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Portables (Apple) Businesses Handhelds IBM Apple Hardware

Apple Plans To Make Chips For Handhelds 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the single-core-multi-core-or-apple-core dept.
Preedit writes "Apple plans to get into the business of designing microprocessors for handheld devices, according to legal papers that are part of a dispute between IBM and one of its top technology executives. IBM is suing Power chip expert Mark Papermaster for allegedly violating a non-compete agreement and accepting a job at Apple. In court papers, IBM claims Apple wants Papermaster 'to design microprocessors for incorporation in a variety of electronic devices, including handheld devices.' The suit, according to Infoweek, also notes that Apple earlier this year bought out P.A. Semi. IBM thinks it knows why."
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Apple Plans To Make Chips For Handhelds

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 31, 2008 @03:55PM (#25589059)

    When you buy a mobile chip designer [forbes.com] what else are you going to do with it?

    • by WarJolt (990309) on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:58PM (#25589725)

      Chip designing these days is like the child game you used to play called connecting the dots.

      People use the term SoC(system on chip) to describe them. It's actually quite modular. Basically you can license a arm core or a mips core and put in all your other blocks(PCI, USB, ethernet) all on the same chip, so if Apple were to license the ppc architecture from IBM I'm sure IBM would be happy. I doubt thats what they are doing since the iPhone is based on ARM.

      Not a lot of people design processors from scratch anymore.

      Unless he designs the processor from scratch he's really not competing. I can't imagine apple doing something that stupid.

      That article alludes to his experience with low power. He probably knows a few tricks on how to reduce power load. This is the expertise they are drawing from. He isn't competing with IBM; MIPS, ARM and intel is.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by firewood (41230)

        There are several types of licenses one can buy from ARM. The most expensive type, the type Apple is rumored to have acquired, is an architectural license, which allows one to design ones own CPU core. Why would Apple buy this expensive of a license if all they were going to do was "connect-the-dots"?

      • by Cyberax (705495) on Friday October 31, 2008 @08:21PM (#25591425)

        Not quite true. A lot of companies still design microprocessors from scratch.

        For example, look at Chinese Longsoon CPUs, nanochip, OpenCores, and so on. I also know that several CPUs are designed from scratch in Russia.

        • Not quite true. A lot of companies still design microprocessors from scratch.

          For example, look at Chinese Longsoon CPUs, nanochip, OpenCores, and so on. I also know that several CPUs are designed from scratch in Russia.

          And I think the fact that none of the rest of us have ever heard of those chips/companies proves the GP's point. Interesting, though. Thanks for sharing.

          • I think I qualify as 'one of the rest of us' here, and I've heard of them. A lot of chips that go into embedded devices don't get a ton of press.

          • And I think the fact that none of the rest of us have ever heard of those chips/companies proves the GP's point.

            Well if you only look at "name brand" stuff advertised on tv, instead of the components that go into it :-)

            Do you think your mouse runs by magic? No, it may well have an 8 bit CPU based on a *cut-down* 6502 (who needs a Y register after all...) by WinBond in it (or equivalent).

            Admittedly the mighty ARM is all-conquering, but SunPlus group design their own chip which is (in various forms) in te

    • Power Chip?

      SoC?

      Apple?

      Handheld?

      .

      I'm seeing visions of PalmOS again (and Graffiti).

    • When you buy a mobile chip designer [forbes.com] what else are you going to do with it?

      The same you do when you buy a 3D graphics chips designer [architosh.com] - not much? The only thing we see coming out of it is a person: Bob Mansfield - Senior Vice President, Mac Hardware Engineering [apple.com]

  • IBM also claims that Apple considered replacing the IBM Power chips used in some of its computers with chips made by P.A. Semi.

    Apple isn't using Power chips in any of its current computers, is it? The iPod and iPhone are ARM, and they're not making or shipping anything but x86-based Macs.

    What am I missing?

    • Remember, they did say that 1984 won't be like 1984.
      • Steve's more like Henry Ford than Big Brother. Any color you want as long as you don't want page-up and page-down keys.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by pete-classic (75983)

          Huh? My first Mac keyboard (not quite three years old) has page up and page down keys. Never noticed my MacBook doesn't have them because the two-finger-scroll is so easy. They're normally buried in "Fn" hell on PC notebooks anyway.

          As for colors, what color do you want [apple.com]?

