RealTime IT News

ARM Upgrades Core Tech, Adds GPU Support

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- ARM Holdings PLC kicked off its ARM: techcon3 conference Wednesday for developers of its embedded processors with the introduction of a new processor generation as well as support for GPU developers.

ARM does not make and manufacture processors the way Intel, AMD and nVidia operate. Rather, it makes technological IP, which it calls macros, and sells them to licensees. The licensees can then modify the core to varying degrees, from a little to a lot, and make their own processors.

Licensees include Alcatel, Broadcom, Marvell nVidia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sharp, ST Microelectronics and Texas Instruments, among others including Apple for the iPod and iPhone. ARM claims it has sold 15 billion chips to date, with 20 different processor designs and 600 licensees.

Recently, ARM increased the performance of its high end processors, but the A5 is meant as a mid-range to low-end product.

The new ARM Cortex-A5 processor comes with one to four processor cores running at up to 1GHz. The A5 is designed to replace the ARM9 and ARM11 processors and eventually those two processors will be phased out, according to Eric Schorn, vice president of marketing in the processor division at ARM.

The Cortex-A5's cores run up to 3 times faster than each core in the ARM9 product and consume half as much power. Schorn said the Cortex-A5 is to be used in low-end to mid-range cellphones, smart appliances such as televisions, photo frames and printers.

They will also enable a new generation of simple cell phones for the emerging world, like Africa, where SMS messaging is far more important than the frivolous chatter it's used for in the west.

"In the emerging world, the handset is becoming the first means of communication," Schorn told InternetNews.com."The Cortex A5 will enable even rudimentary Internet capabilities in these areas that have none."

The Mali developer network

ARM also announced the Mali developer network for supporting its Mali GPU. The company has about two dozen licensees for the GPU, but what it found was those who were building GPU support into their products weren't getting much out of the chips, according to Elan Lennard, portal program manager at ARM's Processing division.

So the company created the Mali Developers Center, a portal with all the tools, sample code, documentation, developers' platforms and forums to support Mali developers. A total of nine tools, like shaders and lighting sample code, will be available free of charge to qualified developers.

The Mali GPU is capable of 1080p high definition resolution with 2D and 3D graphics and 4x and 16x full scene anti-aliasing. It supports Khronos OpenGL ES 2.0, Adobe Flash and Java code as well. The tools are available on Windows and Red Hat Linux.

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