Here is a secret behind Intel Atom: Intel was never interested in Making Netbook Niche segment. The Original plan, still on track, was to make Mobile internet devices [MID] which are capable of doing everything a PC can do, on the move, in the pocket.
The Experiment started on lighter Notebooks, then started to be known as Netbooks. Luckily, the idea prevailed and sales grew in number, and finally found a space in market as new niche segment.
Now that Netbooks are popular, every chip manufacturer wants to jump-in. We’ve seen Nvidia’s initiative with Nvidia Tegra, and of course large no. of Atom based machines. So, why should ARM, most popular chip manufacturer for smartphones, stay back?
ARM announced that it will begin offering its customers ARM’s Cortex A9 processor on its 28nm process. This extends the reach of ARM’s top-end core, which is taking direct aim at Intel’s Atom.
GlobalFoundries, AMD’s subsidiary, would work with ARM on a 28nm A9 implementation, and it’s a win for ARM because it makes any GlobalFoundries customers into potential ARM customers.
A bit of background: an system-on-a-chip (SoC) provider who is already using GlobalFoundries to produce its SoCs can more easily mix its own technology with ARM’s to produce SoCs based on Cortex A9. This is the same reason that Intel ported Atom to TSMC—so that existing TSMC customers can also mix Atom with their own IP to make Atom-based SoCs. (Of course, what was a shocking move for Intel is standard procedure for ARM, which is a fabless semi company whose total revenues are less than what Intel spends to develop one processor.)
The most interesting aspect of today’s announcement surrounds AMD as a possible Cortex A9 user, because AMD is still GlobalFoundries’ main customer.
Given that AMD was just in the ARM business and got out of it just 9 months ago, it’s seems unlikely that it will jump back in with another ARM-based SoC courtesy of GlobalFoundries. This is too bad, though, because there’s a ton of enthusiasm around A9-based “smartbooks,” and an A9-based Imageon would’ve provided a great basis for a high-powered, low-cost, long battery-life Linux portable. But AMD has gotten out of the SoC game just as it’s getting interesting.
Given the scope of GlobalFoundries’ ambition and the recent uptick in global semiconductor demand, this ARM announcement seems logical and timely.