ARM Cortex-A15, the next Complete computing and content creation platform

Posted by Charbax – June 11, 2011

Last I heard, Texas Instruments said it might start sampling OMAP5 in October already, in testing and demo development boards before Mobile World Congress in February and target to be launched in consumer commercial products by Christmas 2012, within about a year and a half from now. In the following video, Nandan Nayampally, ARM's Director of CPU Product Marketing says:

With ARM's Cortex-A15, the smartphone or mobile device can take the next step of becoming a Complete computing and content creation platform.

I find it amazing that with such amazingly awesome ARM Cortex-A9 designs, clocked higher, added cores, just barely reaching the market, we can already also look forward to even greater performance and more features to come in devices just a year or so later.

My question is for the type of "Complete computing and content creation platform" that someone could define as for example a basic laptop, for example running Chrome OS, Ubuntu, Windows 8 or an ARM version of Mac OSX, can we expect those ARM Powered Laptops to have enough performance in ARM Cortex-A9 designs or do we still have to wait for ARM Cortex-A15 for ARM Laptops to replace Intel?

While the promise of Cortex-A8 Smartbooks shown at Computex 2009 just over 2 years ago didn't actually launch on the market, probably because of a lack in performance, I hope we will see optimal Cortex-A9 and other custom Dual-core, Tri-core and Quad-core designs released this year that will hopefully feel to have enough performance to feel just as fast at least as an Intel Atom Netbook.

Once ARM has that level of "Complete computing" performance covered and actual products such as just basic Laptops and Desktops on the mass market using that and that consumers don't see those as "slower", then ARM can also bring forward all it's other advantages in being lower power, cheaper, simpler, customizable, etc.

I feel that the immersive internet computing interfaces like Tablets and Smartphones of course are fantastic and awesome, and kudos for ARM for dominating in that, but it would be nice also to see ARM power just some basic Laptops and Desktops also and have those replace a big part of consumer electronics "Complete computing" devices previously only based on x86.

Innovative new touch screen interfaces, eventual Kinect style gesture controls, voice commands, all that are cool, but perhaps it won't actually be possible to do the next "Complete computing" devices using anything more than just a basic Laptop keyboard, mousepad and screen, at least when it comes to being a "content creation platform".

When do you think ARM is ready to power the Laptops? Are there Cortex-A9 designs with fast enough memory bandwidth, clock speeds, huge RAM, so they can power a full web browsing experience with all the multiple tabs, flash instances, javascripts and other useful web browser plugins or do we need to wait for Cortex-A15 yet for that performance level to be achieved?

My expectation is that the next devices based on ARM Cortex-A9 and other Dual-core designs such as OMAP4460/OMAP4470, i.MX6Duo/Quad, MSM8660/8960, Marvell 628, Ziilabs ZMS-20/40, Exynos 4210 (or a Laptop optimized higher clocked version of that), an Apple A5 optimized for Laptop use, of course the Nvidia Tegra3 Kal-El Quad-core, I expect all those to have fast enough memory bandwidth designs, fast RAM support, ample enough processing speed and other hardware acceleration required to run a full web browser centric OS like Chrome OS, Windows 8 and even ARM optimized versions of Ubuntu and OSX. I expect that the ARM Laptops can start to take 25% of Intel's x86 Laptop market this year with Cortex-A9 designs and that they can dominate with over 50% of the marketshare against Intel x86 sales with the Cortex-A15 designs performance reach next year!