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ARM Expects 20-Nanometer Processors By Late 2013

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the coming-soon dept.

Hardware 73

angry tapir writes "ARM chips made with an advanced, 20-nanometer manufacturing process could appear in smartphones and tablets by as soon as the end of next year, the head of ARM's processor division said Monday. The more advanced chips should allow device makers to improve the performance of their products without reducing battery life, or offer the same performance with longer battery life."

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next battle? (2)

LavouraArcaica (2012798) | more than 2 years ago | (#40208555)

The question is: when Arm will become real Intel competitor? There is already a lot of android laptops, but still lame ones. Sooner or later Arm will become Intel's big problem...

Re:next battle? (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40208665)

I suspect that the answer is a combination of 'don't hold your breath on that' and 'at least a year ago, did you miss it?'

In terms of sheer screaming power(and, for the moment, even supporting 64 bit memory spaces) ARM is a toy and shows no terribly strong signs of making any strides in that area that Intel would really be worried about.

On the other hand, it would appear that an awful lot of netbooks and laptops were never sold, possibly never even built, because of tablets and smartphones... If things like this [] turn out to be a good fit for some 'cloud' niche or other sales of select Xeons could see similar hits.

At least so far, you don't go up against Chipzilla benchmark-for-benchmark. The world evolves around you such that your virtues are now more desirable than his...

Re:next battle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40209001)

IIRC Intel was going to subcontract manufacturing out to third parties at some of their fabs otherwise just can't see tsmc or global foundries hitting 20nm any time soon...

Re:next battle? (4, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#40211009)

What I'd like to know is....why does this question keep coming up? Its as stupid as saying "When will mopeds replace Mac trucks?" so the correct answer should be "Well that's just a stupid fucking question!" followed by hitting the moron who asked it with a fish, maybe a nice trout or red snapper.

While there is a LITTLE overlap, there's not much, and mostly the two are as far apart as mopeds and trucks. The ARM is made to go in little things and is designed for using little power above all, the Intel needs more space but the IPC is just insane so you can get a hell of a lot more work done. You wouldn't try to run Photoshop on your cell would you? So why would you think the chip in your cell would replace the one running Photoshop? ARM simply can't ramp up to the IPC of a P4, much less a Core CPU and if it tried it'd be just as big a user of power as an Intel so it'd be pointless.

So can't we all just accept that some things are good for some jobs and other things are good for others and leave it at that? Neither chip is gonna "beat" the other because except for a couple of tiny overlaps they really aren't in competition.

Oh and a final note, the reason that laptops and netbooks aren't selling as much is the same reason desktops aren't selling as much and that is because we went past "good enough" and into "insanely overpowered" and frankly once we got rid of the space heater chips like P4 Mobile that killed the laptops by thermal cycling honestly? with just a tiny bit of TLC they can last a looong time. I know people still using early Core and Turion laptops simply because there wasn't a point in replacing them. After all a new battery was only $30 and there hasn't been any "killer apps" other than games for years and most folks don't game on a laptop.

So again I wouldn't say one "killed" the other, as everyone I know that has a smartphone or tablet ALSO has a netbook or laptop AND a desktop, its just they don't replace the X86 units until they die because there really isn't a point. While ARM is undergoing its own MHz war frankly for most users even a bottom of the line Pentium or even E350 netbook or laptop is more than enough power for what they are doing with them so they stick with what works. I predict we'll see the same thing with ARM once quads reach mainstream, they'll run into a power wall just as X86 ran into a thermal wall and we'll see the same thing we do now with X86, nobody tossing until the previous one dies.

Re:next battle? (4, Insightful)

GGardner (97375) | more than 2 years ago | (#40208767)

ARM based chips will never be real Intel competitor, in the same way that Intel chips never were a real competitor for IBM z-system class mainframes.

Re:next battle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40208831)

Re:next battle? (1)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40210113)

ARM based chips will never be real Intel competitor, in the same way that Intel chips never were a real competitor for IBM z-system class mainframes.

ORLY? So what's stopping me from using this dual core ARM tablet as a general purpose netbook, complete with bluetooth keyboard, mouse and GPU? Is it just that I can't run Libreoffice on it... yet?

x86 is the mainframe's worst nightmare (1)

emil (695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40211959)

Otherwise, why would IBM be willing to unleash the Nazgul on the Hercules Emualtor [] ?

Here is a rundown [] of the mainframe legal landscape.

x86 is the fox in the mainframe henhouse, just like it is with RISC. Just today [] we hear that Windows is the #1 server OS.

Aren't you glad that you aren't trying to sell a MIPS server right now?