          -Peter

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Fn-Arrow Up Fn-Arrow Down

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by pete-classic (75983)

              You're right! Now I'm going to forget that and just scroll with two-fingers. ;-)

              -Peter

              • by argent (18001)

                I disabled two finger tap and two finger scroll on my macbook pro, and went with Sidetrack to give me a much less annoying virtual second button that doesn't keep getting accidentally misinterpreted as unwanted mouse pointer movements.

                Yes, I'm sure my fingers are defective, but it's a lot cheaper to replace a driver than my fingers.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by ToasterMonkey (467067)

              Option-Arrow Up
              Option-Arrow Down

              That'll even work on full sized keyboards. :)

            • by CptNerd (455084)
              Great, now I'm going to have to spend my time using the F'n' key...
          • by treeves (963993)
            PgUp and PgDn: upper right corner of my ThinkPad T43 keyboard.
            • Page Up and Page Down, on the right (vertical) column in a 3(horizontal) by 2 (vertical) bank toward the right side of my keyboard.

              Right where they should be.

              [][][]
              [][][]

              Yes.

              [] []
              | |[]
              | |[]

              No sale.

              [Enter]

              Yes.

                [___|
              [Enter|

              No sale.

              [Backspace]

              Yes.

              [<-]

              No sale.

              No standalone number pad, no sale.

        • by Firehed (942385)

          More like scroll lock and SysRq, whatever the hell they're good for these days. Good riddance.

          • Does anyone use the Menu key on a windows keyboard (right of the space bar). I use scroll lock on Linux and FreeBSD to lock the scroll on the console, on those rare occasions that I'm not in X.

            Do we really need a print screen key, other than to have Windows use it as a hot key for some obscure functionality or OSX to use it as some sort of optional extra function key?

        • Steve's more like Henry Ford than Big Brother.

          So you're saying Steve Jobs is an antisemitic conspiracy theorist?

          • ironically, IBM is the one who did business with the Nazis [cnet.com] during WWII.
            • Everyone did business with the Nazis. Germany was (and is today) an economic power. I assume that before the US entered the war most knew that the Nazis were a totalitarian regime, but is there is historic evidence that the general public knew what was going on in concentration camps. There is a big difference between imprisoning an ethnic group and torturing and murdering them (including children). I am skeptical that BMW, IBM, and hundreds of other major businesses were keyed in to what was going on until

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Maybe they want to move back?

      http://apple.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/04/23/1119241 [slashdot.org]

      • Yeah, thats what Apple needs..another CPU arch switching mess and backporting nightmare.
        • by geekoid (135745)

          That didn't stop them last time.

          Actually, the last switch wasn't that bad. Yes there were problems, but considering the size of the effort..um.. I don't know how to finish this sentence.

      • by shawnce (146129) on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:16PM (#25589285) Homepage

        Nope. PowerPC is not coming back on the desktop anytime soon for Apple. The P.A. Semi purchase is about SoC likely built around ARM for small devices (aka iPhone).

        • Nope. PowerPC is not coming back on the desktop anytime soon for Apple. The P.A. Semi purchase is about SoC likely built around ARM for small devices (aka iPhone).

          That story was a lot more credible before they hired IBM's premier expert on Power. Why do they keep acquiring Power expertise if they want to build ARM processors? I'm not seeing the logic here....

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:05PM (#25589191) Homepage Journal

      OS/X is portable. They are still supporting Power based Macs last time I checked.
      The next IPod touch could be moved to power if they are low enough power.
      The next AppleTV could use a Power CPU.
      A netbook could use Power as well. That might be a big win for Apple since they wouldn't takeaway any sales from Macbooks.

      Now I am just waiting for Apple to buy AMD and Foxconn :)
      I think they have the cash on had for AMD for sure.

      • But they're not using any now. You don't need *replace* chips you're not using anyway.

        I think IBM's smart enough to be able to check the Apple store and notice the complete absence of any obviously Power PC based products, from iPod Shuffle up through the 8 core Xeon-based XServes. So who am I to doubt IBM's word that they're making and selling systems using Power PC? Clearly I'm doing a bad job in my search, and figured someone here could point me to the missing Powermac or Powerbook they're still shipping

        • by pavon (30274)

          Note the past tense:

          IBM also claims that Apple considered replacing the IBM Power chips used in some of its computers with chips made by P.A. Semi.

