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Apple's ARM Plans in 2009? NetBooks, Tablets, Other?

A couple of speculative reports have come out about what plans Apple might have for its ARM-based processors in the coming year. Apple is rumored to be a major architectual licensee for ARM. This would offer Apple an added level of control and ownership over its processors. Apple presently uses the ARM processor in the iPhone and iPod Touch. Additional evidence has pointed to the fact that Apple acquired P.A. Semi specifically for their expertise in low-power processor development.

Computerworld blogger Seth Weintraub recently spoke with Bob Morris, director of platform enablement for ARM's mobile processor group, and believes that Apple will incorporate ARM processors in future netbooks and/or tablets. The newest ARM processors are said to have equal performance to Intel's Atom processors but dramatically lower power consumption:

We are talking Apples and Oranges here. Not double, but an order of magnitude better for ARM. Some ARM chips routinely use 10-20 times less power than Intel for similar operations. Battery usage with ARM chips in prospective netbooks could be measured in days, not hours much like smartphones.

Meanwhile, Global Equities Research analyst takes it a step further by claiming that Apple will launch "a completely new device category" in the second half of 2009 based on chips produced by P.A. Semiconductor. Unfortunately, the credibility of the report is somewhat marred by the seemingly nonsensical statement that the new processors "will have the Objective-C instruction set built into the chip".

Regardless, Apple seems to have made some major moves in terms of custom processor development in 2008. While it's been assumed that these investments have been directed at the iPhone and iPod Touch, it's conceivable the technology will trickle to future devices.