Broadcom licenses ARM’s ARMv7 and ARMv8 architectures; Snapdragon killer?

January 9, 2013
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If you’re a geek, then chances are you know that Samsung’s Galaxy S3 has four ARM Cortex A9 processors. The Tegra 4 that was announced earlier this week, it has four ARM Cortex A15 processors. This is how ARM makes money. They design processors that companies then license and shove inside their own chips. But there’s also something else ARM does that gets far less attention. Qualcomm’s latest chips use “Krait” cores. What exactly is a Krait? Qualcomm paid ARM for a license to the ARMv7 architecture so they could design their own processor that’s compatible with ARM code. Why would a company do that? Several reasons, the most important being optimizing a core for a specific usage scenario.

Which brings us today’s news: Broadcom has announced that they’re going to pull a Qualcomm and license ARM’s ARMv7 and ARMv8 architectures so that they can make their own custom tailored cores. According to The Verge, the end goal is to make a chip that integrates Broadcom’s 4G LTE modems.

What’s the difference between ARMv7 and ARMv8? Without getting into all the little details, the biggest change in that the newer version adds support for 64 bit. In plain English that means ARMv8 will let companies make phones that have 4 GB or more of RAM. That may sound crazy today, but then again if you told someone in 2008 about the Samsung Galaxy Note they would have laughed until their sides hurt.

Now the big question, when will these chips hit the market? No dates were mentioned, but we have a rough feeling that this is going to take at least one year, realistically two. That sounds horrible if you’re the kind of person who buys a new phone every 6 to 12 months, but what Broadcom is doing here is very much a long term play.

Don’t expect Qualcomm to stay on top forever. People are hungry for pole position, which means we’re going to see some competitive offerings from different players, and we absolutely love that there’s so much competition in this space!

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