Apple sets its sights on PowerPC developer P.A. Semi
Back in the autumn of 2005, when Silicon Valley startup P.A. Semi founded by industry veteran Dan Dobberpuhl presented its PWRficient, a highly efficient 64-bit PowerPC dual core processor, it was already too late. Designed for a clock rate of around 2 GHz, the processor would have been great for Apple's iBooks or PowerBooks, but Apple had already switched to Intel a few months beforehand, and at the beginning of 2006 the first MacBook Pro with Core Duo appeared in stores.
P.A. Semi had no choice but to switch to the embedded market, where PowerPC processors are common and to try and compete with the PowerPC market leaders, IBM and Freescale. They promote their architecture within such industry associations as Power.org, in turn competing with x86, ARM, MIPS and SPARC. Now, Forbes.com reports that Apple wants to take over the 150 staff of P.A. Semi for $278m; details will be announced later today at Apple's quarterly conference after the US stock exchange closes.
Already, there is a slew of speculation about Apple's motives for this takeover, with the iPhone is one of the main topics. Apple has not yet switched to Intel for its cell phone, which still runs on cell phone processors with ARM cores. At every possible opportunity, Intel points out that its Moorestown x86 Systems-on-Chip (SoC) is expected in 2009 and could be used in iPhones. The latest low-power x86 chip, Atom, still uses far too much energy for the iPhone's battery at 1 to 2 watts of "typical" power consumption – including the chipset – Moorestown is expected to use much less. For the iPhone, P.A. Semi would have to cut the PWRficient's power consumption down to a tenth of the current rated consumption of approx. 5 watts – see PDF product description.