ARM CEO: Future of mobile technology rests on services more than devices

ARM's CEO argues mobile technology companies need to work together, but he downplays the importance of every company having a mobile strategy.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor on

SAN FRANCISCO -- The future of mobile computing likely rests more on the services delivered on smartphones and tablets rather than the devices themselves.

At least that was the takeaway lesson from the opening keynote with ARM chief executive officer Warren East at the Open Mobile Summit on Wednesday morning.
"It's not the phone that's the exciting thing," described East. "It's the ability to communicate and deliver data anywhere all the time. That's what has made the world a much smaller place."
Predicting that "we're going to see mobile technology cropping up in all sorts of different form factors," East continued that one of the big issues with the advancement of mobile technologies, infrastructures and services is getting businesses to work together.
"It's when people work together -- rather than sticking it in their silos -- that progress gets made," East argued. He acknowledged that this doesn't mean that every company that tries to form partnerships will succeed, but he asserted that "there is a bigger prize in that collaboration" rather than trying to carve it out for oneself.
"But human nature is such that companies compete," East admitted. "The commercial system that these companies are all part of have to deliver returns for shareholders."
From the consumer point of view, this might be harder to understand because so many services and activities are usually free at the point of delivery on their smartphones and tablets.
"Technology is rife with innovation in the business model. If free at the point of delivery is going to encourage more services, perhaps differentiated services, then you'll see technology companies deploy it," East argued.
Interestingly, East didn't actually defend the importance of having a mobile strategy within those business models.
"I suppose a mobile conference is not really the place to be dismissive of mobile," East quipped. He replied that "mobile as a moniker is a convenient term," but he also stipulated that "the fact that a lot of services are going to be delivered through products that happen to be mobile is almost irrelevant."
"The fact Facebook got a little trouble from the market for not having a mobile strategy was more a failure of their marketing rather than a failure of not having a 'mobile strategy,'" East cited.
Nevertheless, ARM has been busy expanding its own mobile strategy lately.
Just last week, in partnership with AMD, ARM announced a new series of 64-bit microprocessors, which East described are aimed at increasing computing performance "by roughly a factor of three" for mobile devices.
East said that ARM's business model is designed to be "quite agnostic" by positioning technology to enable the winners -- "whomever those winners happen to be."
When asked about how one of its biggest competitors, Intel, fits into this ecosystem, East remained diplomatic, positing that Intel "has successfully reinvented themselves from memory company to microprocessor company."
Furthermore, East praised that in partnership with Microsoft, Intel "enabled the PC revolution" and brought access to relatively low-cost computing to the masses.
"In the semiconductor industry, we see leaders come and go," East said. "But what tends to happen is the legacy of those companies lives on in other companies."
East added that he thinks "it's a bit early to call something liked that for Intel," suggesting that is still "a few years off yet."

Editorial standards