In a recent article on the growing competition to Intel from competing processors, the New York Times highlights the significant investments companies often make to develop their own mobile processors.
At the same time, Apple, Nvidia and Qualcomm are designing their own takes on ARM-based mobile chips that will be made by the contract foundries. Even without the direct investment of a factory, it can cost these companies about $1 billion to create a smartphone chip from scratch.
The first product to house Apple’s in-house designed A4 chip will be the upcoming iPad, and initial hands-on impressions from reviewers who got a chance to play with the device uniformly agreed that the speed of the iPad was shockingly impressive. If Apple eventually makes moves to put an A4 chip, or some variant thereof, into the iPhone, competitors might be left struggling to keep up with specs that they just can’t match at similar pricepoints.
The A4 is widely believed to have been developed with the expertise of the talent Apple acquired when it purchased PS Semi, a fabless semiconductor company with a solid track record of designing capable chips that keep power consumption to a bare minimum. Hence, the iPad’s incredible 10-hour battery life, which if accurate, is all the more impressive given its 9.7-inch screen.