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Momentum Builds For 64-bit ARMv8-A

Momentum Builds For 64-bit ARMv8-A
by Eric Esteve on 09-03-2014 at 2:55 am

No doubt about it, the summer break has ended, it’s time for releasing big announcement, like this one from ARM “Momentum Builds For the Next Generation of ARM Processors”. In fact, the key information is about ARMv8-A market adoption. A total of 27 companies have signed agreements for the company’s ARMv8-A technology as industry momentum builds for greater compute capability across a wide range of applications. The ARMv8-A silicon partners include:

  • All of the top 10 companies who sell application processors for smartphones
  • 9 of the top 10 application processor companies for tablets
  • 4 of the top 5 companies that provide chips for consumer electronics (including DTV and STB)
  • 4 of the top 5 companies that provide chips for enterprise networking and servers
  • 8 silicon vendors from Greater China

If ARMv8-A architecture is still compatible with 32-bit, this momentum demonstrates the continuing strength in demand for 64-bit-capable ARM Cortex®-A50 processor family and ARMv8 architecture licenses. If we look back in October 2013, one comment related to the launch of Apple 64-bit A7, from Qualcomm executive “”I know there’s a lot of noise because Apple did [64-bit]on their A7. I think they are doing a marketing gimmick. There’s zero benefit a consumer gets from that,” has shacked the mobile semiconductor market for some time… until Qualcomm put out a statement in which it walked back Chandrasekher’s comment and called it “inaccurate.” Moreover Qualcomm has quickly announced in 2014 the launch of 64-bit Snapdragon application processor. According with Anandtech, “Like the previous 64-bit announcements (Snapdragon 410, 610 and 615), the 808 and 810 leverage ARM’s own CPU IP in lieu of a Qualcomm designed microarchitecture. We’ll finally hear about Qualcomm’s own custom 64-bit architecture later this year, but it’s clear that all 64-bit Snapdragon SoCs shipping in 2014 (and early 2015) will use ARM CPU IP”.

Two facts here: Qualcomm is using ARM CPU IP and a 64-bit architecture! In fact, we don’t really know if the smartphones sold today, build around a 64-bit application processor, will take full advantage of the 64-bit architecture. As all the existing software has been designed for 32-bit, it may take some time to develop for 64-bit architecture. But it would certainly be a strong marketing mistake to develop an application processor based on a 32-bit architecture only to target smartphone or tablet…

ARM’s market share in mobile is incredibly high with 95%, and this is a well-known fact. More surprising is ARM penetration of the consumer electronic and enterprise networking market segments. From the top picture, we see that ARM has licensed the 64-bit ARMv8-A to 4 out of 5 market leaders, in both segments. Historically, ARM was not so strong in the consumer electronic application like Digital TV and Set-Top-Box (STB). The green and orange circles (above picture) illustrate the growing penetration in DTV and STB applications. When a customer makes the decision to buy an ARM license is just the starting point of a rather long process: SoC design, prototyping, S/W development, system validation, production ramp-up… The overall process can take anytime between 18 months to several years, and the royalty part of the revenue is linked to SoC devices shipment. In the market segments where ARM is growing penetration, like DTV, STB or enterprise networking, the license design-win show that there is room for market share growth for royalties linked to production shipment.

Another specific information should be highlighted: 8 silicon vendors from Greater China are ARMv8 partners. At first, this is one of the various illustrations showing that silicon vendors from Greater China are quickly closing the gap with their competitor from the rest of the world. As of today, the application processor chip maker from Greater China ship production IC in 40nm node, being one technology node late compared with their competition. But they are moving to 28nm for the new developments. They represent a large growth potential for production volume based royalties for ARM. And the adoption of 64-bit ARMv8 architecture will allow these silicon vendors to target various computing intensive market segment on top of the mobile phone only, like mobile computers, DTV, STB, servers or networking.

Eric Esteve from IPNEST

More Articles by Eric Esteve…..

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