talked about trends in the processor industry and about a new affiliate who would join the family shortly, now revealed to be Apple.

Still according to what the site in question reports, it is not exactly correct to define the A4 as a CPU, but it would be better to define it as a SOC, "system on chip" that integrates the main processor (ARM Cortex-A9 with multi processing Core, the same used from Nvidia in the Tegra and from Qualcomm in the Snapdragon) together with the graphics section (GPU Arm Mali 50 series) and features such as a memory controller, all integrated into a single chip, similarly to what Intel has made with Moorestown, MID platform ( Mobile Internet Device) based on the new generation Atom processor, processors that have already debuted with some LG smartphones.

Going back to the processor of the Cupertino house, it seems that the "A" in the name obviously stands for Apple and that the difference with the Samsung processor found in the iPhone 3GS is in the clock speed and in the type of core. The A4 works at 1 GHz, while the CPU on the iPhone is blocked at 0.6Ghz: this is one of the reasons why the iPad appears to be very performing at all, compared to the iPhone, even at the level of the interface only.

It therefore appears that intellectual property (IP) is actually ARM's. Apple's choice appears logical by virtue of the acquisition of the PA Semi team: the old team of this company known in the world of IT for having created sophisticated products based on an architecture called Power Architecture, at the basis of the old Risc used by IBM and Motorola in the processors of the old Macs. In the future it will perhaps be possible to see Apple 's hand in trying to integrate proprietary technologies, but it must be taken into account that ARM is increasingly rampant in the world of chips for mobile devices and many observers doubt that Apple wants to get bogged down in creating proprietary CPU technologies. Apple has basically followed the trend, producing its own specialized chips just as Nvidia has already done with the Tegra, Qualcomm with the Snapdragon and Samsung with the Cortex-A9 1GHz core

Speaking of speed, it is interesting to note that all the names in question have chosen the exact same clock speed: the reason probably to be found in the maximum thermal resistance point of the cores that these CPUs have in common, established to be in 1.3 GHz.

SOC architectures are already used in the iPhone and other smartphones such as Google's Nexus One and Motorola's Droid. In the future it will be possible to see the use of these CPUs in other tablets and smartbooks / netbooks such as the Vega ICD (a desktop tablet branded with the European operator T-Mobile UK), Ultra (Verizon Wireless branded and able to hook to 4G LTE networks) or Lenovo's Skybook.

(By Mauro Notarianni)