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ARM A15: A Game Changer

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ARM? Who are they?

ARM are a humongous company, not so much in employee numbers and site buildings, but in the number of actual products that their technology comes to market with. From a seemingly small number of incredibly smart people comes a sales figure of nearly 3 ARM chips for every man, woman and child on the planet, a huge feat that, with recent partnership announcements, and rumors galore, is only going to get bigger.

ARM shares have gone from a level of just over 135 this time last year to well over 400 today and with ARM’s Q3 2010 Earnings release due Oct 26th, I’m sure we will see continued growth. But why all the fuss?

ARM has been around for a long time. Smartphones, set-top boxes, even a robot or two so what is going so right for ARM lately? Well their deal with Apple for the strangely named A4 (cleverly stripped Cortex-A8, ARMv7-A core) which went into the iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and is now the corner-stone of Apples iOS solutions has helped, a deal with Microsoft, dozens of ARM based Android phones, and the odd Maemo/MeeGo phone helps. But now we have a new era. A time where ARM are moving out of their comfort zone and competing with the likes of Intel and AMD on performance, but this time doing it with an eye to power consumption. There are a lot of exciting things going on at ARM, not to mention their huge focus on Linux with Linaro, but their recent announcement of the ARM A15 architecture got me excited more than others.

Low Powered, Multi-Core, High Performance

The A15 is billed as having:

Unprecedented levels of performance, power-efficiency, and technology leadership

and reading the technical specs one can only wonder what is in store for this architecture. Some of the highlights include:

    • Up to 2.5Gz clock speed
    • Chip fabrication down to 28nm
    • Address up to 1TB of memory
    • Hardware Virtualisation
    • Single to Quad core (and beyond) configurations
    • Suitable for everything from phones to servers

Possibilities

So looking at the specifications, where is this chip likely to land? Well, its not quite that easy to guess as the processor itself is so versatile. If one were to attempt a guess one could hypothesise that we will see at least phones and netbooks but more importantly tablets, laptops, and servers. The last three, maybe four are new to ARM. But a chip so capable has its uses.

    • For netbooks and laptops, a more powerful CPU is essential. Couple this with low power consumption and an increasingly powerful user experience from Ubuntu, Linaro and other Linux distributions equates to a great portable laptop device.
    • Tablets are the new buzz word. Android is the main contender to Apple at the moment although RIM have just announced their PlayBook and HP cannot be discounted with their acquisition of PALM and WebOS. If its not an Apple device then its most likely to be Linux based (unless its the QNX RIM tablet) and what better way to utilise that than to use a flavour that is highly optimised for ARM based Linux devices.
    • Servers are uncharted territory for ARM. Quietly, bubbling up amongst the tech crowd is the notion that vast arrays of hot, expensive to run, power-hungry x86 based servers could be replaced by cold, cheap, powerful ARM servers. For a company who pays millions (upon millions) of dollars for a server farm, saving money on both climate control to cool servers and their electricity bill is huge news. Couple that with the fact that ARM servers could be cheaper to purchase and you get a lot of buzz in this area. One such company that caught this curve early was SmoothStone. Expect to see a huge uptake in the interest of ARM based servers in the coming 12 months.

Conclusion

ARM based devices are ubiquitous, just like Linux. You may of not of even heard of ARM, just like you may not of heard of Linux, but making a phone call or searching on Google means you could already using their respective technologies.

ARM, just like Linux, is a quiet pioneer, prevalent in the background just waiting for the opportunity to become mainstream. Whether mainstream is the goal, prevalence most definitely is on the agenda.

Written by JamieBennett

September 28th, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Why I lo(ve)athe the n900

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Edited to include some of my gripes, if you just want to see the list, scroll to the bottom

This is going to get an instant dismissal from the Nokia faithful, but bear with me and I guarantee you will see what I see in some capacity.

Lets get one thing straight first, I love what Nokia have done for Linux, from their first offerings pre-770 to what they do today, they do a great job. I know many of the current (and past) team that care so much about how Linux will someday become the default smart-phone choice that I somewhat feel a little sorry that they pioneered a route that may be occupied by others.
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Written by JamieBennett

December 11th, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Posted in Linux,Maemo

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What would you like to see for ARM based embedded distro’s?

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So its that time of year again, we released a great product and instead of being content, we want to make an even greater one next time. It’s scary to think that I leave for the Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS) next week but as a Canonical employee we are all charged with coming up with great idea’s on how to make our particular field of interest even more awesome than it is now.
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Written by JamieBennett

November 3rd, 2009 at 8:38 pm

The future of Linux for the mass market?

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There was a little uproar in the open source community here in the UK when the BBC covered the Windows 7 launch. It was rightly pointed out that Apple didn’t get any coverage for Snow Leopard and Linux in general never really gets a shout at all so what’s going on?

Well in the interests of fairness one Canonical employee decided to send the reporter a netbook with a copy of Karmic (the next Ubuntu release) on it.
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Written by JamieBennett

October 26th, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Posted in Linux,Maemo

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Maemo Summit 2009

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Grenoble

I’m sat in the wonderfully picturesque Grenoble, France, sipping a beer and gazing at the huge mountains around me (but that’s for another post). I’m also reminiscing about the Maemo Summit 2009 so I thought I would put a few comments down.

I’m not going to harp on about how great the summit was, or how cool Nokia are for giving away 300 loan devices to the attendees (although I know at least one person left theirs in the back of a taxi in Amsterdam :() but instead I’ll just commend Nokia for their efforts with the N900. They have worked tirelessly to get a mainstream, Linux based phone to market that is both hugely configurable and extendable. One could harp on about the seeds of Linux based phones being sown with the likes of the LiMo initiative, Open Moko and more recently, Android, but I know of no other company that has advanced many core Linux components with a huge amount of effort and funding than Nokia.

The current device may not be to everyones taste and may not even be ready for mainstream just yet but I raise my glass to you, well done Nokia!

Written by JamieBennett

October 16th, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Posted in Maemo

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