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Apple buys chip designer PA Semi

Report: Low-power chip designer acquired for $278m

Apple has acquired a fabless semiconductor company, PA Semi, according to a report at Forbes.com.

PA Semi designs processors based on the Power architecture that Apple used in its Mac computers for many years before adopting Intel's x86 chips.

One of the main reasons that Apple switched to using Intel processors was heat dissipation. Intel offered mobile processors that had better performance without thermal issues that constrained the performance of the mobile Power chips that Apple had been using.

Apple's switch to Intel processors was facilitated by its parallel development of an x86 version of its Mac OS X operating system. It still develops Mac OS X and other software for older PowerPC-based Macs, as well as the newer x86 models, releasing the software as a 'universal' binary that will run on both platforms.

PA Semi licenses the Power instruction set from IBM, so its chips are software compatible with the PowerPC chips Apple used.

PA Semi's dual-core PWRficient chip, launched last year, can deliver three to four times the performance of existing chips for the same energy consumption, the company claims. The processor is intended for use in embedded systems such as networking and storage devices, or telecommunications infrastructure.

Apple paid $278m in cash for PA Semi, the Forbes report said, citing a person familiar with the deal.

Apple representatives in Europe could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesman for Bessemer Venture Partners, one of a group of US investment funds that PA Semi lists as its owners, also declined to comment.

PA Semi was founded in 2003 by industry veterans including Dan Dobberpuhl, who while working at DEC led the development of a number of microprocessors including the T11, a design used in the Alpha processor. The company has about 150 employees.

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