Yesterday, as anticipated, Apple released their tablet product, the Apple iPad, with much fanfare and criticism. Amidst the technologies in the iPad, with the old (lithium-polymer battery technology, multi-touch) and new (iPad OS) was an important one: the Apple A4 chip.

In March 2009, about a year ago, Apple acquired Power Architecture fabless semiconductor chip company P.A. Semi. P.A. Semi aimed to build low-power, efficient, and fairly powerful chips to use in various applications. Then-CEO Dan Dopperpuhl noted that P.A. Semi aimed to develop chips that consumed ten times less power than conventional chips.

Now with their own in-house team to develop chips for them, Apple released the A4 chip, an ARM-based system-on-a-chip based on ARM Cortex A9 with an ARM Mali 5-series GPU. Rivaling other ARM-based SOAC platforms, like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon or Nvidia Tegra 2, it focuses, quite clearly, on mobile performance with very low power usage. P.A. Semi’s last product was the PWRficient chip, which was a dual-core Power Architecture-based chip that ran at 2GHz and consumed 5 watts (25 watts at peak) of energy.

What does the presence of an Apple-designed chip forewarn about the future of Apple products? There are a number of considerations with Apple designing their own chips. Here are some of them.

Approaching compete control of the computing experience

John Gruber of Daring Fireball noted something that Apple COO Tim Cook said in June:

“We believe in the simple, not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.”
— TIM COOK

Indeed, through developing so much of their products in-house, like the battery, processor, and other key features, they’re finding ways to control the user experience of their products. And it’s working: their revolutionary lithium-polymer batteries coupled with the Apple A4 processor create not only a pretty dazzling graphics experience, but a long-lasting one. The ten-hour high load battery life and the one month standby (!) are indicative of Apple’s ability to take control of the experience—not to mention the presence of what could be an incredible amount of DRM and security built into the processor, moving from software security to hardware security.

Radical innovation has never been a trait that Apple has neglected to execute brilliantly on. But now, Apple is doing so by taking control of the entire computing experience, now even down to the silicon.

Radical differentiation from competition

Few technology companies try to specialize in the finer points in computing, namely the processor. Including Apple, until lately. The iPhone 3GS is powered by the ARM Cortex A8 ARM processor, with PowerVR SGX graphics. We haven’t really seen much that has been developed without ARM-manufactured chips, Intel, Qualcomm, or Nvidia.

Has the new chip scared the chip manufacturers? You bet, and it’s also had an effect on the top manufacturers. While Microsoft and Nintendo try to nonchalantly shrug off the iPad as ‘humorous’ and ‘unimpressive’, it is clear that Apple has something they don’t have: a few steps ahead in product technology. All of the mobile phone manufacturers are behind, and while they’re struggling to catch up in technology, Apple will be moving forward.

Limitless expansion of Apple products

With the Apple A4 processor, Apple set an example: with their in-house semiconductor team from P.A. Semi, they could not only design their own chip, but they could design a damn good one. This would allow for the limitless expansion of Apple products. While competitors are constrained by limitations like processor power and processor energy draw, Apple can get around these limitations. They’ve bought a company that allowed them to design an excellent, efficient processor. There are few things more difficult to design than the very processing center of a technology device.

Whenever the next iPhone comes out, we’ll see something like a 700MHz Apple-designed chip in it with a lithium-polymer battery, and when we find out how fast it is and the battery life, Apple competitors will be quite astounded. Repeat by applying knowledge gained from the A4 to a x86 architecture, with the MacBook, iMac, Xserve, and other future Apple products, and it’s clear that Apple could perhaps become the market leader in an incredibly large gamut of technology.

It’s more than a processor. It’s an indicator of how important Apple might be in the future to technology and to our lives.

Gist: Android 2.0 SDK released, Motorola Droid and HTC Droid Eris to launch on Verizon on Nov 6, as rumored by Boy Genius Report. Hardware has always been the bottleneck on Android, among other problems. The marketing by Verizon making Droid a serious mobile device for the alternative iPhone market as well as the excellent hardware on the Motorola Droid, and the polished Android 2.0 Eclair OS, will allow Android to become more mainstream.

Google (GOOG) has made official the new Android 2.0 SDK, which allows the new 2.0 “Eclair” APIs to be used in Android applications, including improved bluetooth, multitouch, sync, account management, and, of course, support for new Android 2.0 devices such as the Motorola Droid. The new SDK update is downloadable immediately. Android 2.0 official video is at the bottom of this article.

Leading mobile industry news and insider source Boy Genius Report reports that the Motorola Droid (MOT) and HTC Droid Eris (2498.TW), two new Android 2.0 Eclair devices, will hit the stores on November 6 on the Verizon Wireless (VZ) network.

The Droid devices, highly hyped by Verizon as the iPhone killer, has been the subject of quite a bit viral marketing and noise in the mobile industry. Earlier this month, Verizon launched a mysterious marketing page for the Motorola Droid at DroidDoes.com, a direct attack against the Apple (AAPL) iPhone device’s shortcomings.

I’ve recently moved from bearish to bullish on the Android platform. The first T-Mobile Android G1 device wasn’t polished and didn’t at the time seem like a viable competitor to the iPhone.

However, the Motorola Droid could be a huge development in the Android environment. Droid represents a serious advance in promoting Android as a serious device, built and supported by two serious mobile companies. The specs of the device (the same processor as the iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre, large screen, full of memory, ready for backgrounding applications, and more delicious specs) will hold its claim to fame as the premier Android hardware.

The bottleneck to the proliferation of Android has partly been the hardware that it runs on. The G1′s hardware didn’t cut it, especially since Android and all Android applications operate on Java, which is a notoriously slow platform. (EDIT: No, it isn’t, I’m wrong; I had neglected to mention that the Android platform has a custom build of Java called Dalvik.) The other bottleneck is the App Store, which, although it will improve over time, the derivative of available applications needs to start getting better. And with the new SDK and excellent new Android 2.0 Eclair, we may be seeing real changes soon.