In the wireless arena, ARM is ahead of Intel in process, architecture and design, and looks likely to stay there for a generation or two.
“ARM is at 28nm. Intel at 32nm,” Warren East, CEO of ARM, told me yesterday, “in process and design of the sub-system ARM is ahead. ARM has created a much more competitive offering than Intel. I’m not saying we’ll automatically stay ahead, but
if you look at the system level, with our Big-Little design concept their Little is roughly equivalent to our Big. That’s why I’m confident we’ll be ahead.”
Intel, of course has had 32nm running for a year or more whereas TSMC only moved its 28nm into volume production in Q4.
“Intel has 32nm available,” agreed East, “but they have to take it to an SOC chip design like Medfield. It’s taking a little longer.”
At the next generation – 20nm for TSMC, 22nm for Intel – TSMC has already taped out a 20nm Cortex A-15 and intends to have volume production on 20nm this year, whereas Intel says it won’t be putting Atom on 22nm until 2013.
Asked if Intel’s delay seemed delinquent, East replied: “They’d love to have it sooner, but the type of device they’re going to build will be an SoC with a lot of IP. It takes time.”
At the earnings call following the Q4 results, East said: “As Intel are bringing their 32nm Medfield product to market, we’re seeing ARM 28nm products starting to ship. We’re seeing ARM engaged at 20nm, and we’re seeing ARM engaged at 14nm.
“And of course, there’s another whole dimension to this, which is delivering real solutions in a phone environment. And that’s what the ARM partnership has been doing for the last 15 years or so, and that’s what Intel is getting to grips with right now,” says East in the SeekingAlpha transcript of the call.
“ARM’s building on that lead, taking that system expertise that we’ve built up over the last 15 years or so and turning it into things like Big-Little which we announced back in October, where we have the benefits of high performance with a big processor married in a seamless way to the power efficiency of a small processor,” adds east.
“That sort of system-level solution is moving the goalposts significantly, so you end up with something that has the performance of a Cortex-A8, a smartphone of 2 or 3 years ago delivered in a power envelope that uses about 20% of the power. And so we’re continually moving those competitive goalposts.”