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ARM invasion moves past mobile market

Posted: 15 Dec 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ARM license invasion? processor? multicore? microcontroller?

ARM Ltd's competitors included a host of IP processor companies such as MIPS, ARC and Tensilica but the field of serious processor competition has dramatically narrowed to, ARM vs. Intel Corp.

ARM has also substantially expanded its processor core design socketsboth to high-end and low-end markets. On one hand, the company has bravely marched into the multicore future, and has relentlessly rolled out a series of Mali graphics processor units and video engines.

On the other hand, ARM this year made a genuinely strong foray into the microcontroller market. ARM took the first step by offering initial seed funding to Luminary Micro. Then earlier this year, Texas Instrumentsby acquiring Luminary Microturned ARM into a household name in the microcontroller market.

Ninety ARM processors are shipped every secondmore than any other 32bit processor IP supplier, the company's Website claims.

So far, everything you hear about ARM sounds peachy. You're impressed.

But then, ask yourself: If you were running ARM's processor division, what's your biggest worry right now?

The answer is "plenty."

Not least among ARM's headaches is the serious competition posed by a gargantuan microprocessor company (Intel). You might lose sleep over how best to help your licensees navigate uncharted shoals of multicore and multithreaded CPUs. You might also be concerned about whether graphics companies like Nvidia, AMD or Imagination will become serious rivals as you move forward with your Mali GPU.

Most of all, you worry that you could be overstretching yourself.

During an interview with EE Times at the ARM European Technical Conference here this week, Mike Inglis, executive VP and general manager of the processor div. at ARM, said, "As ARM gets deployed in a much broader market, the industry's demand on us has dramatically increased." He said, "I worry if we are moving fast enough."

Inglis is also mindful of critical responsibilities in building software ecosystems, a must for the future growth of ARM. But he also noted, "We need to make sure that we are not duplicating efforts."

As befits any executive in the electronics industry today, Inglis is worried about the economy. "We are beginning to see a recovery in this industry," he said, "but nobody knows if consumer spending will come back."

During this Great Recession, Inglis said that ARM accelerated the company's efforts particularly in engineering. This year, ARM has also kept a keen eye out for "strategic investment opportunities." ARM and Qualcomm, for example, recently led a group of investors to help network-on-chip IP supplier Arteris Inc. raise $9.7 million.

Inglis said ARM has made similar investments in a series of companiesalthough not publicly announcedin 2009. ARM's efforts have been critical, especially during this year's drought in VC money. Inglis said, "We made commitments to some start-ups, hoping that this will help them attract money from other sources." ARM's original funding in Luminary Micro is an example of how ARM's seed investment helped not just the start-up, but ARM and ARM's partners.

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