ARM may be the most successful semiconductor company ever produced by Europe in global influence and current market capitalization.
It is arguable that ARM is the most successful semiconductor company ever produced by Europe. This may not be so (yet) in terms of aggregate profits but it is surely true in terms of global influence and it certainly is in terms of current market capitalization.
And in part ARM achieved that by a strict focus on matters related to processor cores and the software processing stack and reaching down to the gate and transistor architectures/structures that the software runs on.
What ARM didn't do was spend a lot of money on flights of R&D fancy or on funding startups, although technophile journalists might have wished they would.
But as ARM gets bigger and as integrated circuits get more complex—ranging from the abstraction needed to think about billions of transistors down to quantum mechanical physics—and as applications get more varied, the company's researchers, under CTO Mike Muller, are taking on more of the industry responsibility for, at least, thinking about where semiconductor R&D should be going.
So when Muller starts illustrating how plastic implementations of Cortex-M0 processor cores are at least comparable with where ARM was in its earliest days with the ARM-1, we should take note (see Starting all over again on plastic: ARM).
We should also take note that ARM has invested in at least one startup focused on plastic logic, Pragmatic Printing Ltd., which in its early days moved from Manchester to Cambridge (see ARM backs printed electronics startup).
Of course the progress of plastic cores will not take the same path as those implemented in silicon. There is not the same Moore's Law driving up the density of plastic circuits as there was for silicon. And plastic electronic performance is not good for the same things as silicon; but possibly it is good for some applications in the Internet of Things.
And there is a version of Moore's Law that applies to the plastic implementation of circuits as Muller illustrated in his presentation at ARM TechCon. That law maybe not as steep as it was for silicon but right now, while the silicon Moore's Law is starting to plateau, the plastic version is just getting going.
Now is the time to embrace programmable plastic circuits and, perhaps, in 30 years taking that initiative will have produced a welter successful semiconductor companies.
—Peter Clarke covers business news and analog for EE Times Europe.
Article originally posted on EE Times Europe.