          Apple was in talks with PA Semi long before they bought them and before they stopped making PPC computers. It was rumored that Apple was going to switch to their chips for their laptops but instead decided on Intel.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        AMD? not going to happen. Too hot, and as poor architecture for hand held devices that need a lot of cycles.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          AMD is going to roll out 45nm CPUs soon. A duel core 45nm version of their latest CPU would make a good laptop cpu.
          Add in that there 780g gpu blows away what Intel offers.
          Then throw in the ATI line so Apple can have access to the latest and greatest GPUs.
          It might not be a bad buy for Apple.
          But hay I don't write the checks.
          The thing is if Apple did buy AMD and Foxconn they would have complete control from the ground up. I can see Jobs going for that idea.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            Calm down Francis. The conversation was about AMD v Power. It not AMD v. Intel

            Laptop? we're talking about hand held devices.

            AMD and ATI aren't doing so well. So buying them means your tied to them as they lose market share.
            IF they were tiny, and moving Apple products would increase their sales, then yeah I could see that.

      • by vux984 (928602)

        OS/X is portable. They are still supporting Power based Macs last time I checked.

        As I recall snow leopard or whatever the next version is called is dropping support for Power based Macs. If they were planning to switch back or support the chips on handhelds or something, why drop support on the G5s etc.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LWATCDR (28044)

          Dropping support is not the same as not being portable.
          Do they claim support for ARM? I don't think so but the iPhone uses one.
          Power on the desktop? No I don't think so.
          Power on the iPhone, iPod, and maybe a netbook?
          That I can see. But we are all just guessing.
          Unless I am right. Then I am brilliant and insightful.

          • IIRC, the reason PowerPC was dropped was power consumption/heat on notebooks, so it probably wouldn't go in a laptop.

          • by vux984 (928602)

            Dropping support is not the same as not being portable.

            I realize that.

            Do they claim support for ARM? I don't think so but the iPhone uses one.

            They don't have an officially supported ARM release they are dropping support for either.

            Power on the desktop? No I don't think so.

            They ALREADY have PowerPPC on the desktop / laptop, and its currently supported.

            Power on the iPhone, iPod, and maybe a netbook?

            Again, what would be the point of dropping support for the PowerPC if they were planning on using it in the near

        • by Seanasy (21730) on Friday October 31, 2008 @09:16PM (#25591697)

          OS X ran on Intel the entire time it was in development. They didn't mention or release an Intel version until 10.4. I wouldn't put it past Apple Inc. to have an internal version of OS X for PPC, or anyother architecture, ready for the right moment.

          Chip supply is a major weakness/obstacle for Apple. Smart business practice will have options should the current supplier have trouble with yields or other issues, not to mention forward looking technology ideas. Apple is not just smart about tech, they're smart about business. They won't risk their whole business on the fortunes of Intel. Let me repeat that, they won't risk their whole business on the fortunes of Intel. And t

          • I don't know about OS X specifically, but OPENSTEP ran on MIPS and SPARC as well. Both of these architectures have low-power versions aimed at embedded devices. Apple got a team of people from NeXT who were very experienced in shipping software that ran on half a dozen architectures. This puts them in a really good position now - they can easily ship three or four architectures, depending on which manufacturer produces the cheapest chips for any market segment they're interested in. ARM wasn't one of th
      • Now I am just waiting for Apple to buy AMD and Foxconn :)
        I think they have the cash on had for AMD for sure.

        Let 'em buy Foxconn, not like anybody likes that OEM shit.

        But keep yer dirty hands off of AMD.

        (Power on SFF devices by Apple would be nice. Even if it's just Apple TV and handhelds at first.)

  • Good luck with that~ (Score:5, Informative)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:01PM (#25589137) Homepage Journal

    non compete employment agreement are not viewed very favorably in California.

    http://www.boingboing.net/2008/08/08/california-supreme-c-1.html [boingboing.net]

    http://www.workforce.com/section/03/feature/25/82/12/index.html [workforce.com]

    http://www.employlaw.com/noncompete.htm [employlaw.com]

  • Non-compete agreements are such bullshit and should be illegal...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why? If you spend 5 years at a company and learn 'the trade' on their dime they should be safe from you running to the next company and spilling everything they worked hard to make, at lest for a short time. It would be massively unfair for me to take your designs for "insert tech here" and run to "insert corp/country of choice" and beat you to market , or, very closely join you.

