Fascinating article about ARM in the New York Times

Posted by – September 21, 2010

ARM CEO and other Executives provide very interesting quotes in a new article in the New York Times:

The number of ARM chips produced a year, which go into many different products, dwarfs the hundreds of millions of chips sold by Intel, the world’s largest chip maker in terms of revenue. Inevitably, analysts often portray the companies as mortal enemies, dueling for dominance in the chip market. ARM executives play down such a dramatic story line in their typical, low-key fashion.

“People want there to be this David and Goliath struggle between us and Intel,” Mr. East said. “It just isn’t that way.”

I wonder also if Intel strategists are resting on their laurels and not seeing ARM as a threat to its Netbook, Laptop, Desktop, Set-top-box (Google TV) and Server markets?

“We don’t look like Intel,” he said. “We’re never going to be a $100 billion outfit.”

Yet ARM just unveiled new chip designs that could carry its products into servers and networking equipment — Intel’s turf.

Is ARM presaging an era with no more $100 billion giant dominant corporations in the consumer electronics industry? ARM solutions enabled Apple to more than triple its gigantic valuation on the Nasdaq over the past 5 years, but are these mega Silicon Valley companies going to continue to be so large?

Investors appear enthralled by ARM’s business. Over the last year, the company’s shares have nearly tripled, to a close on Friday of $18.34, from a low of $6.52. Rumors have swirled that Apple may acquire ARM, though such a move seems unlikely given ARM’s broad partnership model.

“I laughed about it with the folks at Apple,” Mr. East said. “It is completely nonsensical.”

It is simply not going to happen. The EU and ARM’s obligations to its partners would not allow it to happen.

“Apple and the Newton made the company exist,” said Mike Muller, one of the founders of ARM and its chief technology officer. “The Newton never went anywhere, but it got ARM started and gave us some credibility.”

Dealing with hand-held devices and cellphones forced ARM to operate under severe power restrictions. It chased milliwatts, while Intel chased horsepower.

Once ARM has reached the desired level of performance at a desired level of power consumption, then it means ARM can bring competition to a market, which creates an environment for a faster rate of innovation among companies. Once full web browsing is demonstrated to work on ARM, once full WebTV and VOD interfaces fully work on ARM, it will mean that the ecosystem of ARM providers can replace the need for Intel in these areas.

“We’ve always known Cambridge is not the center of the universe,” Mr. Muller said. “If you’re in Silicon Valley, you might make that mistake.”

The company offers choice to customers through various types of licenses. A customer can take ARM’s basic design at face value or choose a license that allows it to create custom products.

“We’re encouraging specialists to do what they’re good at,” Mr. Muller said.

The companies making ARM Cortex A8, A9 and A15 designs, such as Texas Instruments, Freescale, Samsung, ST Ericsson, Nvidia, Rockchip, VIA and Telechips those are using the one type of ARM licence. While Marvell, Qualcomm and Microsoft are using another type of ARM licence which allows them to differently customize their processor technology offerings.

Intel and Microsoft secure the vast majority of profits available in computers and servers, leaving the likes of Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Acer to fight over a few dollars per machine.

Apple has shown that the largest profit margins are available in adopting the ARM ecosystem and philosophy of product design and marketing. It is likely that we will soon see all the major PC, Laptop and Server manufacturers shift to using ARM solutions, which will both allow to lower cost to customers and increase the profit margins at the same time!

Source: nytimes.com
Found via: techmeme.com