LONDON There has been much speculation about whose chips are designed into the Apple iPhone, the mobile gadget launched by Apple this week. But it should be remembered that modern system design is also about the cores inside the chips.
And when it is about the intellectual property the chip is sometimes just the "dongle" added to the IP to stop the customer ripping the IP provider off and to help the customer connect one lot of valuable IP to other lot of IP in their system.
According to a report from FBR Research, the iPhone winners include Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (applications/video processor), Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (802.11), Infineon Technologies AG (baseband), Broadcom Corp. (touch screen controller), and CSR plc (Bluetooth) among others.
So how many core processors from ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England) does that represent? It's probably one ARM in the Samsung video processor. The Marvell 802.11n solution has an on-chip CPU. And then there is the Infineon baseband chip. While Infineon's mobile phone basebands have not traditionally been based on ARM cores Infineon's S-Gold3 turbo engine for multimedia phones is based on a ARM926 processor core to provide modem functions, according to the datasheet. So an Infineon baseband, maybe a custom one for Apple, is quite likely to be based on an ARM processor core.
The CSR Bluetooth protocol stack typically runs on a XAP processor core from Cambridge Consultants Ltd. and custom DSP engines when it runs on CSR-provided silicon but it also runs on ARM cores in some applications. Either way would represent multiple design wins for Silicon Fen.
It should be remembered that ARM was at the core of the PortalPlayer Inc. chip that kick-started the iPod revolution, before Samsung displaced PortalPlayer with the S5L8701B05 ARM processor in the iPod Nano. This is another indicator that ARM could be the CPU of choice in the iPhone.