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ARM tips plans for next-gen processor

Posted: 08 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ARM? IP? processor? Cortex? processor core?

ARM Holdings plc has tipped sparse details of plans for a next-generation processor, a follow on to the three processor cores the comprise the Cortex series.

Company executives said ARM has signed a licensee for a next-generation processor during an analysts' conference held to discuss ARM's Q4 2006 financial results and indicated the processor would adhere to the same instruction set architecture as Cortex processors and it would take about 18 months for the design to complete and come to silicon.

The un-named licensee has signed an "upgrade" to a multi-use perpetual license, ARM indicated in presentation materials prepared for the analysts' conference. This indicates a value of about $2 million to $3 million for the initial license fee. The fact that ARM has acknowledged it has won a single licensee for a next generation processor, suggests that ARM has effectively recruited a lead partner to define the processor, from among its existing Cortex licensees.

A senior ARM executive said that rather than think of ARM preparing to revamp any or all of the current Cortex range of devices, engineers should think of a broad range of performance, power and applications that ARM would wish to pursue. "There's a myriad of products we could do. It's not one or the other it s a full matrix," the executive said.

In January 2006 Warren East, CEO of ARM, hinted that a multiprocessing version of one of ARM s Cortex series processors could be in design. Cortex is the follow-on processor range to the ARM11 series of cores, which includes the ARM11 MPcore, a four-way SMP implementation of the ARM11 processor core. However, since then little has been heard about a multiprocessing Cortex processor.

The next-generation processor will follow the same ARMv7 instruction architecture as used by Cortex and take about 18 months to complete. "It will be the same instruction set; 18 months is a reasonable estimate," East said to EE Times.

- Peter Clarke
EE Times Europe

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