New ARM chip promises $100 netbooks

News 16 Sep, 2009

ARM announces ‘aggressive’ move into new markets with 2GHz Cortex-A9 chip, as it looks to expand its reach into netbook and mobile internet devices.

ARM, the chip company known for its low-power microchips, has announced that it has clocked its Coretx-A9 processor to 2GHz, giving it a part that it claims will enable it to rival Intel in the netbook market and drive down the cost of machines.

Speaking to IT PRO, Eric Schorn, vice president of marketing for ARM described the new part, codenamed ‘Osprey’, as a fundamental departure for the company. “It’s a huge departure from our wireless background....we are jumping onto another path,” he said.

With Osprey, ARM is moving in the opposite direction to its previous designs, which have commonly been focused on very low-power chips for wireless devices such as phones. “We’ve taken off the handcuffs and designed a chip with pure performance in mind,” said Schorn.

ARM claims that the dual-core Cortex -A9 can deliver five times the performance of Intel’s 1.6GHz N270 at the same power envelope, or consume 10 times less power while offering the same level of performance.

As ARM’s chips are not x86 compatible, machines powered by its tech would not be able to run Microsoft Windows. However, the chip would be a good fit for netbooks featuring Google’s forthcoming Chrome OS, or other flavours of Linux.

According to Schorn, one advantage would be lower cost netbooks. “We’re going really aggressive from a cost perspective...they’ll be a lot cheaper as we provide our technology to many vendors, enabling them to compete with each other," he said. "The net effect is different designs for less cost. We are seeing the approach of the $100 netbook; competition is good.”

In addition to netbooks, Schorn said the Cortex A9 would enable ARM to target smartbooks, MIDs and TV set-top boxes as well as enterprise products such as networking appliances and high-end printers.

The company has produced what it calls ‘a hard macro’ version of the chip, which means that it has completed the physical layout. It expects to deliver final silicon in Q4 this year, and expects chips manufactured by its partners to appear in products by 2010.