Re:x86 is the mainframe's worst nightmare (1)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40216613)

Just today [] we hear that Windows is the #1 server OS.

We heard no such thing. We heard that Microsoft has over 50% of server revenue, and that from a famously dodgy source (IDC reports whatever their paymasters tell them to). So, we are supposed to overlook the fact that the average Linux OS costs $0.00? That essentially all data centers in internet companies worthy of the name run Linux, with the exception of Microsoft, and look at how well their data center business is looking? That the entire financial industry runs on Linux, having recently booted Windows out of the LSE after Microsoft caused massive monetary damage with their shoddy software... sorry, I flipped the bit on your credibility to -1.

Re:next battle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40210393)

? You should be more clear if your serious or not...

Because from the perspective of someone who has a z114, intel/ESX (or your favorite similar solutions, aka POWER) systems are now far beyond zOS and friends in every single regard (price/performance/manageability/RAS) except for the ability to actually run native zOS applications. The only reason they are behind on that front is because IBM does their darnedest to assure it. If you look at the history (google "platform solutions Inc zos") of PSI you can see one of the many examples of this.

So, really the only legitimate reason to run a z series machine at this point is for legacy support. Anyone who isn't doing the math on porting to an alternative platform is simply deluding themselves. If it were legal to run zos in hercules, IBM would probably loose 1/2 their market share tomorrow.

Re:next battle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40210961)

The only thing in your entire post that MIGHT be correct is that Intel/ESX wins on price. Show us some real data that says Intel beats zSeries for manageability or RAS. And you are aware, aren't you, that there is almost a 2000x performance difference between your puny z114 (26 MIPS) and the top z196 (52286 MIPS).

Here's a clue for you: mainframe users do not shell out 10s of millions of dollars every few years to upgrade their systems, plus pay high software costs and high maintenance costs, because of 'legacy'. They do it because, in spite of the high cost, the mainframe still far surpasses the alternatives for the workload they are running. And not one of those users is going to consider running an emulator on an inferior platform, with at least two more layers of software to fail, as a viable replacement for a real mainframe.

Re:next battle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40212095)

It's a matter of time. x86/x64 killed the Alpha, MIPS and Sparc processors, its killing the Itanium and right now the latest Xeon are only 10% below Power7 in raw performance. RAS it's coming with software like ESX or the HyperV in Win2012, it's not on par with mainframes but the gap is closing rapidly. The only real advantage of mainframes today are the incredible memory bandwidth and the legacy application support.

Re:next battle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40213349)

It's a matter of time? People have been saying that for about 30 years. The thing they always seem to forget is that not only is Intel stuff being improved, the mainframe stuff is also being improved. Furthermore, since the mainframe has a much smaller set of users, all of the mainframe development can be focused on improving the things that actually matter to those users. This is the reason why IBM does not run 'industry standard' benchmarks.

Mainframes are not POWER systems, so the comparison to POWER7 is meaningless. Equally as meaningless is 'raw performance'. Raw performance doesn't mean a thing - the only thing that matters is throughput of real workload.

If you are going to count things like ESX or HyperV as improving the RAS of an Intel box, then don't forget that mainframes have had similar offerings for decades (parallel sysplex and Geographically Dispersed Parallel Sysplex), so be sure to include those options when calculating the RAS of a mainframe.

Re:next battle? (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209263)

when apple releases an MBA lite

the sweet spot for more Wintel users now is the $300 to $500 for a laptop. too bad dell and HP can't make any money at this price point.

Chrome computers are crap at this point. i have a CR-48 and hate it. i'm not paying close to $500 for a gimped computer that's a paperweight without internet access. my iphones and ipad have more functionality

a $600 macbook with a cheap ARM CPU will do almost everything a NORMAL user will want in a year or two. internet, basic photo editing and basic game playing and facebook. it just needs storage to keep all your photos and other crap

once apple releases a cheap macbook, watch out dell/hp/asus and others

it won't do photoshop, the midrange photo editing apps like lightroom, development and lots of other things but most people won't care

Re:next battle? (4, Funny)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209271)

once apple releases a cheap macbook, watch out dell/hp/asus and others

Bzzt. You used the words 'Apple' and 'cheap' in the same sentence.

Re:next battle? (1)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40210201)

it won't do photoshop, the midrange photo editing apps like lightroom, development and lots of other things...

With Gimp 2.8 [] there isn't really a reason to use Photoshop. Now Gimp can handle high precision color with GPU acceleration and has a much improved interface. If you are too lazy to learn something better or have orders from your boss or have so much money that you need to send some to Adobe then feel free, but you don't have to.

