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A6 chip to reach iPad 3 later in 2012, says analyst

Company's latest quad-core chip technology likely won't appear in the iPad 3 until next June or later, a chip consulting firm says.

Apple's latest chip technology won't appear in the next-generation iPad until June 2012 at the earliest, according to a firm that tracks the mobile processor industry.

An ARM Cortex-A9 quad-core design--which the Apple A6 processor is based on.
An ARM Cortex-A9 quad-core design--which the Apple A6 processor is based on. ARM

Getting new processor technology out the door (remember, Apple is also in the chip design business) is a Herculean task for even seasoned chip manufacturers like Intel. It will certainly be no different for Apple, whose next chip, dubbed the "A6," may not make an appearance in the iPad 3 until later in 2012, said The Linley Group, a chip consulting firm.

If Apple keeps to its schedule and launches an iPad 3 in the first quarter of 2012, the initial version of the iPad 3 "will have to use the same A5 processor as the current iPad 2, relying on the rumored new high-resolution 'Retina' dis­play to drive the upgrade cycle," Linley Group senior analyst Kevin Krewell said this week in a research note.

Krewell adds that he expects the quad-core A6 will be competitive with next year's best mobile processors, including an expected quad-core offering from Nvidia. That Nvidia chip is expected to power both Android and Windows 8 devices, including tablets and laptops. "Fabricating Apple's A6 in 28nm (instead of the 40nm process Nvidia is using for its quad-core part) will reduce both die cost and power, yielding a much better product," he said.

Updated on October 26 at 10:25 a.m. PST: with clarification about Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). It is not clear now whether TSMC will make Apple's A6 processor. Samsung may continue to make Apple A series chips.