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NEC and ARM prep mobile SMPs

Multicore on the go

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NEC and ARM have formed a pact to bring multicore processors to the cellphone.

The two companies are looking to codevelop and market multicore processors based on the ARM 11 CPU core. Using a multicore design will ideally allow the companies to increase the performance of their chips while keeping power consumption down. They hope this strategy will play well in the markets for cellphones, automotive consoles and home appliances.

"We view this next-generation processor core as a key technology to expand the application-rich markets from car multimedia to mobile consumer," said Hirokazu Hashimoto, executive vice president at NEC Electronics Corporation. "The core will be a combination of NEC Electronics' multiprocessing technology and the ARM core architecture, which is widely deployed in various products including mobile handsets."

With the deal, NEC and ARM are mimicking a trend taking place in the server world. IBM already sells the dual-core Power 4 chip and HP and Sun Microsystems are shortly coming out with dual-core designs of their own.

Putting multiple processor cores on a single piece of silicon turns the chip into a kind of mini-SMP. This allows the processors to handle multiple software threads more easily and to divvy up tasks, giving phone functions, for example, to one core while offloading data crunching to another core.

In addition, dual-core chips tend to cost less, use up less space and consume less power than their single-core predecessors due to improvements in the chip manufacturing process.

To push this process along, NEC has licensed the ARM11 technology, the ARM966E-S core and the VFP9 vector floating point co-processor.

Some early indications shows that NEC and ARM won't be fluffing around with dual-core chips. They are jumping straight into four-core country, according to a report by the EE Times. The same report says the technology could be available in a couple of years.

It could be a bit of stretch, but the multicore chips would also have the potential to speed Java on various devices. Both ARM and NEC have shown interest in J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition), and the code is already built to work well in SMP systems. Spreading threads across a number of cores could help developers write better code and give end users better applications. ®

Related Links

ARM and NEC statement
EE Times report

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