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ARM unveils latest chip design aimed at 2016 smartphones

2015-02-05 11:22 Global Times Web Editor: Qin Dexing

British chip designer ARM Holdings, whose chip designs are at the heart of the vast majority of mobile devices, took the wraps off its most advanced processor design on Wednesday, which will boost the performance of new mobile gadgets.

The new ARM Cortex-A72 processor, along with the chip designer's beefed-up graphics, was launched at an event in Beijing on Wednesday, targeting smartphones and tablet computers to be shipped in 2016.

ARM does not make its own chips, but instead offers other semiconductor manufacturers the licenses to its processor technology.

Its chip partners are global industry heavyweights such as Qualcomm Inc, Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics, as well as Taiwan-based MediaTek Inc.

More than 10 partners have been licensed for the use of the new processor touting higher performance and lower energy consumption, the company announced at the event.

Only three licensed partners were revealed - MediaTek, Shenzhen-based HiSilicon Technologies Co, and Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics Co.

When asked about whether Qualcomm, the world's largest mobile chip maker by sales, is among the partners that have signed up for the use of the new chip design, Pete Hutton, ARM's executive vice president and president for the firm's Product Groups, said it is Qualcomm that should be asked.

Questions e-mailed to Qualcomm seeking disclosure of its option - either being licensed to use the Cortex-A72 processor or build ARM-based chips on its own - went unanswered as of press time.

ARM's latest processor blueprint comes as the mobile device sector is seeing signs of cooling after years of explosive growth.

In China, the world's largest marketplace for smartphones, shipments of smartphones rose by 20.9 percent to 420 million units in 2014, according to figures released on Monday by US-based research firm IDC.

This marks a dramatic fall from the growth rate of 63.6 percent logged in 2013.

The research firm said Monday it expects China's smartphone market to grow at an even slower pace in 2015.

Unfazed by slowing growth in the mobile gadget market, Allen Wu, president of ARM for the Greater China region, said at the event that the improved processor design would still serve to greatly increase the power of smartphones that have functioned as primary devices for many users.

Also, a shift in China's smartphone market toward lower-cost mobile devices is less likely to affect the overall royalty growth for the chip designer, ARM's Hutton told the Global Times on the sidelines of the event, citing the selling prices of chips as a basis for the royalties.

At the Wednesday event, ARM did not make a direct comparison between its newest processor design and the architecture built by Intel Corp, a rival which is eager to grab some of ARM's market share.

Back in November 2014, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said he expected that within a few years Intel's new semiconductor partners in China will migrate to its architecture, abandoning ARM's technology that is currently much more favored by makers of smartphones and tablets, Reuters reported in November.

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