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Did Apple Court Other PPC Vendors Before Intel Switch?
PA Semi - a maker of low-power Power processors - formed a tight relationship with Apple - one meant to result in it delivering chips for Apple's notebook line and possibly desktops. The two companies shared software engineering work, trying to see how Apple's applications could be ported onto PA Semi's silicon. When word leaked out that Apple had signed on with Intel, it shocked the PA Semi staff, according to multiple sources.
PA Semi is a silicon-valley startup that boasts having lead designers of the DEC Alpha and StrongARM chips, as well as designers from the Opteron, Itanium, and UltraSparc. It currently plans on quad-core versions of its chips to ship by late 2007, and an eight-core version in 2008.
PA Semi's first chip is a dual-core Altivec-compatible chip with 2 MB of L2 cache, support for DDR2 and PCI-Express. In addition, when running at 2 Ghz, the chip consumes only 7 watts of power according to PA Semi. Comparatively, Intel's Core Duo consumes between 21 and 25 watts.
Despite the startup's impressive portfolio, with the chip sampling in 2006 and shipping in volume by 2007, it may have arrived too late for Apple to consider further. Also, with Intel's Kentfield quad-core chip rumored to arrive by Q1 2007, it appears as though PA Semi is about 9 months behind Intel.