back to article Apple gets into mine-sweeping, missiles and storage

Apple CEO Steve Jobs may need to order up a camouflage version of that infamous mock turtleneck. His company bought chip start-up PA Semi this week - a move which results in Apple inheriting a business that stretches from storage systems to missiles. PA Semi's version of the PowerPC processor became popular for such an …


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  1. Laurence Penney

    iPod & Touch UI to save energy

    Why is it that if you tell an enviro freak that you choose to pay the train fare rather than drive or fly, they'll still bash you for not squeezing your tin-cans flat before throwing them in the recycling?

    The best thing Apple could do with this tech is to push their UIs onto embedded devices that report & control energy usage. I'd adjust my central heating this way, gaze at Tufte-inspired graphs of my energy usage, analyze my driving style and habits for best economy, check my barcodes to tell me where I'm being profligate (after getting my supermarket to RSS them to me). And be able to put things in perspective.

    Oh yeah, Apple should give it away for energy-saving installations too.

  2. Mark
    Jobs Horns


    Maybe the deviousness goes the other way and this is Apple's attempt to break into defense contracting.

    Move over Windows for Warships, we have Mac Os X 10.6 Seawolf.

  3. Ben Greisler
    Thumb Down


    Ashlee, were you beat up as a kid? Why all the hatred?

  4. John

    Real Unix

    Apple's Leopard on Intel is UNIX 03 certified. Only Sun, HP and IBM's unix have that certification. Any government project written to that spec will run on Leopard and more than likely on the PWRficient chip.

  5. Ashlee Vance (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Sigh...

    It's true. Steve clubbed me like a baby seal. How his brutality relates to my cruel coverage of PA Semi's military deals is beyond me.

  6. Colonel Panic
    Black Helicopters

    The answer is obvious...

    ...Apple is getting ready to go to DefCon 1, and take out Redmond in a pre-emptive strike.

  7. John Parker
    Thumb Up

    Re: hatred

    Hmmm I'm with Ashlee on this one - if you can't show a bit of hatred toward business models reliant on human-killing-machine parts....

    Maybe Ben's spelling of "were" is telling as to his intelligence... either that or he's a warmonger :)

  8. Ross

    What hatred?

    Nothing anti-Apple in this article.

    PA Semis clients won't have too much to worry about quite yet. They will still have contracts that need to be met by PA Semi. The problems may arise after those contract expire and they need newer chip designs. Apple could still allow the PA Semi boffins to create work for other organisations, but I promise you now they won't be producing chip designs for LG/Sony/Nokia etc.

    I don't think anyone outside of Apples upper echelons *knows* why they took PA Semi in-house. There's a lot of talk about the next iPhone or whatever, and the aggressive powerstepping technology helps support that argument, but Apples growth area at the moment is in Macs not iPods. The low power chips give Apple the edge in portable computing and low end servers (especially home media servers which may sit idle for hours on end, then be required to serve a few songs, then encode HD TV to disc). The low heat output also gives Apple many more options regarding form factor, which is where they can stand out from the Intel boxes.

    As for why PA Semi "sold out" - the economic downturn in the USA isn't good news for VCs. They'll have seen that their investment in PA Semi has almost topped out for now, and will have wanted to liquidate their holdings. Apple offered $278m in *cash*. Had the buyout been funded by stock I doubt it would have been accepted, but it's a brave man that turns down that much cash in todays economic climate.

    Well regardless of whether I'm in the right ball park or way out, it'll prolly be 18months or so until we see any real results from the acquisition. I look forward to whatever cool toys Apple produce off the back of this.

    PS, John Parker - 'Maybe Ben's spelling of "were" is telling as to his intelligence'. Yes, it says he can spell.

  9. NitricJerkSud

    Has anyone bothered...

    ... to look at the patents they hold?

    By owning the company, they own the patents, which allows them to use some (or, let's face it, all) of that technology in the custom-designed chips in their products.

    Apple can now design their own chips (or license the patents to their vendors) and take advantage of PA Semi's technology, skipping the costly and annoying litigation step entirely.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Been there, done that

    Older readers may recall Apple's PowerMac G4 marketing campaign from about 1999 or so.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @John Parker

    ``Maybe Ben's spelling of "were" is telling as to his intelligence.''

    Do go on... how would *you* spell it?

  12. Ivan Headache


    " to look at the patents they hold?

    By owning the company, they own the patents, which allows them to use some (or, let's face it, all) of that technology in the custom-designed chips in their products."

    No! Don't say that. Phreeky will have an apoplectic fit.

  13. Chronos
    Jobs Horns

    Yes, I can see it now

    "The most reliable killing machines in the industry, our missiles are always accurate. All our products all have i's."

  14. chkm8
    Thumb Down

    Wow ! ! !

    Sure wish everyone would get off the Steve Job's love train. With thing's like iPhone on his resume he shouldn't even be employed. And how companies such as Lockheed Martin would use product's from a company such as Apple(crap), is beyond me...

