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Report: ARM leads in CPU core market

Posted: 14 May 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:CPU core? processors? DSP? MPU market?

Market watcher Linley Group has released a new report stating that ARM Ltd commanded 78 percent of the CPU cores market. Linley added that the merchant CPU cores shipped in more than 10 billion chips last year, an increase of 25 percent over 2010.

The report also noted that Ceva Inc. and Imagination Technologies Ltd took even larger chunks of the smaller markets for DSP and graphics cores.

ARM's success casts a shadow on its archrival, MIPS Technologies Inc. MIPS recently said it may sell some of its patents, and is reportedly seeking an acquisition partner.

For its part, ARM collected royalties on 7.9 billion chips in 2011 at an average rate of about 4.6 cents per chip, down from 4.8 percent in the prior year, said the report. ARM's royalties are up 19 percent on a compound basis from 2007-2011 while overall semiconductor industry revenues grew just four percent in the same period.

By contrast, MIPS Technologies reported royalties on 656 million chips in 2011 at a rate of about seven cents per chip. It took third place in the market at six percent behind the ARC cores of Synopsys at 10 percent, the report said.

"Despite a general industry need for a strong alternative to ARM, MIPS is slowly sinking below the threshold of viability," the report said.

"Without new customers, MIPS cannot survive, but the mere possibility that the company could collapse or be sold to an unknown bidder will make it difficult to sign new licensees," according to the report. "We expect major changes to occur within the next year," it added.

ARM's dominance "has created an unbalanced market," the report concluded. Indeed, at least one semiconductor executive said China's mobile chip designers want an alternative to what they see as ARM's high royalty rates with some already turning to the Power architecture.

MIPS is suffering in part from a lack of R&D resources, said J. Scott Gardner, a Linley Group senior analyst and co-author of the report. "There was a window of opportunity for MIPS to be out with a 64bit architecture before the ARM V8, but that window is closing," he said.

The report validated the group's predictions in 2008 that the market of 5.3 billion chips with merchant CPU cores would double by 2012. However, last year's growth fell short of 2010, which saw a 30 percent increase over 2009.

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