Apple staffer's online leak points to new iPhone processor

In an update to his LinkedIn profile, Wei-han Lien seemed to confirm that in-house development on a custom ARM processor for the iPhone is now under way at Apple, in a move that could eventually save it millions.

Is Apple planning to save money on future iPhones by developing its own version of an ARM chip? Evidence from an Apple engineer's LinkedIn profile certainly seems to support that possibility.

In a recent update to his profile on Linked-In, Wei-han Lien, previously an engineer at PA Semiconductor, noted that he's been working as "senior manager chip CPU architect" for Apple since April of this year. His main task there has been to "manage [the] ARM CPU architecture team for iPhone," Lien said in a profile that subsequently disappeared from LinkedIn, but not before being captured by The New York Times.

Apple pioneered the use of ARM chips back in 1993 in its trailblazing, but ill fated, Newton handheld device. The current iPhone 3G phone rolled out this summer also includes ARM silicon, but reportedly through an implementation from Samsung.

Lien's start date at Apple, however, coincides with Apple's acquisition in April of PA Semi, a firm specializing in engineering processors combining strong performance with very low power consumption.

ARM Inc., the company behind the chip of the same name, licenses its core to many manufacturers, who are able to customize the silicon for purposes such as graphics processing or communications.

According to some observers, cost savings look likely to accrue to Apple if the company's new PA Semi subsidiary successfully attempts to reduce the numbers of processors needed for devices like the iPhone and iPod.

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