Re:next battle? (1)

shaunbr (563633) | more than 2 years ago | (#40213519)

I use Gimp and I'm a fan, but to claim that even version 2.8 is in the same league as Photoshop is willful ignorance.

Plus, they need to come up with a better name. Few people I know want to use software called Gimp, and rightly so. It's a retarded name (literally and figuratively).

Re:next battle? (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 2 years ago | (#40214793)

If gimp is a replacement for photoshop in your case, you weren't the right demographic for photoshop.

It's like using MS paint as a replacement for autocad.

Re:next battle? (1)

bheading (467684) | more than 2 years ago | (#40211839)

Apple are not going to release a "cheap" anything. If Apple is about anything, it is about exclusivity and brand prestige. They are happy to make money cornering a small part of the market.

ARM processors in notebooks will potentially supplant x86 in that chromebook/netbook consumer sector you disparagingly referred to, for people doing Internet and basic office activities etc. They won't do for games, development, oil/gas/seismic/etc, CAD, or anything else that requires serious CPU throughput.

Re:next battle? (1)

wmac1 (2478314) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209977)

AMD has a compatible processor but its shortcomings (in comparison to Intel) have made it difficult for AMD to compete.

I don't see a reason to take it for granted that ARM CPUs will threaten Intel's monopoly in PC market.

Hmm... (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40208557)

Does anybody know who the 20nm fabs ARM is expecting to provide these chips are? It was my understanding that Samsung, Globalfoundries and TSMC were still working on a larger process(28mm?) and Intel has been very cagey about fabbing any 3rd-party stuff except for a handful of FPGAs and other high-margin oddballs that don't compete in Intel's area of business in any meaningful way.

Re:Hmm... (4, Informative)

pip1 (1054852) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209009)

thats what TSMC is for and why ARM inc have them and IBM etc as core partners for their tape out implementation program as in
from way back in 10/18/2011

ARM said it would now optimize its physical IP to the TSMC 20-nm process for power, performance and area and produce a specification for a Cortex-A15 processor optimization pack (POP). It did not say how soon this would be completed.

"This first 20-nm ARM Cortex-A15 tape out paves the way for the next generation of SoC integration and performance," said Mike Inglis, general manager of ARM's processor division, in a statement. These SoCs will be suitable for smartphones, tablet computers, digital home systems, servers and wireless infrastructure, ARM said.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209199)

It paves the way, but it's still way behind the curve since it's still in the distant future. Intel has been shipping 22nm chips for a while now, as in you can actually go out and buy them. But on the TSMC front, I'm not sure if they're even shipping 28nm, let alone 22 or 20nm...

I'm rooting for ARM, but they're not going to do much damage to Intel if they're a full process node behind. Intel will hit 16nm in 2013, putting them still at least a half-node ahead of TSMC... That might sound minor, but 100 mm^2 at 20nm would be 64 mm^2 at 16nm... They really need to sort this out or Intel will walk all over them.

Re:Hmm... (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209327)

TSMC is shipping 28nm, latest tech GeForce (GTX680 and 670) and Radeon (7970 and 7950) cards are TSMC 28nm. They do not have anything smaller yet.

In terms of being behind the curve, yes and no. It is behind Intel but everyone is, always. Intel is generally almost a complete node ahead. Nobody else is doing 22nm, nor will they be for some time. The timeframe ARM is talking about is right along when most companies will start doing 22nm, or its 20nm half node (a number of companies do node and half node processes, some like TSMC are going straight for half nodes).

So they aren't behind the curve except for Intel, but then everyone is behind Intel. Only Intel is willing to spend the billions in R&D to forge ahead like that and build the fabs at the pace required (their 14nm fab, they are going straight to the half node next time, is going up in Chandler AZ right now).

I do imagine this is actually directed at Intel though. ARM is getting worried. Intel keeps producing lower and lower end chips, and they are encroaching on ARM's market. Right now it isn't a huge problem particularly since Intel is reserving their latest node for desktop and laptop CPUs. However if Intel starts making 22nm parts to compete with ARM, that could be a problem for ARM. Eve if the Intel parts were less efficient, size can make up a lot of that.

So they are probably trying to convince partners "stick with us, we'll be there soon!"

Re:Hmm... (5, Informative)

pip1 (1054852) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209503)

Guspaz, they skipped 22nm and went directly to 20nm as per their original 2010 plan
"Mark LaPedus
4/13/2010 1:30 PM EDT

TSMC skips 22-nm, rolls 20-nm process ....
(TSMC) is putting a new spin on its strategy: After the 28-nm node, it plans to skip the 22-nm ''full node'' and will move directly to the 20-nm ''half node.''

