Why has IBM brought five of its former competitors together in a bid to design chips for Linux devices?
Moore's Second Law.
As you should know by now IBM, TI, ARM, Samsung, ST Ericsson, and Freescale are all backing Linaro, which will share the costs of designing Linux chip sets for use in a variety of non-PC devices. Intel has practically owned the embedded space since its purchase last year of Wind River.
Everyone loves Moore's Law, the idea that chip complexity can double with every generation of product. We are not nearly so enamored of Moore's Second Law, the related concept that as chip complexity increases so does the cost to get the result made.
But Moore's Second has driven most industry changes over the last decades.
- It was an effort to reduce the impact of Moore's Second that chip-makers moved to China and other low-cost, low-regulation locales.
- It was Moore's Second that drove out smaller competitors until only Intel and AMD were standing, and AMD is wobbling.
- It is Moore's Second that drove the "fab-less fab" movements, companies like Nvidia that really just design chips and leave manufacturing to companies like Taiwan Semiconductor.
- It is Moore's Second that is getting Abu Dhabi into the game, essentially taking over AMD's costs through Globalfoundries, which seeks to move the process to the Middle East.
Moore's Second Law is squeezing out competition in chip design and manufacturing. You need so many billions of dollars to play the game that, if your name's not Intel, you either find a sugar daddy, get together with your competitors, or go home.
Even if your name is IBM. Or Texas Instruments. Since they don't want to go home, they're getting together with friends. Linux will benefit.