The progress never ceases to amaze me! My latest smartphone is smaller than ever and yet boasts a high resolution still and video camera. Also, I’m shifting more and more of my work to an ultra-thin tablet that’s smaller and lighter than a full-size notebook (as my colleague Jeff Chu discusses in his blog, the tablets' user experience is right this time). But as everyone knows, it’s getting tougher and tougher to deliver that kind of innovation. That is exactly why today’s announcement between ARM and TSMC is so important to the future of mobile and other consumer devices.
ARM and TSMC announced a major new collaboration to help drive this kind of innovation forward for many years to come. One of the key challenges in delivering advanced devices is achieving the performance gains we have come to expect while also achieving battery life improvements and making devices smaller and sleeker. This collaboration is designed to help our partners achieve exactly that.
While it is well known ARM and TSMC have a long history of collaboration, this is the broadest agreement between the two companies to date, showing TSMC’s commitment to optimize ARM products for TSMC’s advanced process technologies. TSMC will get access to tune the implementation of a broad selection of Cortex family processors and CoreLink System IP. This ranges from our smallest Cortex-M0 core, targeting the embedded market, through our high performance Cortex-A9 core which is positioned in high-end mobile devices, advanced consumer electronics and beyond. The result will leverage advanced implementation know-how to accelerate innovation and delivery of advanced consumer devices. These devices will span the gamut from embedded and mobile to the connected home.
The second part of this agreement establishes a long term relationship between TSMC and ARM centered on the development of ARM Physical IP for TSMC’s most advanced 28nm and 20nm processes, products like memory compilers and standard cell libraries that our partners use to assemble their chips. This focus on key building blocks further supports the rapid delivery of high-performance and power-efficient SoCs to the market.
Now, ARM has been developing Physical IP for TSMC processes since 0.25um; we have delivered IP for 32 different process variants, most recently the leading edge 40nm G and 40nm LP processes. What’s different about this engagement is scope and timeframe. In this agreement, TSMC signed up to work with ARM on the 28nm node which is headed toward qualification later this year. We’ll develop IP for at least two 28nm processes: TSMC 28nmHP (high performance, High-K Metal Gate) and 28nmHPL (low power, High-K Metal Gate). But the agreement doesn’t stop there; it commits to work on the 20nm node as well. That’s significant because ARM can begin development work earlier than ever before on a TSMC process. This assures the earliest-possible IP availability to our partners and an easier and faster route to deliver advanced products into the market.
Sounds to me like smart mobile devices are going to get smaller, cooler, and more powerful – just what the weather ordered.
John Heinlein, Ph.D. is Vice President of Marketing, Physical IP Division, ARM, where he is responsible for directing both the Physical IP roadmap and engagements with key strategic customers. John has worked extensively with semiconductor leaders worldwide for many years, with a special focus on Asia. In his current role his goal is to drive adoption of ARM Physical IP across the SOC design community. Prior to joining ARM, John was with Transmeta Corporation for nearly 11 years and holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. John is an avid snowboarder and triathlete and former scuba diving instructor (he once swam with a whale shark!).
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