Support for quad-core ARM chips creeps into Apple Xcode

Posted on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 21:26 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
ARS Technica reports a developer noticed that Apple has added support for Marvell's Armada XP quad-core ARM-based processors to its Xcode developer tools. The discovery hints Apple may be using a Marvell chip in one of its upcoming products, possibly an iOS device or perhaps even an ARM-based MacBook Air.
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. Since Marvell is targeting the processor for low-power cloud computing applications, why exactly does Apple's version of Clang offer conditional support in its development tool chain?

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 (a claim that we later confirmed first-hand). 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.

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