At its technology conference here, the world's largest silicon foundry also provided details about its 20-nm CMOS process, which will be the company's main technology platform after the 28-nm node. TSMC will also not offer an 18-nm process.

TSMC's 20-nm process is a 10-level metal technology based on a planar technology. It will feature a high-k/metal gate scheme, strained silicon and newfangled ''low-resistance'' copper ultra-low-k interconnects--or what it calls ''low-r.

'' For the 20-nm node, it will only offer a high-k/metal-gate scheme for the gate stack--and not a silicon dioxide option.
TSMC (Hsinchu) will continue to use 193-nm immersion lithography at 20-nm, but it will also deploy a double-patterning and source-mask optimization schemes.

Unlike its previous processes in recent times--which focused on low power first--TSMC's initial 20-nm process will be a high-performance technology. Following that process, it will roll out a low-power technology.

With the announcement, TSMC is seeking to gain an edge over its leading-edge rivals, such a GlobalFoundries, Samsung and UMC. ...."

Re:Hmm... (2)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40210245)

Half node is the new full node.

Re:Hmm... (1)

pip1 (1054852) | more than 2 years ago | (#40210501)

LOL true, but no one cares as long as ARM Inc provides a Processor Optimization Pack (POP) for a given provider process and they do.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209611)

ARM is right to be worried; Intel's first production smartphone, despite being single core, was able to produce similar performance and battery life to comparable ARM phones. If Intel pushes out their smartphone SoC on their smallest process, that could spell serious trouble for ARM.

Re:Hmm... (2)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40210315)

ARM is right to be worried; Intel's first production smartphone, despite being single core, was able to produce similar performance and battery life to comparable ARM phones.

Even if true, it's not enough. Intel also has to ship at a similar price, and given that ARM just takes a few cents per chip in royalties that could present a problem for Intel's margins. They could always try dumping of course but that would be a Sherman act violation.

Re:Hmm... (1)

pip1 (1054852) | more than 2 years ago | (#40210633)

as you say Tough Love, i too cant see Intel matching $ for $ the likes in bulk of for instance Freescale and their £22ish per 1.2ghz i.MX6 Quad core SOC with any of their intel offerings today or any time soon and that's just one single ARM white box vendor never mind any of the other vendors with faster ARM A15 and better SOC on the table this year.

Re:Hmm... (2)

bored (40072) | more than 2 years ago | (#40210655)

Its even worse for ARM, because intel was doing it with a binary translation layer, and a older/slower version of android.

I would be pissing my pants if I were ARM right now. Intel has done this a number of times, some company claims intel can't do X, and a few years later, that company is gone because intel did it.

The smartphone market is especially problematic because ARM has failed to deliver a proper platform, and therefore vendor lock. So there are dozens of variations that are all incomparable with each other. So the market is flexible, they could just as soon switch to x86, superH, MIPS etc, as the next generation of ARM.

That said, I don't think ARM really has anything to worry about long term, they will just revert to where they were 8 years ago, when they were in all kinds of embedded products, only now they have more mind share.

Re:Hmm... (1)

pip1 (1054852) | more than 2 years ago | (#40211401)

your theory would be fine except for the slight problem that without ARM Inc the massive global low power smartphone market wouldn't exist today, in fact its only since the ARM cortex A8 that most average users finally realized that ARM existed, but they have been around a very long time and all the many ARM vendor licencee's have sown up the Mass low power world markets a very long time ago now.

sure there always was a small contingent of superH, MIPS etc vendors in phones to also contribute a small % and perhaps finally Intel will also find a place and help fill that small sub section of the world markets sometime soon, but remember this is not your old school x86 market place and the masses of long time ARM licencee's will not give up their low power top spot without a fight even for that small NON ARM corner.

as for "dozens of variations that are all incomparable with each other. So the market is flexible" you also have to remember and realize that's exactly what all these many ARM licencee's today are in the "Linaro" initiative to have all their ARM engineers actually write the new Cortex ARM/NEON SIMD optimized code and integrate or throw out all their old disparate ARM code bases into a single binary and submit it upstream in to the Kernel for all ARM/NEON vendors to simply load and use, and yet still remain flexible.

they are in effect providing a new standard base ARM platform infrastructure with ARM cortex at the core , again see Charbax's 32 videos at the Linaro Connect show to get a flavor of whats what

Re:Hmm... (1)

bored (40072) | more than 2 years ago | (#40211767)

your theory would be fine except for the slight problem that without ARM Inc the massive global low power smartphone market wouldn't exist today,

Hu? No, they would be using MIPS or something else, just like they were doing in the days of PalmOS (originally 68k based) and windows CE. There is nothing magical about ARM and power/performance. In fact, MIPS had a power/performance lead for a long time. Apple could have probably used a PPC instead of a ARM, and they would be in the exact same place as today. The idea the ARM somehow made this happen is funny at best. Apple and Google made it happen, and in the latter case they obviously aren't depending on ARM (see Dalvik). The fact that most of the smart phones are ARM is mostly due to the huge number of SOC vendors creating a very nice momentum for ARM even as early as the late 1990's.

