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Monday, September 15, 2008, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Apple's PA Semi working on ARM chip for next-gen iPhone

The boutique chip design firm purchased by Apple earlier this year has been tasked with developing a specialized ARM processor for the next-generation iPhone, one of the company's engineers has revealed.

A New York Times blog post points to the public LinkedIn profile of PA Semi's senior principle architect Wei-han Lien, where he lists his current job function as "Senior Manager Chip CPU Architect at Apple" managing the "ARM CPU architecture team for iPhone."

The small revelation appears to confirm speculation that Apple was indeed the "leading handset OEM" who purchased earlier this year "a long-term architecture license" to ARM's current and future technology portfolio for use in its future mobile products.

Although analysts have long fingered an ARM-based processor at the heart of the first two generations of the iPhone, Apple has refused to confirm or deny the specific type of chip employed by the handsets.

Without providing details, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs told the Times earlier this year that his company's $278 million acquisition of P.A. Semi would drive the future of Apple's handheld products.

"PA Semi is going to do system-on-chips for iPhones and iPods," he said.

By returning to its roots and developing its own brand of ARM chip in-house, Apple stands to keep a tighter lid on its future product plans while possibly saving on costs at the same time. It will allow the company to innovate in a way going forward that will differentiate its handheld products from a growing array of competitive devices that will be left to rely on technologies available to the broader industry.

Separately, Apple is also believed to be the mysterious licensee of Imagination Technologie's current and future PowerVR graphics technologies, which will be tied into future ARM-based iPhone system-on-a-chip (SoC) designs.

For a more detailed explanation of how all the pieces fit together, please see AppleInsider's two page report: Apple's bionic ARM to muscle advanced gaming graphics into iPhones.