Nothing is formally confirmed, but it is widely believed that today’s announcement by Apple Computer Inc, VLSI Technology Inc and Acorn Computers Plc will be of a joint development effort between Apple and VLSI – and presumably Acorn – to develop a more powerful version of the Acorn RISC Machine microprocessor, which is the skinniest and cheapest RISC on the market. Although Apple is expected to use the new chip as a CPU, as Acorn does the existing one, the chip’s main market up to now has been in printer and other peripheral control applications. It is also fabricated by Sanyo Electric Co in Japan. VLSI Technology Inc’s shares jumped 30% last week, adding another 25 cents on Friday to close at $4.875, on hopes that Apple will announce an equity investment in the company, but that is far from certain. With Ing C Olivetti & Co SpA already a significant player on the continent in the education market that is the mainstay of its Cambridge-based 80%-owned UK affiliate, while education is a major market for Apple, the emerging alliance may turn out to be more far-reaching than anyone has hazarded up to now. Apple’s interest in the Acorn RISC Machine first became an open secret two years ago, when it became known that Apple had included the chip on a list of RISCs it was weighing for future use, the other leading contenders at that time being Motorola’s 88000 and Intergraph’s Clipper, with the MIPS Computer Systems R-series rating more than passing glances (CI No 1,047).
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