  15. dave

    Not the first time Apple kit has been used by the military...

    Apple IIs were used in SS20 Nuclear missiles in the '80s. Something to do with the easy development of plug-in expansion boards, if I remember correctly. The Russian military bought Apple IIs and designed their own missile guidance hardware and software for their ICBMs.

  16. chkm8

    Very aware...

    Yes, I'm very aware of the fact that this is not the first time "Apple kit" has been used for nuclear missiles. I'm simply saying i would rather use the board out of a Speak and Spell (designed by:Texas Instruments) than an Apple design any day. Gee, has Texas Instruments ever been used for this type of thing? I wonder, please fill me in, lol! And I would have never figured out ICBM's(intercontinental ballistic missiles), your a genius.

  17. b shubin

    Gunpowder coffee

    it is worth noting that the biggest US DoD purchase of Apple servers (so far) predated the switch to Intel, and the Navy promptly put Linux on them (namely, Yellow Dog, if memory serves).

    perhaps Jobs woke up to the profit potential of deals such as that (residuals from service and support contracts, anyone?). maybe future Fruit-flavored server gear, computers, and embedded products will emerge in a parallel track, one that avoids generic, all-purpose chips in favor of bespoke, DSP-or-RISC-type processors, better suited to the kind of specialized, best-of-breed products the company is famous for. possibly, Apple will buy TerraSoft next.

    so far, the partnership with Intel has produced performance improvements, at the expense of stability, reliability and quality. let's see what happens to PA Semi technology in the next 2 years.

  18. Rob McDougall
    Jobs Horns

    Amen to that...

    I've upgraded both my desktop and laptop Macs to intels over the last few years, and whilst the iMac's been great, the Macbook has features lacking that the 12" Powerbook used to have (like instant sleeping - battery which would last for a week, whilst asleep instead of a few hours....)


    I guess Apple really is turning into the Evil Genius that WIRED proclaimed it to be...

  19. Joel


    Shurely that should read iCBM?

  20. Ishkandar

    @Ashlee Vance

    Perhaps your resemblance to a baby seal is uncanny; especially the wide-eyed, I'm-not-here look !! :-)

    Watch out for iPhalanx and iHellfire in the near future !! Perhaps iWarbot in the medium term and iBolo in the long term !! Jobs for Emperor !! All hail !! All hail !!

  21. mave

    INTEL inside is a cancer.

    First i start off by mentioning that apple just made available an update to the 'MacBook Pro' using an 'INTEL core2 processor running at 2.6Ghz with an L1 of 6M, and being manufactured using a 45nm process {all under 20watts}'. And on apple's website theres a comparison of the performance of the 'New MacBook Pro' to the 'Old PowerBook'. Now the processor in the 'Old PowerBook' is a "Motorola 74xxxx running at 1.67Ghz with an L1 of 32k and manufactured using a 130nm process {all under 15watts}'. Now we all know that when a processor shrinks from say 180nm to 130nm to 90nm to 65nm to 45nm etc, that each step allow for lower wattage usage and higher frequency. Now the comparison on apple's website shows the performance of a 32bit-PowerPC@130nm against a DUAL-CORE 64bit-core2@45nm {running 1Ghz faster then PowerPC}, yet some applications are only 3-5 times faster than PowerPC, and core2 also has a 6M L1. Now if you cant see that intel's has reach the end of there performance advantage by being the first to a new manufacturing process your an idiot. Tell me how great the 'atom' is which is just the performance of a Pentium III{which was manufactured using a 180nm and 130nm process) now renamed 'atom' using a 45nm process. IBM did a 64-bit dual-core at 180nm that was POWER4. IBM did a triple-core 64-bit processor for XBOX360 at 90nm. PaSemi did a dual-core 64-bit POWER processor at 90nm{all under 20watts}. Freescale's dual-core 32-bit PowerPC at 90nm {all under 12watt}. At what time could INTEL FIT two of there large hot processor on a single die? at 65nm. Apple's reasons for buying PaSemi was for high-performance computing, INTEL has reach a dead end. Imagine the performance of PWRficient using a 45nm process, all ready PWRficient 90nm processor blow INTEL's core2 away in perfomance all the while using less wattage.

    APPLE's going after IBM.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Re: Not the first time Apple kit has been used by the military..

    Dunno about strategic stuff like the SS20.

    I recall plenty of Apple 2 clone based tactical fire control systems around the ex-Soviet block. The ability of expanding the bus was one reason. The simplicity of the assembler and the amount of people who knew how to code it in was another.

  23. Dave Bell

    But who makes the chips.

    Apple have bought a design company.

    Somebody else makes the chips.

    Military weapons are "current" for far longer than any computer, and there could be a steady income stream from this, for a long time.

    Look at the Eurofighter: it was the subject of a computer game in the days of Windows 3.1

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