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British ARM company is the world's leading provider of semiconductor intellectual property (IP). More than 95% of smartphones and tablets worldwide use the ARM architecture [1]. ARM has designed a large number of cost-effective, low-energy RISC processors, related technologies and software. In 2014, global shipments based on ARM technology were 12 billion, and from the birth to the present, there are 60 billion chips based on ARM technology [2]. The technology has the characteristics of high performance, low cost and energy saving. It has a dominant position in the field of processors such as smartphones, tablet computers, embedded controls, and multimedia digital.

On July 18, 2016, Japan's Softbank has agreed to acquire the British chip design company ARM for 23.4 billion pounds (about 31 billion U.S. dollars). SoftBank believes that with this acquisition, ARM will make SoftBank the leader in the next huge potential technology market (the Internet of Things).

The deal will be announced on Monday morning. Neither Softbank nor ARM have commented on this for the time being.


Company profile

ARM Holdings is the world's leading provider of semiconductor intellectual property (IP) and is therefore at the core of the development of digital electronic products. Headquartered in Cambridge, UK, ARM has more than 1,700 employees and has multiple offices around the world, including design centers in Belgium, France, India, Sweden, and the United States.

Development History

ARM is a joint venture of Apple, Nokia, Acorn, VLSI, Technology and other companies.

By selling chip technology licenses, ARM has established a new business model for microprocessor design, production and sales. ARM licenses its technology to many well-known semiconductor, software and OEM manufacturers in the world, and each manufacturer gets a unique set of ARM-related technologies and services. Using this partnership, ARM quickly became the creator of many global RISC standards.

A total of 30 semiconductor companies have signed hardware technology license agreements with ARM, including large companies such as Intel, IBM, Samsung Semiconductor, NEC, SONY, Philips and NI. As for software system partners, it includes a series of well-known companies such as Microsoft, SUN and MRI.

In 1991, ARM was founded in Cambridge, UK, and mainly sells chip design technology licenses. The microprocessor adopting ARM technology intellectual property (IP core), which is what we usually call the ARM microprocessor, has spread all kinds of product markets such as industrial control, consumer electronics, communication systems, network systems, wireless systems, etc., based on The application of ARM technology microprocessors accounts for more than 75% of the market share of 32-bit RISC microprocessors. ARM technology is gradually infiltrating into all aspects of our lives.

In the 1990s, ARM's performance was mediocre, and processor shipments lingered. Due to the shortage of funds, ARM made a far-reaching decision: it does not manufacture chips by itself, but only authorizes the design of the chips to other companies to be produced by them. It is this model that eventually made ARM chips blossom everywhere and put the closed-designed Intel company in the vast ocean of the "People's War."

After entering the 21st century, due to the rapid development of the mobile phone manufacturing industry, shipments have shown explosive growth, and ARM processors have occupied the global mobile phone market. In 2006, global ARM chip shipments were 2 billion, and in 2010, ARM partner shipments reached 6 billion.

ARM is a company that specializes in chip design and development based on RISC technology. As an intellectual property supplier, it does not directly engage in chip production. It depends on the transfer of design licenses to produce unique chips by partner companies. The world's major semiconductor manufacturers from ARM companies Purchase the ARM microprocessor core of its design, add appropriate peripheral circuits according to their different application fields, and form their own ARM microprocessor chip to enter the market. There are dozens of large semiconductor companies all over the world that use ARM's authorization, so that not only makes ARM technology get more third-party tools, manufacturing, and software support, but also reduces the cost of the entire system, making products easier to enter the market. Accepted by consumers, it is more competitive.

The strength of the ARM commodity model is that it has more than 100 partners worldwide. ARM adopts a transfer license system, and its partners produce chips.

At the end of 2007, ARM had a total of 1,728 employees, holding 700 patents (another 900 are pending approval), 31 global branches, 200 partners, and annual revenue of 260 million pounds.

Main feature

ARM's business model mainly involves the design and licensing of IP, not the production and sale of actual semiconductor chips. ARM grants IP licenses to partner networks, including the world's leading semiconductor companies and systems companies. These partners can use ARM's IP design to create and produce system-on-chip designs, but need to pay ARM the original IP license fee and pay royalties for each chip or wafer produced. In addition to the processor IP, ARM also provides a series of tools, physical and system IP to optimize the system-on-chip design.

Because ARM's IP is diverse and the chips and software systems that support ARM-based solutions are very large, the world's leading original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are using ARM technology extensively, and the application areas involve mobile phones, digital set-top boxes and automotive systems. Dynamic systems and network routers. Today, more than 95% of mobile phones and more than a quarter of electronic devices worldwide use ARM technology.

