Enabling The Next Mobile Computing Revolution

Designers need readily available and flexible IP that they can mix and match — especially in the smartphone and mobile computing arena.

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We’ve come a long way
Just think about the ‘mobile computing’ revolution over the last five years – the compute tasks we routinely handle on our mobile phonesdaily, equal those that were only possible to execute using laptops and desktops several years ago.

With a direct and uninterrupted power supply from the wall, laptopsand desktops require fan-assisted cooling, and their architecture is designed around supporting that capacity. Mobile devices function with similarly demanding workloads for an entire day or longerusing a single charge; serving as our communications hub entertainment center, game console, and robust workstation. Mobile devices such as ARM-based smartphones are designed around the mobile footprint to deliver the most power, performance, and energy efficiency out of each milliwatt and every millimeter of silicon.

 

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Source: ARM and Gartner estimates based on 2013.

 

The mobile market landscape
Largely based on system-on-chips (SoCs), the successful smartphone, tablet and software applications ‘apps’ economy is worth $27 billion and stillgrowing.  Mobile SoCs balance increasing performance with form factor, battery life, and price points across an incredibly diverse range of consumers. Much of that has been based on the ARMv7-A architecture in an expanding smartphone market, and the increasing app ecosystem with over 40 billion downloads, has also been largely designed and coded specifically for the ARMarchitecture.

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Source: Qualcomm

The industry is now transitioning to ARMv8-A architecture, which supports the next-generation of efficient computing. This year will see the arrival of numerous devices featuring the latest architecture, and opening the door for developers, while still retaining 100% compatibility with apps based on 32-bit ARMv7architecture.  Many new SoCsin the market will employ ARM big.LITTLE technology, combining high-performance CPUs and high-efficiency CPUs in one processing sub-system that is capable of both 32-bit and 64-bit operation, while dynamically moving  workloads to the right-size processor for ~50% energy savings.

Recently, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 810 processor, using four ARM Cortex-A57 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores in abig.LITTLE configuration, along with the Snapdragon 808 processor using two Cortex-A57 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores, again in a big.LITTLE configuration. These processors are expected to be available in commercial devices by the first-half of 2015, and will feature 64-bit ARMv8 support for AndroidL (developer preview) release.

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Source: ARM

Next-generation collaboration
Qualcomm and ARM recently released a white paper that delves into the ARMv8-A architecture and explains the journey of bringing an ARMv8-based SoC to market. The paper should be of interest to anyone seeking a better understanding of the SoC design process and mobile processor market. Qualcomm has been a leading player in driving a strong software app base, deployed widely across a range of high-end to low-cost smartphones based on ARMv7. It also dispels some myths about ARMv8-A architecture and outlines the methodology Qualcomm deployed in combining ARM IP with in-house IP to build a product line ranging from premium smartphones and tablets down to low-cost smartphone tiers for emerging markets.

This joint white paper also offers an insight into Qualcomm’s approach to delivering a complete SoC; combining in-house designed components with ARM IP, then optimizing the whole platform. It discusses Qualcomm’s use of ARMv8-A technology in the Snapdragon 808 and 810 SoCs, as well as their use of custom-designed CPUs, GPUs, and other components in the Snapdragon product line.

Having the ready availability and flexibility of IP provides designers the freedom to mix and match and the opportunity to rapidly innovate helps enable companies such as Qualcomm to be successful in the smartphone and mobile computing arena.

Brian Jeff is director of product marketing at ARM.