      • by spire3661 (1038968) on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:27PM (#25589407) Journal
        THere are other laws that handle those situations. Telling a person he cant work in his professional field because he USED to work for you is wrong and unethical. People > Corporations.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:31PM (#25589429)

        Stealing designs is already illegal in the first place. Non compete agreements prevent you from taking a similar job after your current job has been terminated, even if you have no intention to steal your former employer's trade secrets.

        The real aim of non compete agreements is to lower your negotiation power. Take this salary cut, and no you can't go to the competition because of the non compete.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lysergic.acid (845423)

          that may be true in some cases, but given that "IBM offered to pay Mr. Papermaster one year's salary in exchange for Mr. Papermaster to respect his contractual obligation to refrain from working for an IBM competitor for one year," i don't think that's the case.

          it seems to me like they just don't want to lose their trade secrets to their competitor. and in a hi-tech field like chip design, a year's lead on the competition would be very significant (or at the very least enough for the trade secrets held by a

          • by jrumney (197329)
            A year out of the industry is not going to be looked on favourably by future employers, so even receiving full pay for the duration is not enough compensation for such a restrictive term in my contract. HR normally backs off when you point things out in these terms.
      • Sorry, but it's not fair for one company to have better employees than another company, just because the hire smarter people or give them better training. We must redistribute smart, knowledgeable employees to companies that aren't as well off.
      • by pak9rabid (1011935) on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:37PM (#25589489)

        Why? If you spend 5 years at a company and learn 'the trade' on their dime they should be safe from you running to the next company and spilling everything they worked hard to make, at lest for a short time. It would be massively unfair for me to take your designs for "insert tech here" and run to "insert corp/country of choice" and beat you to market , or, very closely join you.

        Yea..the keyword there is if. If you do that, then you should suffer the legal consequences (if there are any), but you shouldn't be punished simply because you could do that. In any event, treat your valued professionals like they are valued, otherwise somebody else will. Like it or not, the labor market succumbs to the same market forces that every other market does...

      • by OrangeTide (124937) on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:53PM (#25589673) Homepage Journal

        If they can't keep you there by treating you well, providing you opportunity to grow or paying you well. Then why does a company deserve to hold a monopoly on your employment?

        The other problem with non-competes is that there have been numerous cases where employees are laid-off, but their NC are enforced preventing them from getting jobs in the industry.

        Also a company should not be defined by an individual contributor. A company's success depends greatly on the culture and teamwork within that company. Something that is not easy to export (or import, as many merged companies have found out).

        Also "trade secrets" and patents are outside of the scope of a non-compete clause. And you are liable for civil damages if you distribute trade secrets. Even if you no longer work for that company.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ClosedSource (238333)

        "Why? If you spend 5 years at a company and learn 'the trade' on their dime they should be safe from you running to the next company and spilling everything they worked hard to make, at lest for a short time."

        That would be true if they just paid you to hang out and learn. Their "dime" goes to pay you for the work you did to help their company prosper.

        You can't take any trade secrets with you, but the general knowledge you gained belongs to you.

        • traditionally trade secrets are held to a different standard as a non-compete. Even after a non-compete expires your still not allowed to disclose trade secrets. The sole reason for a non-compete is to render the signer completely useless for a year or two to prevent companies in the same line of work from benefiting from another companies stupidity. It completely goes against the point of a capitalistic society, which is why many states just tear it up as overstepping legal bounds of a contract. There are
    • Or people should stop signing them. Personal responsibility and all that.
    • by Rakishi (759894)

      God forbid people show some personal responsibility and not work for companies that force such agreements. Of course since it seems people will put it with anything as long as those numbers next to the $ are slightly bigger than at another company I'm not surprised.

  • "Mark Papermaster"? What is it with all the oddball last names in the technology business? There's Faith Popcorn, but wikipedia says her birthname was Faith Plotkin. But "Papermaster" sounds like someone who should be running either a D&D game or Dunder Mifflin (or Wernham Hogg, I guess).

    • by the_arrow (171557)

      Well in the olden days many people were named after their occupation. Maybe this guys forefathers were masters of papers?

      • by vrmlguy (120854)

        Well in the olden days many people were named after their occupation. Maybe this guys forefathers were masters of papers?