License description

ARM company itself does not rely on its own design to manufacture or sell CPU, but will deal with

The device architecture is licensed to interested manufacturers. ARM provides a variety of licensing terms, including items such as selling price and dissemination. For the licensee, ARM provides an integrated hardware description of the ARM core, including complete software development tools (compiler, debugger, SDK), and sales rights for silicon chips containing ARM CPUs. For fabless licensees, they hope to integrate the ARM core into their own chip design, which is usually only aimed at obtaining a production-ready IP Core certification. For these customers, ARM will release the gate circuit diagram of the selected ARM core, together with abstract simulation models and test programs, to assist design integration and verification. Customers who need more, including integrated component manufacturers (IDM) and wafer manufacturers, choose synthesizable RTL (register transfer level, such as Verilog) form to obtain processor intellectual property (IP). With the help of integrated RTL, customers have the ability to optimize and strengthen their architecture. This method allows designers to complete additional design goals (such as high oscillation frequency, low energy consumption, instruction set extension, etc.) without being limited by the unchangeable circuit diagram. Although ARM does not grant the authorized party to sell the ARM architecture itself again, the authorized party can sell products (such as chip components, evaluation boards, complete systems, etc.) arbitrarily. Commercial fabs are a special case, because they not only grant the sale of finished silicon crystals containing ARM cores, but for other customers, they usually reserve the right to remake ARM cores.


Like most IP sellers, ARM determines the selling price of IP based on use value.


Architecturally, lower-performance ARM cores have lower licensing fees than higher-performance cores. In terms of silicon chip implementation, an integrated core is more expensive than a hardware macro (black box) core. In terms of more complex price points, commercial fabs that hold ARM licenses (such as Samsung and Fujitsu in Korea) can provide lower license prices to their fab customers. Through the foundry's own design technology, customers can obtain ARM cores with lower or free ARM prepaid license fees. Compared with specialized semiconductor fabs that do not have their own design technologies (such as TSMC and UMC), Fujitsu/Samsung charges two to three times more for each wafer. For small and medium-sized applications, fabs with design departments offer lower overall prices (subsidized by licensing fees). For mass production, due to long-term cost reduction, lower wafer prices can be used to reduce ARM's NRE costs, making specialized fabs a better choice.

Many semiconductor companies hold ARM licenses: Atmel, Broadcom, Cirrus Logic, Freescale (independently separated from Motorola in 2004), Qualcomm, Fujitsu, Intel (via mediation through complaints with Digital), IBM, Infineon Technologies, Nintendo, Many of these companies, including NXP Semiconductors (independent from Philips in 2006), OKI Electric Industries, Samsung Electronics, Sharp, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and VLSI, have various forms of ARM authorization. Although ARM's authorized projects are covered by confidential contracts, in the intellectual property industry, ARM is widely known as one of the most expensive CPU cores. A single customer product containing a basic ARM core may require a license fee of up to US$200,000 at a time. And if it involves a lot of structural changes, the cost may exceed 10 million US dollars.

ARM (Asynchronous Response Mode) is also an unbalanced data link operation mode. Unlike NRM, the transmission process under ARM is initiated by the slave station. A frame or a group of frames that the slave station actively sends to the master station may contain information, or it may be a frame sent only for control purposes. In this mode of operation, the slave station controls the timeout and retransmission. This method is indispensable for the multi-station link using the polling method.

ARM microprocessors include the following series, as well as processors of other manufacturers based on the ARM architecture. In addition to the common characteristics of the ARM architecture, each series of ARM microprocessors have their own characteristics and application fields.

  ARM7 series

ARM9 series

  ARM9E series

  ARM10E series

  SecurCore series

  Intel's Xscale

  Intel's StrongARM

  Among them, ARM7, ARM9, ARM9E and ARM10 are four general-purpose processor series, each series provides a relatively unique set of performance to meet the needs of different application fields. The SecurCore series is specifically designed for applications with high security requirements.

(1) arm 7

The ARM7 series of microprocessors are low-power 32-bit RISC processors and are most suitable for consumer applications that require high price and power consumption. The ARM7 microprocessor series has the following characteristics:

  With embedded ICE-RT logic, debugging and development are convenient.

   Very low power consumption, suitable for applications that require high power consumption, such as portable products.

  Can provide 0.9MIPS/MHz three-stage pipeline structure.

   High code density and compatible with 16-bit Thumb instruction set.

   supports the operating system widely, including Windows CE, Linux, Palm OS, etc.

The instruction system is compatible with ARM9 series, ARM9E series and ARM10E series, which is convenient for users to upgrade their products.

