Posted by: Frank | February 1, 2010

More About Apple’s A4 Processor

In an earlier post I wrote about what I consider to be the only unique technology in the Apple iPad, it’s A4 Processor designed by Apple. The New York Post has an article on this same point that I think is worth reading.

Mobile devices that sell well address the following key features:

  • Weight: The device needs to be light enough to be carried around and used with little effort
  • Size: The device needs to be small enough to fit in pockets and be easy to hold with one hand
  • Battery life: The device needs to be able to continue to run at least through a business day, and preferably longer
  • Performance: The functions that the device performs, whether switching menus or running applications, need to complete with no noticeable delay
  • Capability: The device needs to be able to provide enough functionality to justify it’s cost
  • Simplicity: The device needs to be easy to use

Four of the items, battery life & performance, capability & simplicity, can be viewed as two extremes on the same scale. While there are very fast processors in personal computers, the fastest processors consume the most power, decreasing battery life. While we want our devices to be snappy, they are useless if they don’t last throughout the work day without having to be constantly recharged. Likewise, we want our devices to do everything possible but not at the price of being too difficult to be used.

Seemingly there has been little progress in battery technology, which makes processor design all that much more important in finding the right balance between battery life and performance. The balance between the two is what is motivating Apple to get in the chip design business for themselves. It is an interesting step for them to take given the current thinking in manufacturing to outsource much of the component manufacturing to other companies. Given the apparent success that Qualcomm has had with the Snapdragon processor, it might prove to be an expensive choice for Apple.

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