Apple has bought chip maker Intrinsity, according to The New York Times, a move that could have a significant impact in the evolution of the company's iPad tablet PC.
The deal closed in late March, for a purchase price of $121 million, according to Tom Halfhill, editor of the Microprocessor Report newsletter. The figure - nearly half of what Apple paid for chip designer P.A. Semi in 2008 - should hardly put a dent in the pile of money that, in February, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said he was saving for a "big, bold" move.
Though maybe not big and bold, the deal provides Apple with a considerable jump on its competitors. While several chips on the market offer speeds of 650MHz, Intrinsity's A4 chip is said to hit 1,000MHz. The A4 is said to be behind the Apple iPad's exceptional battery life.
"According to rumor, Intrinsity had a significant role in the design of the iPad chip. I think [the purchase] points to a recognition on Apple's part that if it fully wants to control the future of a platform that it believes is as important as the iPad will be, it needs to own the stack from the bottom up," Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT Research, told eWEEK. "By taking ownership of the semiconductor part of the product development process, Apple, I think, hopes to create a product that other companies will find difficult to emulate or copy."
King points out that while the iPhone was revolutionary when it came out, current and soon-to-arrive devices, particularly those running Android, are beginning to catch up, if not pass it.
"People I've spoken with who've used the Droid Incredible say it's the first phone they've seen that truly leaves the iPhone in the dust," he said. "With the iPad, I think there's going to be a similar development, with companies coming to market with [Intel's] Atom ... and other chip sets, where I think you run into the problem, if you're Apple, of saying, -How do you stay innovative and ahead of the game?'"
With Intrinsity, Apple may have found the answer.
According to the Times, Intrinsity worked with a division of Samsung to produce the iPad's A4 chip - which perhaps sheds new light on The Korea Times' April 19 report that Apple, and not Samsung, will produce the AP (application processor) chips planned for the iPhone 4G.
News of the Intrinsity purchase should additionally put an end to the rumors of Apple's interest in acquiring ARM Holdings, which currently provides chips for the iPhone.