Source code snooping points to upcoming quad-core Apple processor

Apple may already be working on a quad-core Apple-branded mobile processor for inclusion in upcoming iPhone, iPad and iPod touch models. Apple’s eventual move to a quad-core chipset in its iOS devices seems certain, but it looks like we now have evidence that preliminary quad-core testing may already be under way. While inspecting the source code for the Clang compiler bundled with Apple’s Xcode developer tools, an unnamed developer alerted Ars Technica to new references within the code that add support for a quad-core processor. Read on for more.

“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),” Ars Technica’s Chris Foresman wrote on Friday. “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.”

Foresman goes on to suggest that the most probable explanation for the inclusion of the code in Apple’s bundled compiler is that the company may be using quad-core Marvell chips in prototype iPhone and iPad hardware — or even in an ARM-based MacBook Air — for testing as the company preps its own quad-core offering. A screenshot of the source code in question follows below.

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