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China has the most to gain from ARM's latest IP, says exec

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ARM? IP? mobile phone? MediaTek? HiSilicon?

ARM has recently unveiled its most recent suite of IP geared to enable next-generation mobile phones. Ranging from ARM Cortex A72 processor to cache coherent interconnect and Mali T880 GPU, the cores also highlight what future phones will be capable of and the subsequent impact they will generate on the overall compute device market.

Next year's mobiles, as envisioned by ARM, will go beyond mere phones to become "primary computing platforms," said Ian Ferguson, VP, segment marketing at ARM.

The 2016 mobile phones will be able to see, hear and understand users much better, through a new set of interfaces (going beyond voice, including gestures).

The growing CPU and GPU processing power enabled by ARM's latest IP cores also suggests that the next-generation phone will be up to the task of "creating content," instead of just consuming it, Ferguson added.

Sensor data will be captured, processed and analysed more locally, instead of being sent to the cloud, according to ARM. Phones will cease to be just a "conduit," said Ferguson.

But really, who will gain most from ARM's new IP?

Concept for anything, anywhere, anytime phone

Concept for anything, anywhere, anytime phone (Source: ARM)

The answer is China. Most striking in ARM's announcement is the undeniable rising power of Asian fablesses, foundries and consumers that ARM is poised to serve.

Among "more than ten partners" to whom ARM has reportedly licensed the Cortex-A72 processor, ARM mentioned only three companies by name. They are: MediaTek, HiSilicon and Rockchip. While MediaTek is a Taiwan behemoth, both HiSilicon, a chip division of Huawei, and Rockchip are leading apps processor companies based in China.

I'm sure Apple, Samsung and Qualcomm all have plans to leverage ARM's latest IP, but their primary focus is more on developing their own custom CPU architecture. While these apps processor companies wage a full-blown battle for high-end apps-processor dominance, each seeking for its own slight edge, ARM has become the BFF of leading Asian chip powerhouses. ARM's new IP helps them beef up their applications processors.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) also comes out as a big winner. ARM's physical IP suite is optimised for the TSMC 16nm FinFET+ process. Announcements on support for other foundries will probably come later, Ferguson added. Chip companies interested in enabling "All-Day Compute Devices" using ARM's new cores in 2016 mobile phones are likely to resort to TSMC's 16nm FinFET process, but not others.

Asian consumers are also playing an important role in deciding the desired features and functions in 2016 mobile phones. Unlike the U.S., where many consumers who have had PCs for decades and still depend on PCs for Internet access, the mobile phone is the platform for a majority of Chinese Internet users.

A Chinese government report counted 649 million Internet users by the end of 2014, with 557 million of those using handsets to go online.

According to Reuters, "While growth is slowing, China's total Internet population still rose by 31 million in 2014, said the report by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC). Growth in mobile internet users was faster, at 57 million. "

Against that backdrop, the old U.S. PCs vs tablets debate seems almost silly. China is already the world's largest smartphone market and its population has already gone mobile.

ARM's Ferguson went a step further. While the personal computer might linger in the Western market, tablets will be the first "impacted" by the rise of more powerful mobile phones, he predicted. "We are already seeing the slowdown of the tablet market." PCs, in the longer run, will be next. "Many CIOs and enterprises are clearly looking for mobile devices, armed with security features and the ability to separate personal content from corporate/business content," he said.

- Junko Yoshida
??EE Times

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