Bobcat in your iPhone?

As much as everyone loves hearing about the iPhone every day, I must bother you with another reference - but I promise it has relevance.

Apple made its transition to Intel x86 processors in record time, everything from its notebooks to its desktops and even the Apple TV use x86 processors. However, the iPhone uses an ARM based processor - which means Apple has to maintain compatibility with a completely different platform when adding OS X functionality to the iPhone. There's no doubt that Apple would prefer to have an x86 processor in its iPhone if for no reason than to simplify its software development, but neither Intel nor AMD make an x86 core that could work in such a cost/power sensitive device.

Intel is working on a chip that could be used in a device like the iPhone down the road, called Silverthorne. Silverthorne is the processor, Poulsbo is the chipset and the entire platform is called Menlow. It's due out in the first half of 2008 and it, like the Bobcat core, will be extremely simplified in order to work in these very low power, low cost devices.

AMD has a different approach; ATI had a number of consumer electronics customers prior to the acquisition, and it was already selling microprocessors into that space - although they were based on MIPS cores. AMD's Imageon and Xilleon processors have been used in set top boxes and digital TVs for a while now but after Bobcat is introduced, there will be a new option.

AMD will offer Imageon and Xilleon processors into the same markets it always has, but customers will be given the option of having a low powered x86 core instead of the ARM/MIPS solution they are used to, if they wish. AMD has to offer the option because it is already entrenched in the market, but the end goal is the same: to transition to x86 from top to bottom.

AMD insists that these new Imageon and Xilleon processors would roughly be the same size as present day ones, regardless of whether the customer chooses an x86 or non-x86 core. Only approximately 20% of the SoC (System on Chip) core is taken up by the x86 CPU, so the impact is minimal.

There's no doubt in our minds that devices like the iPhone will move to x86 based solutions, either from AMD with Bobcat or Intel with Silverthorne and its successors, in the coming years. Such a move would greatly simplify software development, as well as increase the capabilities of these devices.

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View All Comments

  • Lord Evermore - Sunday, July 29, 2007 - link

    What the heck are RDDR and UDDR? My only guess is the U might stand for the UMA design, but I don't know if that would be preferred for the server or workstation. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - link

    RDDR = Registered DDR
    UDDR = Unbuffered DDR

    Take care,
  • Martimus - Thursday, August 2, 2007 - link

    Ok, what is OoO? I couldn't find it with a search on Google. Reply
  • Spartan Niner - Saturday, August 4, 2007 - link

    OoO is "out-of-order" referring to OoOE, "out-of-order-execution"">
  • Martimus - Monday, August 6, 2007 - link

    Thanks. Reply
  • xpose - Saturday, July 28, 2007 - link

    This is the best future roadmap article I have ever read. I am actually excited. No really. Reply
  • najames - Friday, July 27, 2007 - link

    I am an AMD fanboy, of 7 computers I have at home, only the 5 year old laptop has an Intel chip now. Dual cores are actually likely all I REALLY need. That said, I am sick of a bunch of hype and no new products. It's all blow and no show. I don't care about years down the road because it could all change between now and then.

    AMD/ATI could be a good thing too if they make good, polished drivers, 100% working for what was promised. How about throwing people a bone to make them switch, maybe even make some kick butt Linux drivers too.

    We were all on an AMD bus and nobody has been driving since the X2 chip. They taunted Intel and handed out huge bonuses, but forgot about any new development. I have to credit Intel, they kicked butt with Core 2, and seem to be doing more butt kicking going forward.

    I watched Hector on CNBC last night and he didn't look like he had a clue what was going on. Granted they weren't asking him details of any processors, but he was dodging basic business questions. Why do I have several hundred shares of AMD?
  • Regs - Monday, July 30, 2007 - link


    Why do I have several hundred shares of AMD?

    Because those relatively cheap shares, compared to Intel's, might be worth hundreds of times more one day from that stuff you call blow. Blow = prospects in business terms.

    I would say the same thing as you did though at first. It's obvious AMD and ATi's pipeline dried up and unfortunately both consecutively. You can argue that the 2900XT is a good card, performs well, etc..etc.. but that doesn't explain why AMD offers crapware for main stream (where the real money is). As for AMD's CPU line can only sell old for so long in the technology sector without taking a hit.
  • kilkennycat - Friday, July 27, 2007 - link

    .... dump ATi. The marriage made in hell. New products unable to meet schedule and with inferior performance, thus no way of rapidly recovering development costs by pricing for performance.

    Dave Orton sure did a neat sell-job on AMD, walking away with $$millions when AMD paid a 20% premium for a chronically non-performing company barely managing to eke out some tiny profits during the last couple of years. No wonder Mr. Orton was finally shown the door.
  • kleinwl - Friday, July 27, 2007 - link

    What is the problem with AMD, did they not receive enough feedback that UVD is a "must have" on high end units. I don't want to have choose between good gaming performance and movie performance... I am paying a ridiculous premium already for hardware... the least they could do is make sure it has all the bells and whistles. Reply

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