Anyway, I think the point is that if your depending on better power/performance numbers vs Intel, and intel is seriously interested in the market, you are going to have a very tough fight. It wouldn't surprise me if in 5-7 years android is mostly x86 and Apple is still ARM (because of the platform dependence).

Heck, maybe MS can make win8 happen (seems unlikely but what the heck). No one is really going to want it on ARM, if an x86 version is anywhere near competitive.

Re:Hmm... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40212519)

Incidentally, do you know what happened to MIPS that put it behind ARM in the trendy widgets market?

You still see MIPS cores in some routers(Broadcom, if I remember correctly, uses MIPS SoCs in their small router chipsets) and there are a few el-cheapo poor cousin Android devices that run(not terribly well) on MIPS SoCs; but not much action. What happened that everybody is talking about ARM now, MIPS is a lower profile player, PPC has retreated to a few niches, and things like SuperH barely come up for air anymore?

Re:Hmm... (1)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40213013)

Don't count on Apple being tied to ARM. They've changed architectures pretty seamlessly on the desktop twice now (68k -> PPC, PPC -> x86), and the walled-garden nature of the app store makes this a pretty trivial change for them. They just announce that iOS 7, say, requires apps to be recompiled, developers recompile stuff, everybody moves on.

Re:Hmm... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40287863)

superh []
They imply that it's just hiding in navigation systems and such... and in motor control. heh, heh heh. How the mighty have fallen.

No ideer what happened to MIPS, though. There's still routers coming out with MIPS cores...

If I had to guess I'd say ARM just got better faster. Wikipedia implies the last major advance in SuperH was about a decade ago. MIPS could be the same. There's some cheap-ass MIPS-powered android devices. They're all pretty slow, that supports the idea that they just couldn't keep up with ARM.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40217235)

And it's not that bad for ARM since they did things like
1) compare performance against a dual-core with a single-threaded workload
2) used a test where the screen is likely to consume most power
3) used a browser compiled for x86, with x86 javascript JIT which is more advanced than the ARM JITs
4) used a test where nobody would notice the (in comparison) ridiculously low GPU performance (note that using an underpowered GPU represents cost, area and power savings)
( 5) didn't mention that many/most games would not actually run with their binary translation - though that's not really an argument against the platform I consider fully valid )

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40212399)

Exactly which major phone manufacturer do you see buying intel chips? Samsung? no..why would they when they have their own Enynos line (ARM based) and own fab plants. Apple, no, they design they own ARM based chip and uses Samsung's fab. Intel will have to give the largest mobile manufacturers a reason to use Intel chips instead of licensing the design from ARM. If I were in Samsung or Apple position, it would be very hard to convince me to use an Intel chip, at the end of the day the question is: how can I reduce the cost of my product? how can i increase margins? sorry but Intel isn't the way to do it.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40213037)

I see Intel phones selling on Orange in the UK right now... Intel doesn't need Samsung to switch right this instant if they can get compelling phones on the market that people buy anyhow...

This market can swing quickly. Look at how fast HTC fell by the wayside.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40213373)

People don't care what processor is inside their phone. Only gadget geeks do.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40213669)

That's exactly my point. Intel got their power/performance on par with ARM, and the customer-facing experience is seamless, so if they have a compelling phone, people will buy it anyhow.

That said, I'd point out how successful the Centrino branding was. Consumers did care that they got a Centrino laptop. They didn't know what Centrino was, or what it implied, but they knew they wanted it. Something similar with "ultrabook" is being attempted now. You don't need consumers to care about the technical stuff to sell them on something. If Intel can do a successful marketing campaign about how phones with Intel chips are somehow better (not for technical reasons, but because it's "the thing to have")...

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40214015)

So Samsung is going to abandoning their cheap Exynos line in favor of more expensive Intel chips? as is Apple to abandon its A line? Why exactly would each manufacturer do this? You obviously don't work with the business side of things very often.

The iPhone 4S has ONLY a dual core processor yet outsells every quad-core android device combined.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40214459)

Why would Samsung need to switch? HTC owned the Android market before, and now Samsung does. There is nothing to say that somebody else won't do a good phone with an Intel chip and get a good chunk of the market.

