Apple shocks technology world, buys P.A. Semi CPU designers

Apple astounded just about everyone today by buying PA Semi for $278 million. P.A. Semi is a fabless chip designer that specializes in super low power PowerPC processors. The founder of P.A. Semi, Dan Dobberpuhl, also has a history of designing StrongARM chips - the kind currently in use in the iPod Touch and iPhone - from his former work at DEC.

StrongARM, which was sold to Intel and became the foundation for the XScale family, was one of the first high-performance energy-efficient processors. Intel sold its XScale business to Marvell for $600m in June of 2006.

Whether Apple is after the StrongARM expertise or PowerPC processors, don't look for these chips to go into traditional desktops. These chips are more likely to hit high end iPhones, iPods and tablet devices in the coming months and years.

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P.A. Semi was in the running as Apple's processor of choice three years ago when Apple was making a decsion between PowerPCs from P.A. Semi and IBM or Intel x86. Apple obviously chose Intel but PA did offer a compelling choice at the time - but wasn't perhaps tested enough.

The P.A. Semi purchase leaves Intel's Atom Processor out of the mix as well. Many rumor websites had incorrectly predicted that Atom was the next generation Apple ultra-portable chip.

Intel certainly isn't out of the loop altogether, however. They are still much stronger in the high end desktop and laptop device market.

This exciting development means Apple is probably going down the two platform road. Perhaps that is why the WWDC event fliers had two diverging bridges?

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