back to article Apple ARMs up iPhone

An Apple engineer updating his LinkedIn profile has let slip his work on an ARM CPU architecture for the iPhone, confirming the rumour that Apple is working on its own variant of the processor developed for the successor to the BBC Micro. The engineer is one Wei-han Lien, whose profile is now mysteriously absent from LinkedIn …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Nice nod to Acorn, shame the article is full of balls

    The SoC in the iPhone is of Samsung's design. It's an S3C6400-series with flash and RAM in the same package. It doesn't contain anything iPhone-specific. The GSM/3G modem, touch-screen controller, and the accelerometer are all seperate off-the-shelf ICs. And the FairPlay DRM is entirely software.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    Acorn and Apple Fanboi!

  3. Eddie Edwards


    "a little bit of Acorn that refuses to die"

    Die, geddit? As in semiconductor die?

    Oh, never mind.

  4. Chika

    Very punny

    But then where's the arm in it?

    Oh, and yes, the successor of the BBC Micro had a name, dontcha know. But then even a blind pig stumbles across an Acorn now and again!

  5. Peter Hawkins

    ...a little bit of Acorn that refuses to die...

    And the venerable 6502 of course which ARM borrows heavily from..

    Where are all the Z80 fanbois now.. eh.. eh.. ?

    Sorry just warped back to 1982 for a minute there

  6. Torben Mogensen

    Next stop, an Apple netbook

    Given the popularity of netbooks/SCCs/laptots, it would be logical for Apple to enter this market (and with their brand, they would sell big). One such could either be a souped-up iPod Touch / iPhone or a scaled-down MacBook. Given the typical uses of a netbook is browsing, storing photos, film and music and a bit of document processing, the iPhone/iPod version of MacOS X would be fine, and it would be cheaper than using Intel or AMD processors, and less power hungry to boot. And if Apple make their netbook with a touch screen, this will be an additional selling point. There are small netbook-like computers with touch screens around (e.g., Lifebook P1500), but they are not cheap by a long shot. An Apple-branded netbook with touchscreen at around GBP 300 would be a big seller, I'm sure. Apple could even revive their now unused MacBook brand.

  7. Bruno Girin

    @first AC

    Reading the article, it says that the CURRENT version of the iPhone has a Samsung ARM chip in it, as you say, but that it would make sense for Apple to work on their own variation of the chip for FUTURE versions of the device. Re-read it and you will see that it agrees with you.

  8. vincent himpe

    @peter hawkins

    puh .. real programmers use signetics 2650 processors.

  9. Mike Moyle
    Thumb Up

    Applw SCC

    Leaving aside Apple doing "cheap" anything, a netbook-sized, touchscreen-equipped, ARM-driven device...

    ...wouldm't that be the long-awaited (by some of us, at least) color Newton?

    I want one -- these middle-aged eyes are starting to be unhappy trying to read Palm/iPhone/Blackberry-sized screens.

  10. Vincent Rice

    10 million?

    I think Apple are planning on selling a few more than the 10 million quoted in the article. My own estimate for some time has been 60 million of all iPhone variants by end 2009

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Isn't (wasn't) Netbook a trademark?

    Company was called Scion. Or maybe Psion. They had a few problems, decided to throw in the towel on their own OS (one which didn't need a reset button but largely "just worked", in an untrendy kind of way) and jump on the Windows Mobile bandwagon and therefore they needed to add a reset facility, and then they apparently disappeared.

  12. Nick Kew

    @Mike Moyle

    Like a Nokia 810, you mean?

    Wonder if that's why ARM stock is up this week, when so much else is in the red?

    /me feels smug, having bought at 90p just two months ago - on long-term expectations about a processor family with such low power consumption.

  13. Pete Wilson

    @peter hawkins

    Ha! Real programmers use Ferranti FM1600E processors, programmed in FIXPAC3.

    Of course, this does mean that they don't get much work done these days....

    Anyone know where a '1600 can be found? Or even a manual?

    Mebbe it's in me coat...

