Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 30th Jan 2018 23:35 UTC

For several years, Apple has been steadily designing more and more of the chips powering its iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches. This creates a better user experience and helps trump rivals. Recently the company got a fresh incentive to go all-in on silicon: revelations that microprocessors with components designed by Intel Corp., Arm Holdings Plc and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. are vulnerable to hacking.


That original “system-on-a-chip” has since been succeeded by increasingly powerful processors. Today, Apple packs its devices with custom components that process artificial intelligence tasks, track your steps, power game graphics, secure Face ID or Touch ID data, run the Apple Watch, pair AirPods to your phone and help make Macs work the way they do. The result: a chip powerhouse that could one day threaten the dominance of Qualcomm Inc. and even, eventually, Intel.

Apple's chip business really puts the company in a unique position. No other phone or PC maker can rely on such a powerful chip division, with the exception of Samsung, but Samsung's own ARM chips are nowhere near as powerful as Apple's. Assuming Apple manages to turn their chip prowess into real-world advantages for users, it'll be hard for competitors to catch up.

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Member since:

"Do you think Apple just feeds the blueprints into a machine and a CPU magically pops out?

Pretty much yes, for the most part that is exactly how it works... The blueprint (the mask) has to be designed to a certain degree with the fabrication process in mind, but other than that yes - you just give them the blueprint and a CPU magically pops out.

Actually, on this one point, he's right and you're DEAD wrong. You don't just insert a blueprint and MAGICALLY out pops a chip of any kind. You've clearly never designed a chip and had it fabricated, or done the fabrication side yourself. You've clearly never done a PC board for that matter. You don't just pop in a net schematic and magically out pops a PC board. Go work with some autorouter software for a while; make a few 6 layer boards, then come back and remark about how that "magic" that makes board and chips pop out is or isn't a major amount of the work.

EDIT: Had a great example that shows the issue clearly.

ARCHITECT: Here's the blueprints for the 200 story high rise. The major work is done. Now magically pop out that 200 story building!

CONTRACTOR: Yeah - it doesn't work like that.

Edited 2018-02-01 17:47 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

galvanash Member since:

Actually, on this one point, he's right and you're DEAD wrong. You don't just insert a blueprint and MAGICALLY out pops a chip of any kind.

Of course not... Does your sarcasm detector not work at all?

The equipment required to get from a mask to a chip is complex as hell and costs millions and millions of dollars. There is no magic involved, it is a highly sophisticated process that takes a tremendous amount of investment and engineering.

But my point is this: once you have a mask, magic or not, the process of getting from that mask to a chip does not involve a bunch of engineers doing design work on the chip - that part of the process is done already. They are doing fabrication work, work that is essentially the same no matter what mask is currently being processed. The engineering expertise of the fab went into designing the process, not the chip...

The process for getting from a mask to a working chip is expensive, complicated, and requires a whole lot of work. It does not, however, have anything AT ALL to do with CPU design.

Edited 2018-02-02 01:12 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2