ARM has 16 licensees of its "big-little" power-efficient processing technology all chasing design wins in the mobile sector. Is that too many?
Processor intellectual property licensor ARM Holdings plc has gained two additional licensees for big-little approach to multiprocessing bringing the total number of partners to 16 and all are trying to use the technology to get design wins in mobile applications.
The number was revealed by CEO Warren East in a presentation to financial analysts to provide background to ARM's fourth quarter financial results. East said he is not concerned that the number might represent too many chip vendors competing in an intensely competitive sector.
In the analysts' conference East said ARM is seeing its big-little technology being deployed in smartphones and tablets but not yet in another market segments. He also explained that where an application has a more consistent load or computation profile, big-little may not be beneficial.
East explained that big-little – where a power-optimized processor core is paired with a performance-optimized core as part of a dynamic voltage and frequency scaling regime – produces the best results where there is a large range of computational loads, something that is typical of smartphones and tablets. He added that in time he expected the technology to "trickle down" to entry-level smartphones as the technology becomes lower cost.
"We will see silicon this year. It's not going to be massive volume. This year will be the start of big-little," East told EE Times.
However, East denied that 16 licensees were too many in the mobile sector. "We never try to second guess who the winners and losers are," he said. "In most of the spaces where ARM is present we have from a handful to about twenty licensees. So 16 is pretty well penetrated. But in the mobile space even since 2010 we have seen new companies coming through."
Related links and articles:
ARM launches processor pack for big-little on TSMC 28-nm
ARM mulls 'big-little' scheme for graphics
Renesas big-little LTE processor wins praise