If we had to pick just one favorite feature of modern smartphone design, it would probably be the advent of 1GHz processors, like Qualcomm's Snapdragon chip and Samsung's Hummingbird part. Both of these could soon be obsolete, however, as Qualcomm gets ready to ship its dual-core QSD8672 CPU clocked at up to 1.5GHz per core.
We already knew this was in the works, but only had a vague time frame to go on. Now Qualcomm is saying it will start shipping these newer, faster Snapdragon parts in the fourth quarter, which will find their way into smartphones and tablets.
That still doesn't tell us when actual products built around these new CPUs will hit the street, but according to Mark Frankel, vice president of product management for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies, vendors looking to get a leg-up on the competition could launch products "by Christmas."
First run chips will likely come clocked at 1.2GHz, but despite the faster clockspeed, battery life could be improved. Individual voltage scaling, for example, is just one of the architectural improvements being implemented in the new Snapdragon silicon that could lead to lower power consumption over its predecessor.
To help the company hit the ground and running, ARM, Texas Instruments, and Highland Capital Ventures have forked over a combined $48 million in funding.
"Smooth-Stone's approach of bringing low-power technology into the server domain made them a perfect fit for our investment model," said Bruce Beckloff, vice president of corporate business development at ARM, in a statement.
The largest data centers can use anywhere from 5 to 20 megawatts of power, with one megawatt equal to 1 million watts. That's enough to power around 1,000 homes.
Nvidia Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang has never shied from being bashful about where his company stands, having once promised to "open a can of whoop ass" on Intel. His latest comments aren't quite as colorful, but they're just as telling, and still manage to take a shot at the Santa Clara chip maker.
"Our CPU strategy is ARM," Huang told CNET when asked about the company's strategy for central processing units in smartphones and tablets. "ARM is the fastest growing processor architecture in the world today. ARM supports (Google's) Android best. And Android is the fastest growing OS in the world today."
Huang's comments come on the heel of Nvidia reporting a second-quarter net loss of $141 million, far worse than the $105.3 million net loss the graphics chip maker reported one year ago. Part of the reason for the disappointing quarter is that Nvidia is still paying for a defect in some of its earlier GPUs and chipsets. Back in 2008, Nvidia announced a charge somewhere between $150 million to $200 million to cover warranty costs associated with "weak die/packaging material" in older laptop models, and Nvidia said it has taken an "additional net charge" of $193.9 million for the same problem.
Hit the jump to find out if Nvidia plans on jumping back into the chipset business.
After playing with a smartphone equipped with a 1GHz Snapdragon or Hummingbird processor, it's hard as hell to go back to a last-gen mobile phone plodding along at 500-600MHz. The difference is really night and day. Be that as it may, are we on the dawn of a new smartphone era?
According to Networkworld.com, smartphones sporting dual-core chips are right around the corner. Qualcomm, the company behind the aforementioned Snapdragon CPU, has already shipped its first dual-core processor, the MSM8660, and later this year the company will start sampling a faster dual-core chip.
Qualcomm isn't alone, either. Texas Instruments is said to be shipping a dual-core mobile chip later this year, and if all goes to plan, it could show up in devices in the first quarter of 2010.
The question is, do we need dual-core processors in our smartphones? As far as we're concerned, the answer is a resounding "yes." While usage depends on the user, we often find ourselves using our smartphones for anything but making calls, and a dual-core foundation could open up a world of possibilities.
"This benefit allows for far more concurrency in applications. You've got an additional processor to handle background tasks, running multiple applications, or updating multiple webpages simultaneously," said Richard Tolbert, director of product management for the OMAP smartphone business at TI.
Hit the jump to find out what this would mean for battery life.
Apple left a lot of room for criticism with its first generation iPad, not the least of which is the inability for widespread multitasking (at least until the next OS update). But while we can fault Apple for leaving out essentials like upgradeable storage, USB ports, cameras, and Flash support, one area that hasn't come under fire is the custom A4 processor based on ARM's Cortex A8 design. The iPad just feels responsive, whether you're flipping through pages of apps or scrolling through hundreds of photos.
