Ars Technica reports that, code strings related to Marvell’s ARM-based quad-core processor have been found in the latest source code of Clang, Apple’s compiler for Xcode and the ARM-based processor has been included, but the report notes that the inclusion of Armada XP support could be because Apple may be considering the Marvell in a future iOS device or even a MacBook Air. Apple is potentially considering the processors for next-gen iOS devices and this is at the very least an indication of Apple potentially working on a new quad-core ARM processor of their own. Less likely is a Marvell chip being included in a publicly released Apple product…………….
The latest source code for the LLVM-based compiler Clang, the default compiler in Apple‘s Xcode developer tools shows that support has recently been added for Marvell‘s quad-core, ARM-based Armada XP processor. A developer who works on low-level ARM assembly coding for security products was the first to alert Ars that support had been added for Armada‘s Cortex A9-compatible processors in the latest version of Xcode. The source code for a part of Clang that interprets what CPU type is being targeted for optimization includes a definition for an architecture type of “armv7k” and CPU type “pj4b“. PJ4B is a specially optimized CPU design used in Marvell‘s quad-core Armada XP embedded processors. Source code available from the LLVM project, including Apple-specific branches, doesn’t contain any reference to the Marvell design. The source code, available from Apple‘s open source repository, also shows that support for the processor is only added when an open source flag and this suggests that only Apple’s internally built Clang binaries can target code compilation for the Armada XP. There are a couple scenarios we consider plausible. First is that Apple could be considering the Marvell for next-generation iOS devices, such as the iPad 3. NVIDIA may possibly have its Kal-El quad-core Tegra 3 processors shipping sometime next year, powering Android-based mobile devices with near desktop processing power. Marvell’s Armada processors are certainly geared towards that kind of performance. Apple could be considering the Marvell as a possible low-power, battery-life-enhancing processor for the MacBook Air and rumors from earlier this year suggested Apple might make a move to ARM, but improvements coming in Intel‘s next-generation Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors built on an advanced 22nm process could largely make the performance-per-watt advantage largely moot. And sticking with Intel means Apple wouldn’t have to convince app developers to recompile their Mac OS X software for ARM-based Macs. Apple is using the Marvell chip in prototypes of future iOS device designs for testing purposes. An Armada XP-powered prototype logic board would allow iOS or Mac OS X software engineers to experiment with performance tuning and other optimizations, while Apple‘s hardware design team comprised largely of former PA Semi and Intrinsity engineers could continue working on a possible quad-core ARM design to be manufactured somewhere down the road.