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Report: iPad 3-powering A6 won’t be ready until next year

Those hoping for iPad (s aapl) lightning to strike twice this year might be disappointed by a new report out Friday. Taiwan Economic News, citing sources within the chipmaking industry, says the A6 processor, successor to the A5 and cited as the central component for a new, more powerful iPad, won’t be ready for public consumption until the second quarter of next year at the earliest.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, Ltd. (TSMC)  (s tsm) is the company that will be supplying the A6 to Apple, according to the report. Reuters (s tri) reported last month that the chipmaker was getting underway with trial production, but this latest report seems to suggest that trial production hadn’t yet begun in earnest until now.

The current A5 chip that powers the iPad 2, and is rumored to power the upcoming iPhone 5, is supplied by Samsung, but reports have long suggested that Apple was considering moving their chip production to TSMC, which is the world’s largest semiconductor foundry as measured by market share. Apple is also thought to be looking to move some of its business away from Samsung, since the two companies are involved in a complicated and volatile legal battle in various courts worldwide.

The A6, based on the ARM (s armh) chip architecture, will use TSMC’s new 28-nanometer process, along with 3D stacking technologies. That will make for an extremely low-powered chip that’s also capable of blowing away the A4 and A5 in terms of processing ability, since those designs both use layered instead of 3D designs. The 3D stacking tech will allow layers to be integrated vertically and horizontally into one single circuit. Computerworld’s Jonny Evans suggested in July that such a design could make for a processor powerful enough, in theory, to replace Intel (s intc) chips in future MacBook Airs, so they should extend the iPad’s capabilities considerably.

Taiwan Economic News says TSMC and Apple had discussed working together on past chips, but the chipmaker didn’t have the spare production capacity to take on the iPad maker as a customer. Owing to a downturn in the industry this year, the publication says TSMC now has room to fill Apple’s orders.

While it may be disappointing to some that it’s looking less likely we’ll see an iPad 3 this year, an iPad 2 and an iPad 3 released so close together isn’t a smart play for Apple anyway, as I noted earlier this year. The iPad continues to dominate the tablet space, and Apple is currently doing a good job of keeping its competition from even being able to sell their products. Even if we won’t get to see a new iPad product before 2012, the news that TSMC is getting underway with its chipmaking plans ahead of ramping up for full production in the first quarter of 2011 is still an exciting prospect for fans eager to see what’s coming next from Apple.

10 Responses to “Report: iPad 3-powering A6 won’t be ready until next year”

  1. Apple only have one phone and one ipad. To keep up with changes in products with other companies, they need to come out with changes to their products around every six months. That is the technology world. But they need to make those changes with the most changes on every production. If not, people will wait to buy. The way Apple needs to look at their products is, for every competitors phone and tablet bought from someone else, is a lost sale from Apple.

    • Daibidh

      I’d like them to come out with new product more frequently because I hate waiting! However, as other companies struggle to compete in both market share and profit margin, I think Apple has landed on a winning strategy. Rats! We’d best get used to waiting.

  2. Nvidia is also using TSMC. This makes me think that Tegra 4, which will probably be a quad core 2.5 Ghz Cortex A15, will also use 3D stacking technology. I know it’s probably not TSMC’s technology per se, but if they can make it, maybe others have designed their chips like that, too, and we’ll see them in 2012.

    I’m pretty sure Apple will use A6 or A7 in notebooks. What I don’t know yet is if they’re going to put these chips in Mac OS X based notebooks, or iOS based notebooks (detachable like Asus Transformer, which I think is the future for notebooks). If they also see the future of notebooks as same form factor but with a detachable tablet, then they will use iOS for these “notebooks” not Mac OS, so they won’t have to port Mac OS to ARM.

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      iOS and Mac OS use the exact same xnu kernel, and their Cocoa API’s are hardware-agnostic. There is no need to port Mac OS to ARM … it already runs there. If Apple does a Mac with ARM architecture they just have to put a compiler checkbox in Xcode: [] Intel [] ARM and developers will have to recompile their apps with ARM checked. Same as PowerPC/Intel. Very easy. The much harder part is to make the higher-level parts of Mac OS work on touchscreen.

      If there is ever an iOS-based notebook, I would be really surprised. The keyboard is an optional accessory with iOS just like a piano keyboard is optional with Mac OS. It’s easy to attach if you need it; it is a burden to the majority of users if built-in. Computing has moved away from the keyboard; accept it. There are so many modern apps that have no use for the keyboard, or almost no use: video editors, audio editors, many games, many art tools, and even the Web. Touch plus virtual keyboard is better than keyboard with no touch in all of those cases. Most people are not typists, they are not keyboard-focused. If you were editing a movie in 1960, you didn’t use a typewriter. A computerized video editing tool doesn’t need to have a typewriter attached, either. Much better to have transport controls, knobs, sliders, and so on that create a true video-editing workflow.

  3. Laughing_Boy48

    I don’t think there’s any guarantee that the A6 will be used in smartphones. Apple may just overclock the A5 for the iPhone and iPod Touch. I’d heard sometime ago that the A6 would put out too much heat for use in the slimmer devices. As long as Apple continues to design these ultra-slim devices, it is limiting itself to relatively smaller batteries and more powerful chips.

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      Apple uses the same chip in both iPad and iPhone, but they run the chips at a slower speed in iPhone. The best battery performance is to go to more cores but run them all slower.

  4. If the A6 won’t be ready until Q2 2012, then why should Apple release (maybe) an iPhone 5 with an A5 chip sometime soon only to release another next summer (again, maybe) with the A6?