Apple is unlikely to switch away only because they value the control ARM licensing gets them. However, Intel has expressed interest in ARM-style licensing, and in fact made a deal with TSMC to manufacture Atom chips in an ARM-style arrangement. They dissolved the agreement due to lack of interest, because they didn't have anything interesting at the time. Now that they do have something interesting, that may change. And Intel may be willing to give it another go to get Apple on x86 on the mobile side of things. Apple would maintain as much control over the A-series as they do with ARM, and power/performance levels on smaller Intel processes might make it worth their while. I don't think it will happen, but it's not impossible.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40209147)

Use IBM's 20nm process.

Re:Hmm... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209499)

My guess is TSMC, based on this (and other) quotes from the article:

That led some to see ARM's target for 20 nanometer parts as overly optimistic. But the problem with the 28-nanometer chips is a short-term capacity issue, not a technology issue, so ARM's target is a realistic one, said Dan Nystedt, vice president and head of research at TriOrient Investments in Taiwan.

The whole article seems centered around Taiwanese technology.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40212019)

I think STmicro demonstrated ARM on FDSOI at 22 nm recently, but I might be wrong.

wouldn't hold my breath (5, Interesting)

marcuz (752480) | more than 2 years ago | (#40208619)

They have problems delivering 28nm right now so take the 20nm predictions with a pinch of salt. "However, the transition to 28nm does not appear to be going smoothly. ARM heavyweight Qualcomm was the first to introduce a 28nm design, the stunning Snapdragon S4 based on its Krait core. But the outfit is now struggling to meet demand for S4 chips and it is basically becoming a victim of its own success. Other ARM players, such as TI, Nvidia, Samsung and Apple, have yet to introduce a single 28nm part." -- []

Re:wouldn't hold my breath (2)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209191)

Yep, NVidia was scheduled to introduce a bunch of new GK108 based parts last month but due to TSMC production issues at 28nm they aren't even able to make enough of the much, much more profitable GK104 based parts to meet demand.

Radiation resistance? (4, Interesting)

serbianheretic (1108833) | more than 2 years ago | (#40208663)

I often wonder, with traces being made smaller all the time, how does this affect radiation resistance? Are we going to hit the point soon where just laying the chip open in the sunlight creates enough of random electron/hole generation, so that the device becomes useless? We already know that chips must be hardened to work in space, how long until this is true for Earth-tied ones? If someone has an answer, it would be interesting to know.

Re:Radiation resistance? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40208803)

Smaller is more vulnerable(all else being equal, which it isn't necessarily). Sunlight isn't really an issue in practice(in addition to being alarmingly indestructable, that black epoxy stuff is about as opaque as it looks); but even your big-chunky-classic-single-transistor-in-a-metal-can will show quite readily measurable photo-sensitivity effects if you chop the can open.

Re:Radiation resistance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40208953)

ic already have a black, probably radiation resisting, plastic coating in most cases. derp.

Re:Radiation resistance? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40209025)

The radiation problem for chips is primarily due to highly penetrating cosmic rays and the particles they produce. The last time I went looking for literature on this, it sounded like the main concern on the ground was high energy neutrons produced by cosmic rays (see, which can deposit much more energy in a small space than the muons from the cosmic rays.

We already employ one "radiation hardening" technique in many ground-based systems: error-correcting memory. DRAM is especially susceptible to bit flips due to the very small amount of energy stored per bit (compared to say, SRAM in the cache on a CPU). Google found in their data centers a bit error rate of roughly 300 per gigabyte per month. That's was in 2009, so who knows how that number has scaled in the last 3 years.

Re:Radiation resistance? (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209331)

Google found in their data centers a bit error rate of roughly 300 per gigabyte per month. That's was in 2009, so who knows how that number has scaled in the last 3 years.

My home file server has 16GB of non-ECC RAM so I find that hard to believe; it gets rebooted every couple of months for kernel upgrades so if it was true I'd expect it to crash or send bad data from the disk cache more often than it's rebooted.

I saw an interesting study on a mailing list a year or two back where their tests showed that individual DIMMS either had very few errors or lots over their testing period; if you saw more than one or two errors on a DIMM you might as well toss it because you were going to get a lot more. If true and not just due to chance over the test period they used, that would imply that most errors aren't the result of an external source but some kind of manufacturing issue.

Re:Radiation resistance? (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209027)

That happened with eproms in the 80s. Even industrial lighting outputs enough UV to erase a eprom. Thats why eproms after a certain era in the 80s always had a paper tape over the clear window when not being actively erased.

