AMD Fusion rumoured to end up in new Apple TV product

Make what you will of it

THERE HAVE BEEN a lot of rumours about what Apple will do with its Apple TV product, as the current model is hopelessly out-dated with its defunct 1GHz Intel Pentium M processor and GeForce Go 7300 graphics card. An ARM based device was suggested some time ago, but it now looks like AMD might be set to replace Intel in Apple’s next generation Apple TV product.

The new comes from Digitimes Research via Digitimes, so we wouldn’t bet our life savings on this holding true, but it’s interesting nonetheless. It’s not the first time we’ve seen rumours about Apple moving to AMD and in this specific case it has a lot of merit. Apple could of course go with an Intel Atom processor and Nvidia’s ION2 graphics, but considering Apple’s, shall we say flaky, relationship with Nvidia this is a highly unlikely combination. Add to that the small fact that Apple seems to despise Intel’s integrated graphics and you’ve got a solid argument for the AMD route. Add to that the recent FTC decision opening doors at Apple it begins to look more valid.

AMD’s Fusion platform should also offer a reduced component count, as in Apple would only need  the CPU with integrated graphics and a single chipset, rather than having to add a third party graphics solution. This becomes even more important when you consider that the current Apple TV product is running quite hot with surface temperatures in excess of 40 degrees C and Apple is going to want something that is simple to cool.

There were some earlier rumours suggesting that Apple would use its A4 ARM processor in the next generation Apple TV product, something that is still a potential option, although unlikely. On the other hand, when you consider that Digitimes is also reporting that Apple will have new iPad products next year based on ARM’s Cortex A9 core – which is likely to be a dual core SoC – then this would be a potential option as well, as the Cortex A9 core is more than capable of handling 1080p HD video playback as well as everything else an updated Apple TV product would need.

We’re also seeing a return of the iPhone-esque UI rumour here, something that again suggests that ARM would be the hardware choice. Then again, a UI doesn’t mean that the underlying OS has to be the same. Porting iOS4 to an x86 processor doesn’t seem like it would be worth Apple’s time, but porting the UI to OSX shouldn’t be too hard. We’re not sure how well a desktop cluttered with icons would work for a device connected to your non-touchscreen TV though, so this is a rumour we’re not going to read too much into, as we have a feeling that Apple would come up with something a fair bit more intuitive with regards to the UI.

One thing that is fairly clear is that Apple is likely to go with either AMD or its own ARM based processor, as neither Intel nor Nvidia has the hardware Apple wants. Intel doesn’t offer the kind of graphics performance and video quality that Apple is looking for in a product like this and to keep costs down, an add-on graphics card is just not an option. Tegra wouldn’t be considered either, as Apple already has its own ARM based solution, so going elsewhere for a similar chip doesn’t make much sense either. Either way things go, the new Apple TV is said to be hitting mass production in December and we’d expect a January 2011 unveiling if that holds true.S|A

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