  14. Thomas

    @Peter Hawkins, Torben Mogensen

    Peter: The z80 fanboys are probably enjoying their x86 processors, which are from the same family tree and much more closely related than the ARM and the 6502.

    Torben: Apple aren't using the MacBook brand? I think you've typo'd there, maybe for iBook?

  15. Anonymous Coward

    @Vincent Rice

    "My own estimate for some time has been 60 million of all iPhone variants by end 2009."

    I saw at least one analyst (yeah, I know) predict 45 million, so you're not alone in estimating higher than the more conservative predictions.

    I hope they can sell a iPhone in Hong Kong Pre-pay - the plans aren't unreasonable, but I use a cell phone so infrequently that I can't reasonably justify it.

    I'll get back to writing my game on m emulated Beeb. Mine the one with the green Acorn logo on the back, which look like an Apple in this light...

  16. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    "Company was called Scion"

    The wisdom of crowds. Gotta love it:

    It's a long article - almost 40 pages in the PDF. You might want to print it out and read it in the bath.

  17. Shonko Kid
    Jobs Horns


    Bit hipocritical posting a comment isn't it Andrew?

    Anyway, back on topic, where were we, oh yes. ARM good. iPhone, not so good.

    Makes sense they'd try and fab it themselves, they'll be desperate for any trickery that can give them more battery life, and not having to pay Samsung (who do a few nice touch phones now) is a bonus.

    I wonder what they make of this over at iNTEL, the iPhone was surely their only route into the smartphone space with that not-so-low-power x86 effort, Atom.

    @Vincent Rice

    I think your '0' key is broken. The only thing iPhone will have 60 million of by the end of next year is blog postings saying how paradigm-shiftingly wonderful it is. :-/

  18. druck Silver badge

    Re: Next stop, an Apple netbook

    I'd love to see Apple producing an ARM powered netbook, after all its how ARM was started as a join venture between Acorn for their new range of desktops, and Apple for use on the innovative Newton hand held. However ARM are exclusively focused on ultra low power designs for devices such as the iPhone, and to compete in the netbook world you have to have something of equivalent performance to Intel's Atom, preferably with even lower power requirements.

    It would take the former PA Semi engineers producing a design with a considerable increase in performance, similar to when DEC grafted on Alpha technology create the StrongARM, with 7x the performance of any existing ARM chip. When Intel gained DECs chip business they squandered all that lead, with the years late and very unimpressive XScale family.

    However I suspect the answer is more mundane and Apple are going to take an existing ARM core and make a SOC with more of the iPhone support chips on board, as speculated in the article.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ "Company was called Scion"

    Yep, it's sad. I'm "first AC" in this thread, and that aside, I've owned a Psion 3A, 3C, Revo, and 5MX. I also happen to know that EPOC laid the basis for what you find in just about every Nokia these days.

    Ah, those joyful days of linking my Series 3C to my Acorn Archimedes A5000...

  20. Torben Mogensen


    Yes, I did indeed mean "iBook".

  21. Steven H Taylor

    ARM all along

    So we can finally put to rest any speculation about future iPhones being based on x86 such as this ?

  22. Anonymous Coward

    @Andrew O and @AC 8:59.

    I made the daft reference to Scion. It's sad, but maybe not in the way you think. I *know* it wasn't called Scion. I even know the OS isn't (quite) called Epoch. I'd hoped the comments about not needing reset buttons would identify the author as someone who had used Psions and liked them (a lot). Ho hum.

    Anyway, is Netbook a trademark or not, and did Psion invent the term (and the concept, and the product) or not?

    Mine's the one with the Psion 3 in one pocket and the ARM-based (but Windows-lumbered) Jornada 720 in the other, for when I catch up to the mid 1990s.

    Hey, the icons have regressed! Now that's progress!

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Yes, Netbook WAS (is?) a registered trademark of Psion

    I'll be on to their lawyers as soon as the credit crunch is over (don't hold your breath).

    Did Psion's Netbooks have a babe on the beach though? I don't remember one.

  24. b collier

    Ferranti FM1600E

    Anyone interested in some consulting work on FM1600E.


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