A Little Chip Designed by Apple Itself

Sure, the screen is nice. But the iPad’s most important component, at least for Apple’s future, may be the A4, the fingernail-size chip at the tablet’s heart. With the A4, Apple has taken another step toward challenging the norms of the mobile device industry. Device makers typically buy their primary chips from specialised microprocessor companies. But for the iPad, Apple chose to design its own — creating unique bonds between the chip and Apple’s software. The do-it-yourself approach gives Apple the chance to build faster, more battery-friendly products than rivals and helps the company to keep product development secret. But designing its own processors burdens Apple with additional engineering costs and potential product delays. It also forces the company to hire — and retain — experienced chip designers. Several who joined the company in 2008 after an acquisition have already left for a secretive start-up. Though chip industry experts have yet to put the iPad through their customary rigorous tests, Apple’s demonstrations left them underwhelmed

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