People are willing to pay a premium for so called "reconfigurable computing"
and simple availability to a mass FPGA IP of functions for untold task's made readily available on your app store.
you just dont know you want it yet.
why buy an app from the store that run's 10 times slower on the CPU, when you can have that FPGA IP assisted functionality loaded on the fly to make it 10 times faster (video encoding etc)
apple seem to be well placed to start off this new profits mass "reconfigurable computing" FPGA consumer market off.
using the FPGA today on mass production makes perfect sense , rather than look as the negative, think about the potential for massive "reconfigurable computing" market share to finally take off.
as one single example,instead of a fixed function antiquated ASIC that doesn't have that latest and greatest codec included when it was launched last year, you simply update your FPGA on the fly with that codec and sell your latest app with hooks to it as an add-on in your app store.
new profit's, for everyone and happy customers that wanted that functionality, and so recommend that device to everyone they know generating even more FPGA growth markets, and all for the sake of taking that off the shelf FPGA and putting it on every PCB you make
People are willing to pay a premium for Apple-branded products. Considering the various revenue threats - product counterfeiting, subscription hacking (iTunes, AppleTV), laptop theft - the cost of adding a secure reconfigurable device is tiny. Without being any kind of expert on this topic (search on "physical unclonable function"), a few seconds of reasoning should make you not surprised, but wondering how to solve this *without* any FPGA.
The time to develop a full custom chip and the cost (NREs) are very prohibitive and make the use of FPGAs more attractive with even moderate volume(but short lived) products. Tweaks to the FPGA allow for last minute fixes that a custom chip does not allow.
My guess is, it's related to hacker-proofing
the laptop, akin to putting LoJack(tm) on a car.
Authentication keys, anti-tampering, etc. Here's
a link to a paper "SECURE FPGA TECHNOLOGIES AND TECHNIQUES" which cites TransFR(tm):
It may not be very high volume to make ASIC. There may be few reasons for that - product life is short, FPGA price are lowering and Lattice may be offering very good price to Apple. Also, if it is new IP core like Thunderbolt, Apple may need to upgrade / fine tune IP core bug in due course and needs this freedom available in FPGA and not in ASIC.
Lattice LFXP2-5E FPGA inside new MacBook.
I am surprised! Why would Apple use an FPGA for such a high volume consumer notebook?
Any idea what exactly is implemented in this FPGA?