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Apple's bionic ARM to muscle advanced gaming graphics into iPhones

PA Semi Brings Custom SoC Expertise In House

This also helps explain why Apple recently acquired a fabless chip design company. As a recent article indicated, Apple wanted to expand its in house chip design expertise. The company is taking on its own mobile processor designs that incorporate the latest graphics technology and pairing these with the most appropriate processor cores.

As illustrated in the past, that currently means the use of processors based on the ARM architecture. But the door is open for Apple to incorporate future versions of Intel's Atom line of mobile processors, which also incorporate Imagination's PowerVR graphics cores.

By licensing Imagination's graphics technology directly, Apple can keep itself flexible to adopt any mobile processor architecture while retaining a competitive edge in graphics performance. The processor agnostic design of OS X allows Apple to outmaneuver existing mobile operating systems, which are often closely tied to specific hardware.

Custom chip development is nothing new at Apple. By gaining access to exclusive new generations of mobile graphics technology, Apple can differentiate its products from other smartphones and mobile Internet devices with an edge in performance while offering full support for industry standard OpenGL ES graphics.

Graphics are for Gaming

Apple's push to build a consumer friendly App Store to deliver mobile applications on demand, combined with the reality that games are a top draw in mobile software products and Apple's recent moves in acquiring custom chip development expertise add up to a new gaming strategy.

Interestingly, the iPhone and iPod touch already exceed the performance of existing handheld gaming devices such as the Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable.

New iPhone Apps

A flight simulator game demonstrated at Apple's March iPhone roadmap event.

Of the half dozen new iPhone applications Apple demonstrated at its SDK unveiling, half were video games. Artificial Life, Aspyr, Electronic Arts, Feral Interactive, Freeverse, Gameloft, id Software, Pangea, THQ, and Namco Bandai have all confirmed an intent to deliver games for the platform, with Gameloft announcing plans for fifteen titles by the end of the year.

By commoditizing mobile video gaming into the powerhouse that is iTunes, Apple can team its new smartphone and WiFi mobile platform business with the high volume software sales related to gaming. Apple quietly began developing its downloadable gaming business for the iPod in 2005, and earlier this year released a signed software platform for the iPhone and iPod touch that follows the business models of existing video game consoles developed by Nintendo and duplicated by Sony and Microsoft.