Come 2011, the magical tablet from Cupertino will be even faster. According to Digitimes Research senior analyst Mingchi Kuo, the upgraded 9.7-inch iPad slated for a Q1 2011 release will boast a new ARM Cortex-A9 based processor along with twice the amount of RAM at 512MB.
Depending on how Apple customizes the Cortex A9 chip, the company could have a very potent tablet on its hands. The Cortex A9 processor is available as either a single-core or configurable multi-core processor (up to four cores) running at 2GHz. In terms of clockspeed alone, that's twice as fast as the current-gen iPad's A4 processor.
Meanwhile, we're still left twiddling our thumbs waiting for everyone else to release their own handheld tablet PCs, a bevy of which have been announced for a late 2010 launch.
Texas Instruments (TI) says it will be the first company to license ARM's next-generation Cortex-A series processor core, currently known as "Eagle." In addition, TI is helping to define the upcoming part, which will be announced sometime later this year.
"Our position as ARM's advanced lead partner for its next-generation Cortex-A series processor core underscores TI's unwavering commitment to helping customers achieve success in the competitive mobile world," TI said. 'Our customers will be the first to leverage the new ARM processor core's far-reaching innovations via our industry-leading OMAP products."
According to earlier reports, Eagle will come comprised of a multi-core chip with "high-end" graphics and relatively low power usage thanks to Global Foundries 28nm manufacturing process. This, along with two other iterations, will provide the foundation for future mobile devices.
Tom Halfhill, formerly a senior editor for Byte magazine and now an analyst for Microprocessor Report, wrote in an interesting piece (as he always does) in the currently shipping August issue of Maximum PC magazine (perhaps you've heard of this rag?) on how Apple's iPad is doing Intel a favor. Halfhill argues that even though Apple snubbed x86 in favor of ARM's architecture for its iPad, the iPad will generate demand for low-power x86 chipsets.
"Intel is trying to push x86 processors into cell phones, where ARM's lower-power processors reign supreme," Halfhill writes. "Intel's latest attempt is an Atom-based chipset code-named Moorestown... Moorestown will be an ARM-breaker for high-end smartphones, tablets, and other handheld devices."
Halfhill brings up some excellent points, which makes today's announcement that Microsoft has signed a new agreement to license technology for the ARM processor architecture all the more interesting.
Hit the jump to find out what this means for Microsoft, ARM, and Intel.
British chip designer ARM, which currently enjoys an almost unchallenged run in the mobile and embedded device markets, has announced a new deal with TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company). Termed the “broadest agreement” between the two companies that happen to go back a long way, it will yield nimbler and more power-efficient chips.
"I am pleased that ARM and TSMC will be working together to enable ARM processor based SoCs leveraging both companies' advanced technologies," said Mike Inglis, executive vice president and general manager, ARM Processor Division.
The XO-1.75 will sport a processor based on the ARM architecture unlike its predecessor that features an x86 processor from VIA. This shift necessitates software changes as the current version of OLPC's favorite Linux distribution, Fedora, is still missing an ARM port. Chris Ball, lead software engineer for OLPC, said in an e-mail statement that future OLPC machines will continue to use Fedora as their main Linux distribution.
"We need to rebuild each of the thousands of Fedora packages for Arm from their Fedora 13 versions, so that includes everything from the kernel and drivers up through all of the other packages, including Sugar,” Ball said.
The world's biggest chips maker has thus far been absent from what is predicted to be one of the biggest moneymakers in silicon: mobile. Intel has been working to develope an Atom-based CPU that could work in mobile phones. The so-called Moorestown chips were shown off in May, but you're going to be waiting a bit longer still to get your hands on a phone rocking an Intel chip. The first Moorestown CPUs should be arriving in phones starting in 2011. They have also hinted a Moorestown tablet could show up by year's end.
Intel has been trying to figure out the mobile market for a number of years with little success. In 2006 they seemed to write off the idea completely when they sold their XScale mobile CPU division to Marvell. Intel then went on to push standard Atom CPUs in mobile devices. Power concerns kept this from taking off.
ARM-based CPUs currently rule mobile because of their high performance to power use ratios. Intel may have expertise in developing great desktop and laptop silicon, but can they overcome ARM's foothold?