ARM set to move to yearly refreshes

Annual ARM

"Expect shorter time to market going forward" is the takeaway message from our brief conversation with Peter Hutton, executive vice president of Product Groups at British semiconductor company, ARM.

Peter, who moved up from the GPU division to become the one in charge of all the component ones, told TechRadar Pro that this allows him to get a bird's-eye view of the essential pieces of a system-on-chip.

64 bit taking over the market

When queried over the recent launches of 64-bit processors by Mediatek and Qualcomm, he said that although he expected the announcements, he was somewhat surprised by the fact that they target mainstream rather than the high end.

The top-down move to 64-bit is likely to be swift with ARM's big.LITTLE and the use of Cortex-A57 for mobile becoming more widespread.

Furthermore, he said, one can expect shorter time-to-market (the time between the announcement of a processor model and its availability on the market).

The shortest one yet is likely to be the A17, which is set to be available less than a year after it was announced, that's down from the usual 24 months.

Ramping up the cores

More importantly though, ARM is likely to get more aggressive, with Peter saying he will bring the annual cycles usually found in GPU to the CPU.

To make things even more interesting, he confirmed that the bulk of ARM processors are likely to be manufactured on 16nm from 2015 onwards, which somewhat contradicts what ARM told us in recent weeks about 28nm being the sweet spot for foundries.

Although Peter declined to tell us more about what lies ahead for ARM, he hinted that we might have reached a plateau similarly to what desktop processors hit a while back.

After multi-cores, faster clock speeds and increased cache, the only other significant improvement is likely to be, long term, Heterogeneous computing, with the GPU playing a much bigger role.

For now though, Peter said, "we need to be smarter with what we have."

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.