Lineback said he had not heard of anyone else with a 64-bit ARM-based chip in the embedded space. “They may be first to the game on this one. I guess we’ll see others up the ante as well,” he said. “In a way, that particular ST announcement plays into this bigger universe of ARM moving from 64-bit to 32-bit. We’ll wait and see if anyone responds to this announcement with something of their own. I think we’ll see other architectures responding to ST’s move. It’s an interesting move.”
Lineback mentioned specifically that Imagination technologies had acquired MIPS, which is mainly known for its graphic cores, which compete against ARM. MIPS would like to get into cellphones and tablets and similar mobile devices, he said. They are going after the embedded market as well.
Meanwhile, ST is also targeting smaller electronics and wearables using MEMS technology with its new 9-axis movement LSM9DS1 position sensor. ST is currently the leader in Micro-electro-mechanical systems manufacturing. The company has added to its product lineup by unveiling its most recent module for 9-axis movement and position sensing in mobiles and wearable micro-devices.
The LSM9DS1 supports context awareness for gesture controls, indoor navigation, and augmented reality. It includes low-noise sensor technology, reduced size, and extended battery life, as well as greater positional resolution.
“This tiny, high-performance 9-axis module leverages our latest MEMS technology to enable a wide variety of position-sensing and movement-tracking applications in next-generation mobile and wearable devices," said Benedetto Vigna, Executive Vice President and General Manager Analog, MEMS & Sensors Group, STMicroelectronics, in a statement. "With 30% higher magnetometer resolution, 20% lower power and a footprint more than one-third smaller than other devices, designers have extra freedom to establish new form factors and improve stability and performance."
Engineering samples of the LSM9D51 are available in the leadless 3.5mm x 3mm LGA package.
Lineback said the 9-axis sensor represented a trend combining sensing in the X and Y and Z access and other pressure sensors to measure altitude and such. “Other companies are doing similar things,” he said. “It’s an important product to come out with. But ST’s not ahead of some of the other companies coming out with them. ST is a leader no doubt, but there’s other companies offering solutions."
Peter N. Glaskowsky, envisioneering group contributing analyst, agreed that the STi8K was more significant than the 9-axis sensor, although both represent significant offerings that cannot be ignored. “The 9-axis sensor is an important product, but a lot of companies make them,” he said. “I cannot see anything that differentiates it. It’s a jellybean product -- maybe a bit smaller.”
What’s missing from the STi8k announcement, from his point of view, is information about when it’s going to be made available. “It’s pretty clear that their intended feature set is unusually aggressive,” he said. “Those are features that are well-ahead of where the market is today. They are aiming for products like TVs for next year and the year after and possibly the year after that. There doesn’t seem to be a point where 64-bit ARM cores are going to be replaced by 128-bit ARM cores anytime in the near future."
Glaskowsky said that he expects 64-bit cores that are aimed at the server market from Applied Micro and others will remain very small volume, although they might sell tens or hundreds of products this year. Apple, on the other hand, he said, is going to sell millions of 64-bit ARM cores. “64-bit ARM for 2014 is Apple. There will be other products but none will sell at similar volumes,” he said. “You will see high volume products late this year or early next year. Samsung will sell many kinds of chips with ARM cores. The details mostly haven’t come out yet but there are lots of companies interested in that business.”
Glaskowsky finds the presence of 28nm technology in today’s announcement a bit surprising. “TSMC is moving to 14 as soon as possible. Most people assumed that there will be some alignment between 14 and 20. These are pretty big chips -- and big means expensive. For high-volume markets, it’s a pretty rare thing. It shows us that the value of it might be higher than we thought. These 64-bit chips are expected to be more valuable than that to justify their large die sizes.”
Ultimately, Glaskowsky said, the point of rolling out the STi8K was not so much to introduce the product in and of itself, but rather to send a message to customers. “I think that the purpose of ST’s announcement as opposed to the products with chips is that they want to make their customers feel good about being able to commit to 64-bit ARM software development, making them feel like the hardware will be there when they are ready to make that transition,” he said.
“It’s always a problem in the industry. It is important to make the customers understand that if they start putting in the work for software today, then there will be hardware for them to use, so it is interesting to see ST taking leadership in the transition from 64-bit to 32 by personally and directly talking to customers to make them feel more comfortable making that transition."
— Zewde Yeraswork, Associate Editor, EE Times