Simply laying a late generation eprom out in the sun for a week or so works pretty well. I've done it when my eraser bulb burned out. Obviously this not economical for a commercial dev, but for a dude fooling around in his basement it works pretty well.

Also this stretches your definition of useless, but there was at least one low current opamp I used that had to be used in the dark because the plastic case was transparent enough that it was enough of a photodiode to screw up some small signal figure (I think it was the input offset current, obviously not the gain or slew rate). Shining a 60 hz fluorescent light at it created 120 hz noise in the output not from EMI but from being a poor photodiode. I don't remember if this was a thermocouple amp or a psuedo-wanna-be-electrometer.

Re:Radiation resistance? (1)

ongelovigehond (2522526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40210469)

With EPROMs, even a modest amount of light during operation would make it all funky. It wouldn't erase anything, but it would produce the wrong results while the light was hitting the device.

Re:Radiation resistance? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209403)

We already know that chips must be hardened to work in space, how long until this is true for Earth-tied ones?

Dunno, when is the pole shift going to happen?

Some background (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40208943)

Some background you'll never see anywhere else, written by me:

First of all these funny numbers come from the ITRS. This is not just random numbers, process stages are not a "preferred number system" like resistor values where statistics determines the weird values. Process stage size steps are indirectly determined by physics. ITRS is an industry association of companies who actually make this stuff. Wikipedia has a page for each stage, yes there is a wiki page called "22nm" or something like that. This "20 nm" process is actually a "half step" from the 22nm process. The next "real" step is 16 nm.

(opinion alert!) Now this is a half step from 22nm to 16nm and is considered a failure. Put your efforts into cheaper higher yield more economic 22 or advance the field to 16, don't screw around halfway at 20. Another interpretation is oxide thicknesses are getting too small at the 22nm process to make anything smaller like 16nm, essentially they're giving up on 16nm because its economically impossible(end opinion alert!) The rest of my post is pretty much factual, as far as I know.

Another interesting thing about process sizes is this is a half-pitch (essentially a radius) of an array cell. Its dumb and/or marketing to spec half-pitch instead of pitch if you're talking memory. One cell of memory using a "20nm process" is actually 40 nm across. You'll read all kinds of foolishness about how the interconnects are 20 nm across, or a unit memory cell is a 20nm on a side square, or the oxide layer being 20 nm across (which would actually be Fing huge by current standards). Basically almost all size comparisons will just be random crap and no journalist or marketing PR guy ever makes a correct analogy using half pitch, they'll say absolutely anything other than the correct answer, which has made me laugh for decades now.

Everyone knows everything comes from China. Including semiconductors. Well, actually, no. There's a nice list of plants at wikipedia. You'll see a lot of US addresses. Yes you can probably buy a knock off 555 or 741 from China, but they have almost no small scale plants at all. Pretty much processors come from the USA and a scattering of small time players around the globe. That's interesting. We (USA) make really tiny processors and really giant industrial machinery and not a whole heck of a lot in between. You want a 500000 ton mining dragline? We got it. You want a 22nm processor? We got it. You want a shoe? No we don't make those in this country anymore. []

Finally processes are a moving target and different mfgrs and different products are at each stage. There are a couple plants being built for 16 nm process and there are prototypes of "real 16 nm chips" floating around. 22nm process memory was shipping two years ago, 22nm process CPUs are much harder to design. Intel is already shipping 22nm process family CPUs, so AMD gets a golf clap for promising to catch up later this year with something microscopically better. To the best of my knowledge 11nm is not out of the lab yet even for fooling around with.

And that's about all I know from making some investments in mfgrs since the 80s, some of which worked, some not so good. Not currently investing in this market, but I still keep up with the times and I do a lot of electronics in my basement.

Don't forget Taiwan and South Korea (3, Informative)

tempmpi (233132) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209129)

TSMC, UMC and Samsung are some of the biggest players in the field. And almost all the DRAM is manufactured in South Korea.

Re:Some background (4, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209347)

Everyone knows everything comes from China. Including semiconductors. Well, actually, no. There's a nice list of plants at wikipedia. You'll see a lot of US addresses. Yes you can probably buy a knock off 555 or 741 from China, but they have almost no small scale plants at all. Pretty much processors come from the USA and a scattering of small time players around the globe.

You're pretty much exactly wrong. The US was, as of 2009, in fourth place for semiconductor manufacturing with a 14% share. Ahead were Japan (25%), Taiwan (18%), and Korea (17%). The largest independent semiconductor manufacturer in the world, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, is based in (appropriately enough) Taiwan.

When I look at all the different chips in my home and where they were made, pretty much only my Intel processor/chipset was made in the US. The rest? Asia.

