One last thought on ARM…AppleTV

I’ve become over-fascinated about ARM’s roadmap since investigating a post I did for Computerworld over the weekend.  To me, it makes just a little too much sense that these chips will rise up the ranks of Apple’s products over the next few years.  For instance, take a look at TI’s 600MHz OMAP3440 ARM processor.  (see full size here

This isn’t a "roadmap" processor.  It currently sits in Archos PMPs and Open Pandora and does some amazing things at 600MHz. 

What’s coming out in 2009 will blow this away.  Expect 1.6 GHz ARM Cortex Processors that are full motherboards on the chip.  Power in, ports out, no mobo necessary.   Pretty insane graphics too.  We aren’t talking PS3 type graphics but they will give a Wii a run for its money.

See all of those functions up there?  HDMI out?  Built-in audio and video decoders?  PATA (and soon SATA)?  This wouldn’t be hard to turn into the next Apple TV.  Or, better yet, a set top gaming device (with AppleTV functionality) and access to the App Store.  Games, Web (gasp) TV, email, and all of those really cool iPhone apps ported to the TV. 

How big would this device have to be? 

Well, most of the functionality of the device could rely on the ARM SoC.  32Gb of Flash storage is about $50 on the street (Apple gets it cheapest).  You are looking at something the size of an Airport Express to give it more functionality than the current AppleTV.  Apple could go big an include a full sized 1.5Tb HDD.  Then it would obviously grow to the size of a Time Capsule. Both Airport Express and Time Capsule already use ARMs as their processor.

But it can do so much more than what current game consoles can do.  Besides the Apps Store, the device could be a video conferencing machine with just small camera attachment.  It could be a slideshow presentation device.  Or a media server.  It could be the home router and backup device.  The list goes on and on.

How much would this cost?  Next to nothing in hardware.  ARM chips go for a fraction of Intel chips.  They are also incredibly energy efficient.  You’d have some storage and build costs but the rest is just software which Apple has already done most of the development on.  

Oh, and there is the matter of PA Semi?  What have they been up to since being acquired by Apple?  ARM chips.  ARM chips.  ARM chips.

I’ll leave you with a video of an iPhone with *slow* ARM processor doing TV out.  Is it that hard to imagine an ARM AppleTV?

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