Friday, December 4, 2009

Apple Product Rumors Converge?

The rumor that Apple will release a surprisingly affordable tablet device aligns nicely with the claim that the device will be based on low-power non-Intel hardware and will involve custom chips designed by the team Apple gained in its PA Semi acquisition. Since Apple's NeXT-derived Unix platform has been developed and maintained as an architecture-independent platform (having already shipped so far on numerous PowerPC-based systems, the iPhone's ARM, and the last several years of Intel hardware), Apple has created an environment in which its developers can easily target whatever hardware Apple chooses to sell, and Apple users can expect their software to work just fine on whatever they buy from Apple. This means that Apple's software platform affords Apple a degree of hardware flexibility utterly lacking in any other major computer manufacturer.

If non-Intel tech (say, an MP ARM system with custom, low-power graphics and communications signal coprocessors) enables theoretical manufacturing cost, energy consumption, and product weight advantages, Apple will be able to leverage this as an advantage until Microsoft supports the new platform (cue laugh track) or Intel catches up (much more plausible, but notice Intel not soon shipping nVidia-defeating GPU hardware despite prior claims of timeliness; Intel's unquestioned skill in wringing performance from hardware intended to execute x86 instructions and their derivatives may not transfer into similarly crushing dominance in the design or manufacture of other computation hardware).

Considering the apparent consumer interest in an Apple tablet even before a prototype or demonstration or even a draft of any marketing copy has been released, leaked, or stolen from Apple, one could be forgiven for wondering just how much hay Apple might be able to make with a few years' headstart in a market segment built around general-purpose multitouch tablets that don't use Intel hardware.

Could be an interesting product release.

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