Re:Some background (0)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209541)

He's talking about small scale semiconductor. Right now that only includes Intel and AMD, and he's right.

Re:Some background (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40210069)

Intel, AMD, TSMC, UMC, Samsung, Renesas, etc........

Re:Some background (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40212247)

There has been a flow for many decades now where the new and tiny stuff comes solely from the US (and a couple europeans) and as that process ages it flows to the asian tigers, then eventually China. I kinda mentioned that in the original post, I donno if you can buy domestic made ancient chips like 555 741 7805 anything TTL series, etc.

It has interesting Moore's Law implications when the shrinking stops, we'll eventually (5 years or so later) completely stop mfgr semiconductors.

Re:Some background (1)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40212917)

How small scale? Intel is at 22nm, TSMC is at 28nm, Global Foundries (which is mostly outside the US) is 32nm.

Re:Some background (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#40215691)

By the time ARM gets to 22nm, Intel will be at 16nm.

Re:Some background (3, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209409)

Ya I think the half-node obsession came from companies trying to "beat" Intel. For quite some time Intel has been almost a node ahead of everyone. Everyone else is ramping up one node and not long after Intel has the next online. So they started doing the half-node stuff. TSMC first did this for 55nm, though they were still behind Intel at the time, but then for 40nm. So they could claim on paper at least to be ahead of Intel. Intel had a 45nm process, TSMC has a 40nm process. Of course not too long after Intel went to 32nm, but for awhile TSMC could claim to be ahead (as you noted it isn't quite so simple).

Apparently Intel is sick of this and they are going to 14nm next with their new plant in Chandler. How much of that is pure marketing (I could see a hybrid process where most of it is done 16nm but something is done using 14nm half-node process so that you can technically call it 14nm, maybe the cache) I don't know but there you go.

So ARM are investing in multi-billion chips fabs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40209017)

They are capitalized at about $10 Billion, so either they are betting everything to go into high-end processor manufacturing, or they are merely hoping that somebody builds their chips for them so that they can collect the licensing fees.

FWIW I'm a big ARM fan, but I don't believe they can make 20nm happen any time soon without the assistance of a major industry player. Perhaps they are trying to sound out a partner with this announcement.

Re:So ARM are investing in multi-billion chips fab (3, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209393)

I'm not sure you understand how ARM's business model works. They don't manufacture chips themselves, and they don't even hire somebody else to manufacture chips for them. They also don't design chips for a specific process node. They just produce a design and leave it up to a company like Texas Instruments to figure out how to build them at a certain process node (or hire some fab company to do it).

The 20nm statement is just a prediction. They're saying they expect their customers to get 20nm parts out in 2013.

Re:So ARM are investing in multi-billion chips fab (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40209851)

Yes I know they aren't really building fabs - I did mention in my post that they were hoping to collect the licensing fees from their 20nm designs, which AFAIK is exactly how they make money.

My point was that ARM can't make this happen in a given timescale - but they CAN encourage their licensees to support them, which seems to be what they are doing.

Re:So ARM are investing in multi-billion chips fab (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40214067)

ARM has lots of engineers working with the foundries at the low levels to co-design process design rules. Not only do they have synthesizable IP, but also physical IP for specific processes, which they sell to customers. Note that most of their customers don't even have access to the physical design view (the transistor-level details) of their processors. This is managed at the fab-level where the physical substitutions are made to the masks after customer submission. Only the biggest customers have access to the synthesizable code. Academic researchers don't even get access to it (with a few exceptions)!

Maybe ARM is going Quantum Communications? (1)

aisnota (98420) | more than 2 years ago | (#40209437)

This is perhaps one of those hints as mentioned.

Reisen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40210033) [] Reisen nach Frankreich

low power? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40211237)

.. The more advanced chips should allow device makers to improve the performance of their products without reducing battery life, or offer the same performance with longer battery life.

Unless these ARM chips are going to be fab-ed at Intel, I'm not so sure that ther will be much of a perf or battery life change. Intel is leading the technology pack with a FinFET which has the ability to reduce leakage in these types of technlogy nodes to make a real advance and tradeoff (same perf w/o longer battery life). Other foundaries (e.g, TSMC's 20nm node), aren't so advanced.

For example, TSMC's 20nm HKMG node is suffering from the increasingly narrow line widths and their lack of FinFET techology. Basically, you get more gates (~2x), but not much else in this new technology node (~15% better power and perf). Instead of their normal offering of a high-perf and low-power flavors of their process, @20nm, TSMC is only offering 1 process because it's not possible for them to make an meaningful tradeoffs. Other foundaries (e.g., Samsung, and Global Foundaries) aren't in much better shape.

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