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Ashlee Vance of the NYTimes puts the cost of developing an ARM-based chip at around a billion dollars for companies like NVidia, Qualcomm and Apple. And that’s without the fabrication process to actually produce the chip.
That’s quite an investment for Apple and something that smaller companies like Palm wouldn’t be able to fund. Apple got a head start on their A4 chip production by purchasing PA Semi for $278 million two years ago, but has likely been spending liberally ever since. Still, many dispute this high cost.
Until the iPhone “platform” was unveiled in 2007, ARM designs weren’t considered for processors that could power “actual computers.” That is unless you consider that the ancestors to the current ARM designs were use in the Acorn desktop computers popular in Europe 25 years ago.
“Apple was the first company to make a really aspirational device [in a really long time] that wasn’t based on Intel chips and Microsoft’s Windows,” said Fred Weber, a chip industry veteran. “The iPhone broke some psychological barriers people had about trying new products and helped drive this consumer electronics push.”
Intel is the obvious victim of this possible industry move to ARM processors. The NYTimes cites Intel’s ability to run Windows and their $9 billion war chest as obstacles to ARM chips like Apple’s A4 entering the general computing space.
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