ARM shows possible iPhone-bound multicore mobile processor

ARM shows possible iPhone-bound multicore mobile processor

Summary: ARM is demonstrating the first working example of a multicore processor that may dramatically speed up smartphones while Apple is searching for iPhone engineers that can write multithreaded code, perhaps to take advantage of ARM's breakthrough, AppleInsider reports.The chip designer along with ST-Ericsson is reportedly running a chip based on its Cortex-A9 architecture on a Symbian-based test device at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

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ARM is demonstrating the first working example of a multicore processor that may dramatically speed up smartphones while Apple is searching for iPhone engineers that can write multithreaded code, perhaps to take advantage of ARM's breakthrough, AppleInsider reports.

The chip designer along with ST-Ericsson is reportedly running a chip based on its Cortex-A9 architecture on a Symbian-based test device at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The design reportedly uses between two and four cores and is a successor to the ARM11 technology that dominates the market, including the Samsung chip in all current iPhone and iPod touch models. Like a desktop, applications can split work across multiple processors. ARM reportedly says it has the potential to be much faster than a single-core processor, but also says it could ultimately use less power by completing the same work with two cores at half the clock speed (or by finishing other tasks sooner).

The Cortex-A9 platform also reportedly has twice as much floating point math power as previous designs, and gives each core a NEON media accelerator that performs some of the functions that would normally be reserved for a digital signal processor, such as media encoding or decoding. ARM bases these on Simple Instruction, Multiple Data instructions like those found on most modern full-size processors, AppleInsider reports.

There has been no indication of the progress that the functioning chip represents, and neither company expects widespread use of the tech until the end of 2009 at the least.

As for the iPhone: The test has a potentially deep impact on the plans of Apple, who is a new but long-term client of ARM's and may have easy access to the new architecture.

Apple's recent acquisition, PA Semiconductor, is also known to be developing a custom ARM chip specifically for iPhones.

The spate of recent Apple job postings --  for engineers for iPhone applications, media interfaces and photo utilities, all with experience writing multuthreaded code, which is necessary for exploiting the presence of two or more processor cores -- hint that the iPhone maker is interested in mobile multicore processing, wherever the design comes from.

(Image: "A diagram of ARM's Cortex-A9 processor with its maximum four cores," from AppleInsider)

Topics: iPhone, Hardware, Mobility, Processors

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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4 comments
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  • Watch for Apple to patent all mobile applications

    Watch for the patent to cover applications that run with one or more threads. That would cover all applications ever written. There is precedence for this kind of disgusting, anti-competitive behavior. Apple has patented multi-touch [b]and single touch[/b] (read the patent application, it covers interactions with one or more fingers).
    NonZealot
    • Only NZ could take a simple processor story and spin it like this

      Somehow I knew NZ would be here beating this drum, once again
      spinning a simple story (this one about new processors) into Apple as
      the Great Satan.

      NZ encourages readers to view the patent app... I concur. Those who
      can read claims will see that they cover software that interpret touches
      not the act of touching. They cover ways by which the device can
      recognize that a particular touch (or touches) means scroll instead of
      move or magnify. How Apple will use and/or defend this patent is
      entirely unknown...not that this will stop NZ portraying it in the worst
      possible light.

      But, NZ isn't interested in annoying details such as facts... NZ just
      wants an opportunity to smear Apple. Which means that his/her posts
      tell us more about NZ and his/her motives than they do about Apple.
      UGottaBKidding
  • This will make a great netbook processor as well, and leave MS scrambling

    to get a suitable version Windows for netbooks running on Arm.
    DonnieBoy
  • RE: ARM shows possible iPhone-bound multicore mobile processor

    I guess everything that comes out now, has to be immediately tied to Apple's iPhone huh? Can't anyone write an article without being bias towards Apple. It's even funnier when you read the full article, and you realize the new chip is being made for many devices in mind(MID's and smartphones primarily), not directly to Apple! Further, the chip was demostrated on a Symbian based device, pointing to Nokia and other Symbian OS companies as the most likely candidates for the new processor... Thank you very much.
    rafael.roque