System-On-A-Chip: Why Apple's new CPU Is So Important

Apple’s subtle mention that the iPad features a CPU of their own making, the A4, was actually the most exciting part of the whole announcement. It’s pretty important.

Of course it makes sense why Apple’s not making a big deal about it if you understand what Apple’s real goal is. This chip is so important to Apple because it gives them greater control of the user experience … from the inside out, while allowing them to reach their goals — and more importantly — control their own destiny, by decreasing their dependency on outside, external companies. If you’ve played poker, you know this is something you might not want to make too big a deal of.

Gruber sums up the importance of the new CPU in his iPad article:

Apple now owns and controls their own mobile CPUs. There aren’t many companies in the world that can say that. And from what I saw today, Apple doesn’t just own and control a mobile CPU, they own and control the hands-down best mobile CPU in the world […] They’re not getting into the CPU business for kicks, they’re getting into it to kick ass.

This is important, and even if they’re not making a big thing out of it, is a very big deal for Apple. And as much as you’d expect them to brag about it, they’re not. For example, the A4 is mentioned on the iPad’s design page, halfway down, “The A4 chip inside iPad was custom-designed by Apple engineers to be extremely powerful yet extremely power efficient.” It’s mentioned again on the tech specs page it is described as a “high-performance, low-power system-on-a-chip”.

They’re not bragging about the A4 for the same reason that Disney doesn’t talk about how their attractions’ animatronic actors work: it detracts from the experience and clouds the message which is, in a nutshell, “let us worry about the experience, just enjoy it.”

The more Apple can control the technology, the more they can control the experience. And when it comes to consumer products, this controlled experience is why Apple is king.

Update: Siracusa and a few others predicted an Apple CPU would power the iPad, but I think its real-life performance is surprising everybody.

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