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Actel, ST license ARM's Cortex-M3 processor

Posted: 09 Oct 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Actel? STMicroelectronics? ARM? microcontroller? Cortex-M3?

FPGA supplier Actel Corp. and MCU supplier STMicroelectronics (ST) both announced that they are licensing ARM Cortex-M3 processor at the ARM's Developers' Conference in California.

The ARM Cortex-M3 processor is designed to provide high-performance, low-cost solution of minimal memory implementation, reduced pin count and low-power consumption, while delivering outstanding computational performance and exceptional system response to interrupts. This processor was specifically developed to target the low-cost requirements of a broad range of markets and applications where memory and processor size significantly impact device costs. According to the press release, the Cortex-M3 processor brings together multiple technologies to reduce memory size while delivering industry-leading performance in a small power efficient RISC core, and delivers an ideal platform to accelerate the migration of thousands of applications around the globe from legacy components to 32bit MCUs.

All incorporating Thumb-2 instruction set, the three types of ARM Cortex processor are ARM Cortex-A Series applications processors for complex OS and user applications; ARM Cortex-R Series embedded processors for real-time systems; and ARM Cortex-M Series deeply embedded processors for microcontroller and low-cost applications.

With the licensed processor, Actel came up with CoreMP7, furthering its partnership with ARM established in March last year. The CoreMP7 is a soft ARM7 family processor core optimized for implementation in their proprietary FPGAs. The tie-up is touted to bring flexibility, fast time-to-market and low implementation cost of FPGAs to ARM users and others who previously could not justify the expense of ASIC implementation for their application.

"Since its introduction last year, we have seen a great deal of interest in our CoreMP7 processor from companies across the globe, reflecting the desire for FPGA flexibility combined with an industry-standard processor architecture," said Dennis Kish, senior VP, sales and marketing at Actel.

Next-gen 32bit device
Lead partners for the development of Cortex-M3 processor, ST will integrate the processor into its next-generation family of 32bit MCUs. The company is expected to accelerate market transition from 8- and 16bit MCUs to 32bit solutions by providing high-performance devices which ease development and enable significant cost- and power-savings.

"Our current ARM processor-based STR7 and STR9 product lines have enjoyed much success, and the Cortex-M3 processor will propel us again towards a breakthrough in performance, ease of use and quality, while also providing a competitive cost structure for our products," said Jim Nicholas, GM, MCU division at ST. "We feel that the Cortex M3 processor will play an important role in accelerating the convergence of the MCU market, and this is why our strategic partnership with ARM promises to quickly change the landscape and drive this new MCU market forward. It is our intention to lead this major market move."

Graham Budd, EVP and GM, ARM's processor division, commented, "By providing our partners with a solution that delivers high performance at low cost, we are enabling ST to accelerate the delivery of highly competitive 32bit products into the high-volume microcontroller markets, and speed the migration from legacy technology."

According to Max Baron, principal analyst at In-Stat, the 32bit MCU industry has accelerated massively in the last few years, doubling in opportunity for revenues to reach $3.8 billion in 2005. Over the next five years, the market will have an opportunity to ship more than double the unit volumes compared with 2005 and reaching revenue of over $ 6.1 billion.

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