   The main frequency can be up to 130MIPS, and the high-speed computing processing ability can handle most complex applications.

   The main application fields of ARM7 series microprocessors are: industrial control, Internet equipment, network and modem equipment, mobile phones and other multimedia and embedded applications.

  ARM7 series microprocessors include the following types of cores: ARM7TDMI, ARM7TDMI-S, ARM720T, ARM7EJ. Among them, ARM7TDMI is currently the most widely used 32-bit embedded RISC processor, which belongs to the low-end ARM processor core. The basic meaning of TDMI is:

  T: Support 16-bit compressed instruction set Thumb

  D: Support on-chip Debug

  M: Embedded hardware multiplier

  I: Embedded ICE, support on-chip breakpoint and debug point

(2) arm 9

ARM9 series microprocessors provide the best performance in terms of high performance and low power consumption. Has the following characteristics:

   5-level integer pipeline, instruction execution efficiency is higher.

  Provide the Harvard structure of 1.1MIPS/MHz.

   Supports 32-bit ARM instruction set and 16-bit Thumb instruction set.

   Support 32-bit high-speed AMBA bus interface.

   Full-performance MMU supports Windows CE, Linux, Palm OS and other mainstream embedded operating systems.

  MPU supports real-time operating system.

   Supports data cache and instruction cache, with higher instruction and data processing capabilities.

  ARM9 series microprocessors are mainly used in wireless devices, instrumentation, security systems, set-top boxes, high-end printers, digital, cameras and digital video cameras.

  ARM9 series microprocessors include three types of ARM920T, ARM922T and ARM940T, suitable for different applications

(3) arm9e

The ARM9E series of microprocessors are synthesizable processors that use a single processor core to provide solutions for microcontrollers, DSPs, and Java application systems, greatly reducing the chip area and system complexity. ARM9E series microprocessors provide enhanced DSP processing power, which is suitable for those applications that need to use both DSP and microcontroller.

   The main features of ARM9E series microprocessors are as follows:

   supports DSP instruction set, suitable for occasions requiring high-speed digital signal processing.

   5-level integer pipeline, instruction execution efficiency is higher.

   Supports 32-bit ARM instruction set and 16-bit Thumb instruction set.

   Support 32-bit high-speed AMBA bus interface.

   Support VFP9 floating point processing coprocessor.

   Full-performance MMU supports Windows CE, Linux, Palm OS and other mainstream embedded operating systems.

  MPU supports real-time operating system.

   Supports data cache and instruction cache, with higher instruction and data processing capabilities.

   The main frequency can be up to 300MIPS.

  ARM9E series microprocessors are mainly used in the fields of next-generation wireless equipment, digital consumer products, imaging equipment, industrial control, storage equipment and network equipment.

  ARM9E series microprocessors include ARM926EJ-S, ARM946E-S and ARM966E-S three types, suitable for different applications.

(4) arm10e

ARM10E series microprocessors have the characteristics of high performance and low power consumption. Due to the new architecture, compared with the same ARM9 devices, the performance has been improved by nearly 50% at the same clock frequency. At the same time, the ARM10E series of microprocessors The processor uses two advanced energy-saving methods to make its power consumption extremely low.

   The main features of ARM10E series microprocessors are as follows:

   supports DSP instruction set, suitable for occasions requiring high-speed digital signal processing.

   6-level integer pipeline, instruction execution efficiency is higher.

   Supports 32-bit ARM instruction set and 16-bit Thumb instruction set.

   Support 32-bit high-speed AMBA bus interface.

   Support VFP10 floating point processing coprocessor.

   Full-performance MMU supports Windows CE, Linux, Palm OS and other mainstream embedded operating systems. </p>

   Supports data cache and instruction cache, with higher instruction and data processing capabilities

   The main frequency can be up to 400MIPS.

  Embedded parallel read/write operation components.

  ARM10E series microprocessors are mainly used in the next-generation wireless equipment, digital consumer products, imaging equipment, industrial control, communications and information systems.

  ARM10E series microprocessors include ARM1020E, ARM1022E and ARM1026EJ-S three types, suitable for different applications.

(5) SecurCore

SecurCore series microprocessors are designed specifically for security needs, providing a complete 32-bit RISC technology security solution. Therefore, in addition to the low power consumption and high performance characteristics of the ARM architecture, the SecurCore series microprocessors also have Its unique advantage is that it provides support for security solutions.

  SecurCore series microprocessors not only have various main features of ARM architecture, but also have the following features in system security:

  With a flexible protection unit to ensure the safety of the operating system and application data.

  Using soft core technology to prevent external scanning and detection.

