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Summary:

What do you do when you have $40 billion in cash on hand? If you’re Apple, you go on a shopping spree. The latest acquisition in a string of corporate purchases is Intrinsity, another chip making company (Apple previously acquired PA Semi in 2008).

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What do you do when you have $40 billion in cash on hand? If you’re Apple, you go on a shopping spree. The latest acquisition in a string of corporate purchases is Intrinsity, another chip making company (Apple previously acquired PA Semi in 2008).

Although Apple has confirmed the purchase with the New York Times, there’s still no official word on its plans for the company or the price paid. At least one estimate places the value of the deal at $121 million. The purchase comes on the heels of a rumor that Apple had approached ARM with an offer to purchase the major chip design licensing company.

Intrinsity isn’t completely out of the ballpark, though it is less of an industry powerhouse by a wide, wide margin. Still, it confirms that Apple is increasingly interested in the chip design side of the computing business, something which the in-house designed iPad A4 is also further proof of.

It’s also possible that we have another situation like that surrounding the Quattro Wireless acquisition on our hands. In that case, Quattro Wireless was clearly second choice to mobile advertising company AdMob, which Apple had apparently bid on before it was acquired by Google. ARM could’ve similarly spurned Apple’s advances, at which point it would’ve turned its attention to more receptive targets, including Intrinsity.

But what about Intrinsity makes it so appealing to Apple specifically? Well, the Texas chip maker in question may be relatively small, but in this case, fast thing comes in small sizes. Intrinsity is known for making very fast versions of mobile device chips. Not only that, but it may actually be the company responsible for the speedy A4 chip found in the iPad, if rumors are true.

The same division of Samsung that developed the A4 for Apple apparently worked with Intrinsity to find a way to ratchet up the speed of chips that normally run at 650 megahertz to a much snappier 1000 megahertz. If it’s true, Apple just secured its speed advantage over the competition for at least a little while, and it did so without putting much of a dent in its massive cash reserves.

The move may also be intended as a means to jump-start Apple’s stalled plans to design its own brand new mobile chip from the ground up. Rumors circulating say that those efforts, which began with Apple’s acquisition of PA Semi, have since gone off the tracks since many former members of that company have left since the company’s purchase. A number of them ended up at Google last month.

Whatever the effect of the purchase, we probably won’t see any changes in the lineup until at least the next iteration of both the iPhone and the iPad. Let’s hope it means faster chips with lower power consumption for even bigger battery life gains.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: As Devices Converge, Chip Vendors Girding For a Fight

  1. For all the brainpower speculatively ascribed to the A4 (Samsung! PA Semi! Intrinsity!), it does not contain any silicon magic unknown to Intel/AMD/NVIDIA/etc. The fact that it’s a black box just means the details aren’t amazing or important enough to put on a spec sheet.

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    1. Or maybe so important and significant that you want to protect the black box.

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