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Lack of multicore support delays Nokia dual-core shift

Posted: 09 May 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:dual-core? smartphone processors? Windows Mobile Phone 7? Microsoft multicore support?

Citing lack of support from new OS partner Microsoft, Nokia may defer its planned shift to dual-core smartphone processors originally scheduled this year.

A forum at the the Multicore Expo in San Jose, California revealed that to date, three companies have already started shipping dual-core mobile processors and as many as eight will do the same by the end of 2011. "Just about every high-end smartphone" will move to dual-core processors in 2011, said Linley Gwennap, principal of the Linley Group.

Three mobile OS already support multicore chips including Google's Android 3.0, Apple's iOS 4.3 and Blackberry 8. One of the big laggards is Windows Mobile Phone 7.

Microsoft removed multicore support from its Mobile Phone 7 OS, focusing the software only on a single-core Qualcomm chipset in an effort to get it to market quickly, said one source. The company knows it needs to update its mobile software more often than its desktop code, but it's not clear when it will add multicore support.

Handsets typically have a 12-24 month lifecycle, said Gwennap. The lack of multicore support "could limit Nokia until Microsoft can retrofit the software for dual core," Gwennap said.

Nokia has long been the leading supplier of cellphones, making its Symbian OS among the most popular mobile software platform. But the handset giant has been slow to respond to the concept of a Web-connected device pioneered by the Apple iPhone.

In the first quarter, Apple led growth in smartphone unit sales, according to IDC.

Symbian 4 is expected to be released soon supporting multicore processors. However, Nokia recently struck a deal with Accenture to hire its Symbian team as part of a plan to layoff 7,000 people.

The LG Optimus smartphone was the first smartphone to use a multicore chip when it shipped in January, quickly followed by tablets from Motorola and Apple in February and March. Mobile multicore chips coming later this year include (in order of their expected appearance) the Samsung Exynos 4210, Qualcomm MSM8260, ST Ericsson U8500, Marvell Armada 2828 and Broadcom BCM 11311.

"ARM has a dual-core Cortex A9 reference design enabling the chip vendors to ship quickly. Most vendors are using it except Marvell and Qualcomm that designed their own multicore architectures.

The multicore chips will help speed core apps from the OS makers such as browsers, Flash and PDF viewers. They will also be used by third party game developers.

"It will take time for a broad base of multicore mobile software to appear," said Gwennap.

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