We reported, and reported again, and pondered, and speculated some more about Apple buying Palo Alto Semiconductor (PA Semi), but now Steve Jobs himself has put the rumors to rest with a pretty clear statement as to his intentions:
PA Semi is going to do system-on-chips for iPhones and iPods
Of course, like any Lost season finale cliff hanger, Jobs' answers lead only to more questions. When will Apple switch from the current iPhone and iPhone 3G Infineon S-Gold chips to PA Semi? By the third gen device? Fourth? And who will PA Semi -- a design company, not a fab -- be working with to produce these systems-on-a-chip? Will Infineon be cut out completely? Will Intel's new Atom platform never stand a chance on the iPhone? (Just the iTablet?!)
We know OS X is amazingly portable, having already run on PowerPC, Intel, and ARM architectures, so transitioning shouldn't be a problem for the hardware makers, but what about software developers? Will we be looking at Universal App Store apps on day?
(Universal Apps are the name for applications that are currently compiled to run on both PowerPC and Intel Macs -- with increased effort on the developers side).
And what makes an in-house design so compelling it will overcome the lost economies-of-scale Apple enjoys by using more widely adopted architectures? (One of the reasons they switched to Intel on the Mac side).
Ars Technica offers some ideas (and further analysis):
Though there aren't any more details available than the quote above, it's plausible to infer that the SoCs in question will be ARM-based. Some of the key members of the PA Semi team were formerly part of Intel's XScale group, which designed a line of low-power, ARM-based embedded processors before being sold off as part of a company-wide restructuring.
Guess we'll have to just wait (for WWDC 2010?) and see. Curiouser, as they say, and curiouser.