A recent eWeek article pointed out the growth in virtualization in the mobile space. This technology is not new; however, the discussion has brought out an interesting set of potential circumstances for Apple, given its recent agreement to buy PA Semi. Apple has stated in the past it had no interest in developing its own virtualization software for the Mac platform. When Leopard arrived it did so sans an Apple VM.
Apple VM for PA Semi
Today however Apple may soon be the new owner of a microprocessor design company and it might behoove them to see to it that virtualization capabilities play a front-burner role in the development of new mobile Internet devices (MIDs). Since Apple has been developing its OS X operating system on both PowerPC and Intel x86 for more than six years now, it is capable of deploying OS X on both chip architectures. It has also written OS X for the iPhone and iPod touch on the ARM architecture, a chip architecture dominant in the smartphone and small device markets.
Having OS X on so many chip architectures (three exactly) doesn’t seem too problematic for Apple at the moment and affords them a great degree of hardware flexibility. However developing its own VM (virtual machine) technology and deploying it on some of these product platforms (Mac, iPod, iPhone) will gain them even more freedom in deploying their software and others across all three product lines more quickly.
More interestingly, an Apple VM deployed on future PA Semi PowerPC designs could give Apple a new “angle” into the world of game consoles and mobile gaming — a world now dominated by the PowerPC architecture. This is especially interesting in light of Nintendo’s resurgence and its prolific use of the PowerPC architecture within a few generations of game consoles. A licensing agreement with Nintendo could allow Apple to build a different category of mobile devices that play Nintendo games, courtesy of a virtualization machine.
PA Semi – Why Apple Bought Them
Whether Apple will start investing in VM technology for future mobile devices is anyone’s guess. But such a plan could allow a breach into the PowerPC-driven game console world that bring about a flood of new possibilities for Apple.
Though it will take some time to figure out why Apple really bought PA Semi, we would have to agree with Roughly Drafted’s assessment that Apple wants to build out more specialized proprietary hardware in order to compete and differentiate its products in the mobile Internet devices market (this includes the iPod, the iPhone and future mobile devices Apple has not delivered to market yet). One thing is for sure. PA Semi brings to Apple some stellar talent and the future of Apple’s products looks extremely attractive from this particular — “post-PA Semi” — view.