        Larry Niven had an early short story [larryniven.org] (a precursor of his Known Space series) in which a future society had resurrected this practice. Along with Farmer, there were people with surnames like Accountant. Sadly, there was no one named Temporary Part-time Libraries North-West Inter-library Loan Business Unit Administration Assistant [cnn.com].

  • IBM has a case (Score:5, Informative)

    by blind biker (1066130) on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:17PM (#25589305) Journal

    except non-compete agreements were ruled unconstitutional [capoliticalnews.com]

    And rightly so, I shall add. Non-compete agreements are total crap and I hope IBM gets smacked down hard in court over this frivolous lawsuit.

    What, you thought I was going to support IBM on this one? Don't believe everything you read in the subject line ;o)

    • by EvanED (569694)

      You might want to look into that a bit further. First, from the article that blog quoted, I think the blog is wrong about it being unconstitutional. It's just against state law -- CA law. Second, even by "state law" the article meant "constitution", the decision only applies within CA, which has stronger pro-worker laws than just about anywhere else in the US. IBM is suing in NY. So this decision probably means almost jack squat for this case.

    • Re:IBM has a case (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:48PM (#25589603)

      I prefer French law on non compete. If you have one of your employee sign a non compete, three conditions must be respected:
      -limited scope on geography
      -limited scope on time
      and the better one
      -while your former employee is unemployable due to the non compete, you must pay him a compensation for his unemployability. I don't remember how much but it's a certain percentage of the salary.

      • Re:IBM has a case (Score:5, Informative)

        by lysergic.acid (845423) on Friday October 31, 2008 @06:26PM (#25590523) Homepage

        don't know about the first one, but IBM seems to be meeting the last two requirements:
        -they're only asking that he refrain from working for Apple or another direct competitor for one year.
        -they offered to pay him a year's salary (on top of his default compensation package) in exchange for his abidance with the non-compete clause.

        while i think that non-compete clauses definitely have some potential for abuse by employers, i don't think IBM is being that unreasonable in this instance.

      • by jrumney (197329)

        while your former employee is unemployable due to the non compete, you must pay him a compensation for his unemployability. I don't remember how much but it's a certain percentage of the salary.

        Anything less than 100% would not be acceptable IMHO.

  • by Gizzmonic (412910) on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:26PM (#25589393) Homepage Journal

    Apple chips are bland and only favored by dieters and health nuts. Now if the company was called 'Tortilla,' well, then...that would be delicious!

  • Perfectly Legal (Score:4, Informative)

    by jdb2 (800046) * on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:41PM (#25589531) Journal
    Power.org [power.org] is the standards body that controls the POWER(PC) ISA specifications, among other things. Its members include IBM, *Apple*, Freescale and many others. If you want to build a custom designed chip based on one of the ISAs "owned" by Power.org, then all you need to do is become a member and license the ISA of your choice. You are then free to design any kind of custom *micro*-architecture your heart desires as long as the ISA presented by your chip/micro-architecture is compatible with the ISA you licensed from Power.org .

    I want some of whatever the hell IBM is smoking.

    jdb2
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I want some of whatever the hell you Apple fanboys are smoking.

      This case is not about Apple's or IBM's rights to the Power architecture. It is about an employment non-compete agreement.

      I know I shouldn't be, but I am surprised to see an Apple fanboy turn a case about employment rights into a harangue about Apple's licensing rights.

      • Maybe they're rolling up those apple chips and smoking them.
      • I think the point was just made that it really cannot be argued that IBM and Apple are competitors when they are in a cooperative agreement that covers the technology that this guy was privy to.

      • by jdb2 (800046) *
        I am NOT an "Apple fanboy" ( in fact, I can't stand them and I've never owned any Apple hardware or software in my life-- I'm running Kubuntu 8.04 ) My comment concerning IBM's competency was in the context of their supporting, actually giving away, their processor ISAs and encouraging everyone to join the Power.org custom ASIC bandwagon, yet at the same time crying about some idiotic non-compete agreement when they created the competition in the first place. Oh, and my "harangue about Apple's licensing rig
  • Seems to me that if you work in a fairly specialized field, like microprocessor design, then pretty much your only choice to stay in the field when you leave your current employment is to go to a competitor; everyone else in the field is a competitor. It's pretty unusual for a court to enforce a clause which boils down to "if you leave the company you can't work in your field".

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