iPhone Not Intel

January 10th, 2007

Intel has confirmed that the iPhone does not use their chips. I’m inclined to agree with the prevailing wisdom that the device uses some kind of ARM chip, which is suitable for such applications, and also used in Apple’s iPods.

But what if “not Intel” means AMD? I don’t know enough about the embedded market to even know whether AMD makes compelling chips for such purposes. (But my dad might).

Could Apple be hush-hush about the chips because they’re using the iPhone as a relationship-starter with AMD?

14 Responses to “iPhone Not Intel”

  1. Magnus Nordlander Says:

    That’s strange, considering that a spokesman for Apple Germany has confirmed that the iPhone runs on chip from Intel.

    http://www.appleinsider.com/article.php?id=2377

  2. Brian Phipps Says:

    Didn’t Intel sell its X-Scale processor line to Marvell? If so, maybe Marvell is supplying the silicon while Intel had a role in the orig design — and maybe still collects something in the licensing stream. I thought X-Scale was an ARM design anyway.

  3. archie4oz Says:

    Yeah, I saw the same article. Besides the only really suitable stuff that AMD has to offer is from their Alchemy lineup (which is now distributed via Raza Microelectronics). Also probably why it doesn’t have any WCDMA/UMTS/HSDPA support as well (Qualcomm is the only real merchant supplier outside of some vendors producing chipsets inhouse).

  4. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Magnus: the article you link to is based on a quote from an Apple Germany representative. If you look in the last paragraph of the story I linked, you’ll see this:

    “Intel was responding to an earlier Reuters story that quoted an Apple spokesman in Germany as saying Intel would supply the central processing unit (CPU) for the iPhone.”

  5. Gavin Says:

    or even more deeply amusing… the iPhone is back on an embedded PPC chip ;)

  6. Dmitry Says:

    Hmmm….. geode as CPU and Imageon for graphics and video. A nice guess! Not sure fore Geode, but Imageon is just ment to be powering all that compositing effects!

  7. Mike Jalkut Says:

    Me too. I wondered what chip iPhone was using and why they are so hush-hush about it. And like everyone, I am perplexed about it not supporting any 3g technology (more on that below). Like you I don’t have enough insight into AMD to know if they are competing with ARM. But they wouldn’t have to be. ARM like ARC uses an IP(intellectual property) license marketing strategy. So, for instance, Digital Equipment (DEC), who was the actual brains behind the strongARM family which later was purchased by Intel and brought forth as Xscale, used the ARM IP to design the first higher-power, instruction-scheduling ARM chip, StrongARM/Xscale, which was then copied back into the ARM IP root as the ARM9 Architecture, and now has become standard ARM IP which is found in virtually all the ARM embedded devices. It was the MetaWare ARM compiler, which I stayed up nights working on, that gave DEC the 2-week turn-around on adding a first draft instruction scheduler so they could produce a demo for an impending Embedded Systems show back in 1997. So just like Intel, and before them DEC, and many others, AMD could very well be using ARM IP to produce their own specifically tailored ARM variation. I hate to plug my old company, ARC, but if Apple were using ARC, they would probably have a product now instead of making us wait ’til June. ARC’s whole deal is shortening the time-to-market of products built on specialized semiconductor IP.

    Which is why I am so puzzled about the Apple iPhone announcement. I mean time will tell if indeed Apple is able to revolutionize cell-phone usage the way they did Music listening. But to introduce iPhone in January for a June release, when its basic functionality, its very wireless protocols, is below par with even January’s standards, is baffling. Is it a subtle message? Is it a marketing marvel of some kind that we will all look back at in awe? At best it makes Steve look like he just crawled out of the cave of 2.5g archaism, rubbing his eyes, screaming, “I found it, I found it, EDGE, it’s EDGE, the iPhone will have EDGE and be able to call up the internet at (nearly) broadband speed. Everybody join in, oooooo, ahhhhhh. This is what we’ve all been waiting for.”, while all the eagerly watching reporters phone back their reports using 3g+ cellphones.

    Anyway, I know I won’t be paying $500 (with a 2 year commitment) until it can support 3g. Or . . . is Steve psychic? Don’t laugh. Is he banking on 3g communication basically being obsolete in 6 months? or at least only useful in back woods areas where even HSPDA can’t roam? Is he relying on the technology in June being so much farther advanced that city-wide cell-phone use will rely on city-wide WIFI which would obsolete any and all current cell phone tech? Is he only mentioning EDGE as a backup functionality which will be available on freeways and turnpikes for commuters who can’t get 3g anyway?

    At any rate, I will stay in the “wait and see” category until I see one for real. Until then, the only no-brainer from Steve’s speech is the 802.11n router. Considering the built-in print/usb server capability and the support for 802.11a, I think it clears the current field of router offerings at that price. Add me to the “buy” list.

  8. Kevin Lipe Says:

    I was thinking about this earlier, and I think it’d be hilarious if it’s got Freescale silicon inside. Realistically, I’d guess it’s something non-Motorola, like an Xscale or a Geode.

  9. Brian Phipps Says:

    Supposedly the FCC review process for the iPhone would have let the secrets out of the bag before June, so the device was announced on the un-ripe side. How many would Cingular hope to roll into 2 yr contracts w/o 3G? Maybe by June the specs will look a bit better.

  10. Matt Deatherage Says:

    Yes, it could be a sign of a deal with AMD.

    It could also be a sign that Apple is starting a relationship with the superintelligent dandelions of the planet Foliage VI, whose mastery of photosynthetic microprocessors makes them the envy of several sectors.

    There’s just as much evidence for both hypotheses.

  11. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Matt: OK, I’ll take off my crazy hypothesis hat. But give me a break, it’s MacWorld week :)

  12. Wes Felter Says:

    Apple is not being “hush-hush” about what processor is in the iPhone; they just think it doesn’t matter. What processor is in the iPod, the AppleTV, or the AirPort base station? Apple doesn’t say. Nokia, Sony-Ericsson, Moto, etc. also don’t say what processors are in their phones.

  13. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Wes: There’s a big difference between “doesn’t say” and “won’t say,” don’t you think? Apple in this case refuses to say what chips are in the phone. It’s not the same as “not thinking it matters.”

  14. [maven] Says:

    Good find on Gruber: Job Description, listing (among others)
    MacOS X / IOKit driver development experience
    Mach IPC and/or Mach Server design experience
    – Solid understanding of embedded hardware platforms (ARM processors, SDIO, UARTs, etc)

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