CAMBRIDGE, England Intel Corp. and Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) will play a significant role in the development of ARM Ltd.'s next-generation v6 core, the companies recently said, and will also work with Palm Inc. to help port the PDA maker's operating system to the ARM core.
Though details of the v6 core have yet to be announced, it is said to pack enhanced security features, support for multiprocessing architectures, improved data synchronization and shared memory management, as well as the efficient operation of advanced operating systems. ARM, based here, will more fully describe the core at the Microprocessor Forum in October.
Both Intel and TI have licensed the new core with a view toward enhancing their respective offerings for the wireless handset/PDA market. "This agreement goes to the next level in terms of our partnership [with ARM]," said Peter Green, general manager for Intel's Handheld Division. "Over the next 12 to 18 months we will begin to transition our Xscale product line to the v6 architecture. We'll be targeting the handheld space, whether it be phones or PDAs, as those two markets evolve.
"And we will be bringing architectural ideas to the table on an ongoing basis," he added.
The v6 architecture will be a base upon which Intel will expand and advance its upcoming Xscale architecture, Green said. But, hedging its bets, Intel has also licensed the ARM7TDMI and ARM946E-S cores, as well as extending its latest agreement with ARM to include the Thumb-core versions of the ARM 7, ARM9 and ARM10.
Intel's Xscale architecture is currently based on an ARMv5T, with Intel-specific microarchitecture extensions and implementations. Products based on the much-anticipated Xscale are due on the market by the first half of 2002, Green said.
Texas Instruments has also extended its agreement with ARM to include multiprocessing optimizations to the v6 core. Specifically, TI will tweak the core to work better with its next-generation programmable DSP architecture.
Some of the features TI brings to the v6 include improved data synchronization and shared memory management, said Gilles Delfassy, senior vice president and general manger of TI's wireless business unit.
"There is built-in enhanced support for multiprocessing thanks to the new features, and we've also greatly enhanced system security, important to mobile financial applications like e-commerce," Delfassy said. "But the most important thing is the fact that support for multiprocessing is inherent to the v6, as opposed to being an afterthought. A lot of it has to do with how the two cores [v6 and DSP] share and access memory."
The company plans to integrate the core on its next-generation Open Multimedia Applications Platform (Omap) architecture. TI currently uses the ARM9 in conjunction with the C55 DSP in Omap, a combination Delfassy called the "de facto standard" for mobile handsets.
In a separate agreement, TI also licensed ARM9E Jazelle extensions, which enhance the performance of Java-based multimedia applications used in 2.5- and third-generation wireless applications.
"Texas Instruments, Intel and Motorola are some of the [companies] who have had some of the influence on this [v6] spec," said Robin Saxby, chairman and chief executive officer for ARM Ltd. "I think it's quite natural that the industry leaders would have the biggest influence on that future direction. Our job is to have a definition that meets all the needs of our partners."
Motorola has not announced a licensing deal for the new core. However, that company, along with Intel, recently said it would provide ARM reference designs. Texas Instruments, for its part, has pledged to develop an ARM-based wireless processing platform optimized to support the Palm OS.
The agreements look to pack more punch in Palm's aging hardware platform. Currently, high-end Palm systems utilize Motorola's Dragonball family of microprocessors, a line that has topped out in those systems at 33 MHz.