  Can integrate user's own security features and other coprocessors.

  SecurCore series microprocessors are mainly used in application products and application systems that require high security, such as e-commerce, e-government, e-banking, network and authentication systems.

  SecurCore series microprocessors include SecurCore SC100, SecurCore SC110, SecurCore SC200 and SecurCore SC210, which are suitable for different applications.

(6) StrongARM

The Intel StrongARM SA-1100 processor is a 32-bit RISC microprocessor with a highly integrated ARM architecture. It combines the design and processing technology of Intel Corporation and the power efficiency of the ARM architecture, and adopts an architecture that is compatible with the ARMv4 architecture in software and has the advantages of Intel technology.

  Intel StrongARM processor is an ideal choice for portable communication products and consumer electronics products, and has been successfully applied to many companies' handheld computer products.

(7) Xscale

The Xscale processor is a solution based on the ARMv5TE architecture and is a full-performance, cost-effective, and low-power processor. It supports 16-bit Thumb instructions and DSP instruction sets, and has been used in digital mobile phones, personal digital assistants and network products.

  Xscale processor is an ARM microprocessor mainly promoted by Intel.

Related Information

Competitor: Intel

market share

Mobile phone processor 90% market share

30% market share of netbook processors

70% market share of tablet processor

PC processor

AMD is pushing its ARM technology-based chips and announced the launch of a new "Seattle" ARM processor in the second half of 2014.

AMD is not the first manufacturer dedicated to the production of ARM-based processors. Applied Microcircuits launched its own 64-bit ARM chip in April. The name of the "system" (SOC) on the chip almost describes what these devices are: the entire server hardware is housed in a small chip. Only read-only memory, hard drives or solid-state storage do not exist.

ARM and Intel

"Traditional" computing devices, such as laptops, desktop computers, servers, Intel, AMD, it is quite a lot. Intel x86-based PCs have been around for more than 30 years, and their competitors are only AMD.

Intel and AMD processors, they have many of the same functions and architecture, have a lot in common. For one thing, they are very powerful because they have been around for so long, and a large number of machines run operating systems that rely on these chips, including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

The core architecture developed by ARM is authorized to be designed by any hardware manufacturer and produce its own processor. Due to the design of ARM processors, the power is very small, which makes them very suitable for personal electronic devices.


In China

ARM's China headquarters is set up in Shanghai to implement all product business and after-sales support in China. One of them has an office in Shenzhen, which deals specifically with ARM-related technical issues.

ARM is mainly engaged in the work of the ARM IP core in China. For ARM software tools, including DS-5, RVDS, MDK-ARM, etc., it is not directly sold. Its agent in China, Yidao Electronics, acts as a channel distributor and is responsible for sales. Development tools and customer service.

Unique development ideas

Why didn't ARM make a fortune? The company was founded 24 years ago. Apple recruited dozens of engineers for it to develop chips specifically for Apple's early Newton handheld devices. Because of its proximity to Cambridge University, ARM’s headquarters is not lacking in talent, but for the technology industry, it seems a bit remote. In this environment, ARM began to focus on developing low-power chips for lesser-known mobile devices, and spared no effort to form alliances with other companies.

Intel’s chips are all produced by itself, and ARM authorizes the design of the chip architecture to companies such as Apple, and then customizes it, and spends money to hire contractors to produce it. "Intel took a long time to build its own brand, so that consumers have such a concept: products using their chips are worth spending more money." Higas said, "We did not pay attention to this aspect, our The focus is on producing chips with small size and low energy consumption and creating a huge and diverse ecosystem."

Over time, the balance of the computing market has shifted to the ARM side, and its cheap and efficient chips are widely popular-first adopted by Nokia, and then gradually accepted by major brands. However, due to the limitations of its own business model, while customer performance is booming, ARM has not gained much benefit.

Future development

ARM is still lobbying AMD to use ARM's core authorization, but has not received a positive response. Although AMD announced last year that it is about to launch an arm processor, the specific products are still half-covered.

ARM has always emphasized high-efficiency, low-power IP core technology, but ARM has been expanding the market in 32-bit, and the ARM64-bit series has been launched at the end of last year. The ARM ecosystem has not yet been fully formed, but the major processor manufacturers have fought and started to "siege the city."

Competition has begun in the arm market, but it does not hinder AMD's development in the arm, because AMD has a richer experience in server processor design.

Related news

On May 22, 2019, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that the British chip designer ARM instructed employees to stop "all valid contracts" with Huawei and its subsidiaries to comply with recent US trade restrictions. ARM's design forms the basis of most mobile device processors in the world, and its design includes "American origin technology".

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