Apple today was outted as the mysterious investor in  Imagination Technologies, now owning a 3.6% share.  This long term strategic move will solidify Apple’s ability to create future iPhones, iPod Touches and possible Netbooks based on ARM’s future products.   The aquisition of PA Semi earlier this year and bringing in IBM’s Mark Papermaster are also seen as moves to bring this all together.  Although they haven’t yet been outted, Apple is also believed to be an ARM licensee.

As I’ve stated before, I believe that Apple will, in 2009, deliver a new ARM Cortex Touch-based platform with a much bigger screen and physical keyboard option that will serve as a general computing platform for the masses.  This will incluse the Mobile multi-touch Safari, Apps store, Mail.app, iCal Maps, GPS, iWork and iLife Mobile. 

This will also be the opening battle in the Intel vs. ARM architecture war.  More below on this from ABI research:

Ultra-Mobile Device Market Becoming Processor Battleground

NEW YORK – December 18, 2008 –
The processor vendors supplying chips for UMDs (ultra-mobile devices) are playing a pivotal role in how this market is shaping up. X86-based processors are well entrenched in the PC world and ARM-based processors are well entrenched in the handset world.
 
Since UMDs sit right between the PCs and handsets in terms of power, size, and function, x86-based and ARM-based processors will compete in the UMD space and are already fighting it out, starting with marketing wars.
 
ABI Research principal analyst Philip Solis says, “x86-based processor vendors are in a very good position in the near term as far as product wins and market share are concerned. However, as mobile internet devices (MIDs) start to surpass netbooks in shipment volumes, ARM-based solutions will be in a better position.”
 
Processors based on the x86 architecture (available from vendors such as Via Technologies and Intel) hold a key advantage in that they are compatible with all x86-based applications – the same PC applications most people use today.
 
Since they evolved in a more portable and mobile device world, ARM-based processors have always excelled at low power consumption. For devices such as MIDs that may be used very heavily all day or may need to last for days without recharging, ARM-based processors hold the advantage.
 
The x86 vendors will have to make significant advancements in terms of power consumption while executing instructions in order to put up a better fight across the whole UMD space, while ARM is working with software vendors to ensure that as they develop processor architectures and instruction sets, the latest versions of software are compatible.
                                                              
Solis concludes: “The future shape of this market will be determined by engineering success on the x86 side versus business success on the ARM side.”
 
A study from ABI Research, “Mobile Internet Devices” analyzes the drivers and barriers for UMDs across the ecosystem. It examines the issues that will shape this market, including the contest between x86-based processors and ARM-based processors, distribution and subsidization, device definitions, and the effect of cellular voice-enabled MIDs. It includes detailed, segmented market forecasts through 2013.
 
This report forms part of ABI Research’s MIDs and Mobile CE Research Service.
 
ABI Research is a leading market research firm focused on the impact of emerging technologies on global consumer and business markets. Utilizing a unique blend of market intelligence, primary research, and expert assessment from its worldwide team of industry analysts, ABI Research assists hundreds of clients each year with their strategic growth initiatives. For information, visit www.abiresearch.com, or call +1.516.624.2500.

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