Although neither company has yet to publicly confirm the the story, Forbes is reporting that Apple has entered into an agreement to buy low-power chipmaker P.A. Semi. Sources close to P.A. Semi put the deal in the $250 to $300 million range, although no exact figure has emerged.
P.A. Semi was founded in 2003 by Dan Dobberpul, who was a key designer on DEC’s Alpha and StrongARM processors, and the company currently develops high-performance, low-power chips for the telecommunications and wireless market.
No current Apple products use P.A. Semi processors, but industry speculation has Apple looking to PA Semi for chips to power future iPhones, as well as possible future iPods and other consumer electronics devices. Apple currently sources the iPhone processor from South Korea’s Samsung, based on designs licensed from the UK’s ARM. (Apple was one of the companies that formed ARM back in 1990, and, indeed, sales of ARM Holdings stock were about the only thing that kept the company’s head above the red line during some difficult financial quarters in the mid-1990s.) However, companies building ARM-based processors are increasingly looking to enter the ultra-mobile PC and mobile Internet device (MID) markets—and consuming more power as they grow. Purchasing P.A. Semi may give Apple a low-power option for its devices that is neither Intel’s Atom processor, or an overburdened ARM processor from another supplier.
Apple had been working with P.A. Semi a few years ago when the company was mulling its transition away from PowerPC processors. At the time, P.A. Semi was offering a 64-bit microprocessor that consumed a maximum of 13 watts at 2 GHz. Apple eventually went with Intel processors for its desktop and portable computers.