The rise and rise of ARM
ARM is a British success story, but where did it come from and where is it going? Mike Jennings talks with the company's execs to find out...
Howarth has his eye firmly on ARM's traditional market. "If you look forward, by 2020, there's only going to be two [processor manufacturers] - ourselves and Intel."
That bold prediction is born of the differing ways in which both firms operate. Intel has the money to invest, he said, and ARM benefits from its heritage in low-power processing technology.
"We have all the infrastructure, and our characteristics - very high performance, low power, cost effective - deliver benefits in any market we look at," Howarth said.
Microsoft's renewed focus on tablets for Windows 8 is one of those markets and Howarth sees it as a massive opportunity. "That's a huge shift in the industry and having Windows 8 allows us to get into the laptop and netbook space and really start competing with Intel," he said.
ARM has aspirations outside of its traditional markets, too. "We see our architectures in set-top boxes, intelligent lightning, kettles," Howarth said. But ARM's low-power chips - which Biggs describes as a "happy accident" - can also work in data centres.
"If you look at data centres, one of the biggest costs is power and energy. We think there's a huge saving to be made in terms of power consumption and performance-per-Watt," Howarth said. It's a long-term aim, with the company hoping ARM architectures will be deployed in data centres by 2015. It's clear the firm wants to muscle in on this "Intel-dominated" area.
Brown also sees little reason to leave ARM's winning formula behind but, as well as "continuing to do broadly what we do today," he believes there are plenty of opportunities elsewhere. "There's going to be a huge groundswell in the internet of things' - the sort of devices that have to become connected and smarter."
If you look at data centres, one of the biggest costs is power and energy. We think there's a huge saving to be made.
He's not talking about smartphones - instead, Brown predicts ARM will find its chips in things as diverse as fridges and heart monitors, all of which will "communicate and share data."
He concedes a future made of ARM-powered body parts might "horrify" some people, but he truly believes in that future. "I believe ARM will be the engine that will power that, and no-one will ever know."
It's a perfect way to sum up ARM's quiet, phenomenal success: from a company spun off a bankrupt business to one that powers some of the world's most exciting technology from a campus in Cambridge. "It's hard to think of us as being a crazy start up," says Brown, and he's right.
This is one British firm that deserves to be celebrated.
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