Intel and Texas Instruments (TI) threw their weight behind ARM Holdings' upcoming v6 architecture last week by announcing wide-ranging extensions to their licensing agreements with the UK processor cores company.
Intel revealed that future Xscale processors will incorporate ARM's architectural changes for the v6 intellectual property (IP). The new Xscales will roll out over the next 12 to 18 months.
ARM's v6 will also include extensions requested by Texas Instruments that enable easier links between digital signal processors and cores based on the new architecture.
Under the Intel deal, the chip giant has become a licensee of ARM cores and will not solely rely on its own implementations such as StrongARM and Xscale. Intel has taken licences for the 7TDMI and the synthesisable 946E-S core. Other licences may follow.
Peter Green, general manager of Intel's handheld computing group, said: "It is a make-versus-buy decision in several of the [Intel] businesses. Licences have been exercised by companies we have acquired and there are Intel groups who have decided to just license ARM rather than go the Xscale route."
In this context, Green said the decision to take a v6 licence "is a natural extension".
TI said it will license a number of v6 implementations from ARM but has not become an architectural licensee. TI has further decided to license the ARM9 core with the Jazelle accelerator.
Gilles Delfassy, general manager of TI's wireless business unit, said: "The relationship between ARM and TI is old and complex. We have a very special relationship at the technical level where we work together to define features and architectures."
ARM and TI have been working on v6's content for two years, and, according to ARM chairman and CEO Robin Saxby, a number of companies, including architectural licensees Intel and Motorola, have also had some input.
Saxby added that there will be one common specification for v6 but that, as with previous generations, licensees can opt to leave out some elements: "Our job is to have a definition that meets all needs. The detail is down to our semiconductor partners."
According to Delfassy, TI asked for specific extensions. They include shared memory management for processors working with DSPs, a way of tightly coupling a processor and a DSP and support for 'advanced operating systems'.
"We need a system to isolate applications and shield sensitive parts of the processor. We want to ensure that communications processing is not interrupted by applications processing," said Delfassy.
Current versions of the ARM architecture support a hardware memory-management unit that can be used to enforce task protection but it has been criticised for making protected, virtual-memory OSs harder to implement than those descended from desktop machines.