IBM and ARM to Create World’s Smallest Mobile Processor

February 3, 2011

While IBM isn’t necessarily known as a maker of consumer electronics, it’s still the company behind some of the great tech you know and love. They are an incredible company, with significant experience and acumen in numerous sectors and industries. Many know that they are also the ones that brought the processing power to the PS3, in the form of the once state-of-the-art cell processor. A new collaborative effort between Big Blue and British chip designer ARM was announced very recently, with some exciting developments to soon follow. The market for tablets is growing by leaps and bounds, with leading analysts projecting that approximately 60 million tablets will be sold in 2011 alone.

Why is this a big deal?

Under an agreement disclosed Wednesday, IBM will help ARM scale its Cortex manufacturing process down to 14 nanometers. While this might sound like true nerd speak, to those in the know, it represents a huge step forward in technological development. Shrinking down a processor to 14 nanometers would bring substantial power savings and greater efficiency to the smartphones and tablets that employed them. The partnership, assuming it is successful, would give ARM one of the thinnest silicon substrates in the industry and bolster its position as the preferred provider of tablet processors.

ARM’s system-on-a-chip (SoC) platforms dominate the emerging tablet computer market, and the deal gives IBM a part to play in what’s expected to be one of the tech sector’s hottest segments in 2011.

“ARM’s Cortex processors have become the leadership platform for the majority of smart phones and many other emerging mobile devices,” said Michael Cadigan, general manager for IBM’s Microelectronics unit. “We plan to work closely with ARM and our foundry customers to speed the momentum of ARM technology for a variety of new communications and computing devices,” said Cadigan.

For their part, ARM officials said that handing off manufacturing to IBM would allow their company to increase its focus on the design of next generation mobile processors.

“IBM has a proven track record of delivering core research and development that is relied upon by major semiconductor vendors worldwide for their advanced semiconductor devices,” said Simon Segars, executive vice president and GM over ARM’s Physical IP unit.

Today, as it stands, we are seeing the first hands on sightings of the Tegra 2 processor in Android Smartphones, which is a collaboration between NVIDIA and ARM.

ARM has rapidly emerged as the leading provider of chips to tablet OEMs such as Samsung, Dell and Motorola. Even Microsoft, a longtime ally of Intel, recently said it plans to develop a version of the next generation of Windows—most likely to be named Windows 8—that’s geared to run on ARM’s chips.

The following Android Phones are powered by ARM and NVIDIA technology:

  • Motorola Atrix
  • Motorola Droid Bionic
  • Motorola Droid X2
  • LG Optimus 2X

More on this to follow soon!

Comments

  • David Silverstein

    I think it’s important to recognize that consumers want more powerful mobile devices, and that the top oems and tech companies are all investing a ton of money into R&D, so I have no doubt we will see a quad, 8, 16 or even 256 core tablet/smartphone in the future. Technology holds the key to all the worlds problems. Or, maybe not. Either way 14nm is a huge achievement!