SAN ANTONIO—Vendors defended the mass migration to ARM cores for their low-power, broad spectrum of performance levels and more economical software here at the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) Tuesday (June 19).
Freescale Senior Vice President Henri Richard's annual FTF panel discussion included ARM CEO Warren East, Tony Belkin, a director at medical-device maker director at Hospira Inc. (Lake Forest, Ill.), Greg Crouch, embedded systems business director at National Instruments Corp. (Austin, Texas) and Jeremy Hammer, chief technology officer at consumer electronics firm Ceton Corp. (Kirkland, Wash.)
"Apps today are being consumerized," said Freescale's Richard. "They are doing all the things that were previously being done by industrial and professional apps, but now they are doing it for consumers at a price point is that is way lower."
According to the panelists, this consumerization favors ARM cores for next-generation applications, since they are lower power than traditional PC- and server-style processors, plus they are already running the software, in industrial and professional settings, that is currently being ported to the consumer setting.
"For connected home entertainment devices, the lower power and less costly development effort made ARM and Linux the obvious choices to future-proof our applications," said Ceton's Hammer. "ARM has a much better power to performance ratio. And with a single board design, we found we could turn power up and down as needed to achieve the performance specs of each of our applications."
Belkin echoed that sentiment by citing dozens of applications Hospira has designed using ARM cores and its interchangeable software modules.
"We built a single ARM-based platform internally, then used it to ship 50 or 60 products across different application domains," Belkin said. "We discovered what was common about each solution, and those things that were different, then designed around any problems."
From left: Freescale senior vice president Henri Richard leads panelists Warren East (ARM), Tony Belkin (Hospira), Greg Couch (National Instruments) and Jeremy Hammer (Ceton).
This consumerization process is just starting, according to National Instruments' Couch, who explained that markets typically move from customization to standardization and that consumer electronics was at the cusp of this change.
"As we move to intelligent embedded applications it's becoming more and more like the PC era, when the trend was first customization then standardization," said Couch. "The embedded space is still at the customization stage. Next we need a platform to act as the tipping point for standardization, in order to make future development efforts more economical."
The migration to ARM cores for consumer applications is all a part of the ARM's master plan to provide processors with less expensive, lower power, and easier software development efforts, according to East.
"Crucial to our business model is making development smoother and more economically beneficial for ARM customers," said ARM's East. "We want designers to choose ARM because it is a no-brainer, but it will take a long time to convert legacy applications, so we are concentrating on winning new designs."
"ARM has already won the processor wars" was the verdict I kept hearing all this week at FTF 2012, and design wins at AMD, Apple, Dell, Freescale, HP, LSI, Samsung and others back up the boast. But of course, Intel was not fairly represented here among vendors who have already chosen ARM, and design wins for Intel's low-power Atom--in other than mobile application--are just beginning to be reported: