Does anyone remember the chip start-up P.A. Semi? This company made its rounds around the internet in 2005, when it lifted the veil of secrecy on a new, highly efficient PowerPC processor it had been working on. 2005 Being the year that Apple announced its switch to Intel, people started to doubt Apple’s reasons. A few months later, in May 2006, it became known that Apple had been working with P.A. Semi right before Apple made the switch. P.A. Semi released their chip a year later, and now the company has been bought by… Apple.An Apple spokesman has confirmed to Forbes that Apple has indeed bought the small chipmaker. Even though the spokesman did not reveal any details as to the why’s and how’s behind the deal (as is usual with Apple’s policy) it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise P.A. Semi’s energy efficient chips are a good candidate for Apple’s line of iPods and iPhones. “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not comment on our purposes and plans,” the spokesman said. He refused to make financial statements, but someone “familiar with the deal” said USD 278 million is involved.
P.A. Semi has 150 employees working on their PowerPC chips, which they say are 300% more efficient than whatever the competition has to offer. Their chips are popular among telecommunications, networking and wireless companies, and even the vapourware new Amiga machines promised by ACK Controls were supposed to use P.A. Semi’s chips. Forbes writes that “although Apple plans to continue supporting P.A. Semi’s current customers, insiders suggest that Jobs plans to use future P.A. Semi chips exclusively within Apple products.”
So, Apple switches from PowerPC to Intel, then buys a PowerPC chip maker, which will probably mean we’ll see PowerPC chips once again in Apple’s future products – not their desktops and laptops, of course, but their iPods and iPhones.
Sounds good. Apple does not want a hardware lock-in for it’s software. And being CPU agnostic means that the software must be flexible, modular and maintainable, which are signs of good software quality.