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ARM confirms architecture licensee is handset maker; is it Apple?

July 30, 2008 //

In a repeat run of the announcement of ARM's second quarter financial results, the company's senior executives revealed that the multiyear architectural licensee mentioned on Monday (July 28) is a "leading handset OEM" which is developing its roadmap for mobile computing devices.


LONDON — In a repeat run of the announcement of ARM's second quarter financial results, the company's senior executives revealed that the multiyear architectural licensee mentioned on Monday (July 28) is a "leading handset OEM" which is developing its roadmap for mobile computing devices.

However, ARM did not reveal that the identity of the architecture licensee. Apple, with its success with the iPhone, would be a clear contender as the un-named licensee. The iPhone is rich in ARM processor cores.

An architectural license gives its owner the freedom to extend the ARM architecture and processor cores. ARM has given out very few in its 18 year history. Most of ARM's customers sign licenses for specific processor core designs that have been tried and tested by ARM engineers. "Don't get excited about any revenue on this deal as it's all tied up with future technology and the revenue will be recognized over several years. But it is very important as far as we're concerned in terms of securing design wins with that particular OEM and also in the mobile space altogether," said Warren East, CEO of ARM, at the analysts conference called to discuss ARM's Q2 financial results.

East did not say much about what the architecture license was granting the OEM in terms of the power to add to versions of the ARM instruction set architecture, or craft proprietary implementations. "It varies," said East of licensing in general.

"We're not really disclosing any more about that transaction than we've already disclosed," said East.

"Some handset manufacturers want to have more control over the design of their handset, including the components within it, than others. And it's as simple as that. And the ARM business model offers one that level of control, if that's what one wants to do and one has the technical resources available to do it," said East.

Responding to a question about Intel, East said: "As for Intel, they are in the business of selling microprocessor chips and I am sure they would love to sell some of their microprocessor chips into handset manufacturers. They're working on low-power versions of their x86 product line. I think by their own acknowledgement it's going to take them years to catch up with ARM from a technology point of view in terms of applicability for handsets, and from a power consumption point of view in particular. Right now ARM is the incumbent architecture in smartphones and I don't see that changing in the short-term."

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