19 August, 2016 - 12:03 By News Desk

ARM-Intel alliance turns secret silo into open hothouse

Former ARM CEO Warren East – now busily re-engineering UK industrial giant Rolls-Royce – was always realistic about the Cambridge technology company’s position and power in the global pantheon.

I was initially surprised when he first laid out the minnows versus whales realities of the global technology world, especially as ARM had a market cap of more than £20 billion at the time!

Today that figure is nearer £23.77 bn ($31.23bn) and Japanese giant SoftBank has agreed terms to acquire the business for around that latter figure.

East was merely being typically realistic – that in terms of scale and marketing budgets, Intel could buy and sell ARM many times over. Its market cap is averaging seven or eight times greater than ARM’s.

When it emerged from San Francisco this week that Intel and ARM were collaborating – the US media wheeled out headlines alluding to “hell freezing over.”

For the sake of accuracy, ARM and Intel Custom Foundry’s agreement is to accelerate the development and implementation of ARM SoCs on Intel’s 10nm process. Specifically, ARM is making its Artisan®Physical IP available on the process as part of an ongoing collaboration.

The media focus was on a deadly rival having been forced to climb down after consistently having its heavyweight nose bloodied by a comparative lightweight opponent. But as ARM has since revealed, it has actually been collaborating with Intel for some time. Will Abbey in ARM Processors brilliantly puts the actual relationship in context in a post-announcement blog, shared with Business Weekly.

He makes a really important point in terms of putting the needs of global innovation ahead of personal interest and flags the collaboration as “a new era for premium mobile design.”

Abbey writes: “You probably glanced at the headline and thought ARM and Intel collaborating…what? Despite press stories, Intel and ARM have worked together for years to help enable the ecosystem, and this is just the latest milestone in that long-standing relationship.

“I see it as a natural evolution of the design ecosystem: ARM is a leader in processor and physical design and  Intel Custom Foundry is a leading integrated device manufacturer. This combination is a win-win for customers. It reinforces an ARM tenet throughout our 25-year history: To continuously enable choice and innovation inside the ARM ecosystem.

“This agreement provides access to another key manufacturing source and expands the EDA and IP ecosystem to ensure interoperability and a shorter on-ramp for early leading-edge process technology. The announcement represents what we expect to be a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership with Intel Custom Foundry.”

Abbey joined key figures from the giant US corporation at the Intel Developer Forum and discussed how the partnership will accelerate design enablement for future devices in the premium mobile market including smartphones and tablets.

He says: “ARM is committed to Intel’s success as a world-class custom foundry at 10nm. We stand behind our mutual customers when they make that choice.”

Without wishing to sound like a broken record, I cannot help recalling the words of Microsoft bosses Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold when they visited Cambridge to open the corporation’s first research lab outside of Seattle.

In slightly different language they each spelled out the opportunity to expand Microsoft’s own technology range by turning every competitor into a potential customer.

ARM, as it has always done – under successive CEOs Robin Saxby, Warren East and now Simon Segars – is fighting the fight for the greater good; for its clients and all their millions of customers across the planet.

SoftBank’s impending acquisition of ARM clarifies the ARM-Intel relationship in many ways; it accelerates the process of turning competitors into collaborators with an increasingly beneficial payback for the customers they collectively serve.

In technology terms, the paying public always wins when individual, secretive silos are converted into open hothouses. 

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