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It pays to be king of mobility

Whether you're an Apple, Inc. (AAPL) fan, a Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) fan, or you hate them both, chances are you have a device powered by a processor using either ARM Holdings Plc.'s (LON:ARM) proprietary instruction set or intellectual property cores.

In the last two decades the UK-based ARM has established itself as the kingpin of mobile and embedded applications.  And with smartphones and tablets today chipping away at traditional computer sales, ARM is soaring high.

While the architecture mastermind only get a small licensing fee per chip made by companies like Samsung, Apple, Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM), or NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA), those pennies add up to big revenue.  Best of all, since the revenue is virtually all in the form of licensing fees, ARM enjoys massive margins.

Analysts were hoping for an impressive £75.6M ($119.2M USD) on a revenue of £152.2M ($239.9M USD).  ARM made those estimates look conservative, announcing [PDF] that in Q4 2012 it made a pre-tax profit of £80M ($126.1M USD) on a revenue of £164.2M ($258.8M USD).  That's up 16 percent from a year ago, and sets a new record for the veteran chip-designer.

ARM chip on penny
ARM's low-power system-on a chips dominate the mobile and embedded markets.
[Image Source: Digital Trends]

In accompanying statements ARM said that it does not predict a slowing semiconductor market will hurt its growth.  It says that effect will be offset by the company's dominance in fast-growing niches, such as the tablet computing market.

Sources: ARM, Reuters



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RE: ARM revenue
By Calin on 2/6/2013 9:45:18 AM , Rating: 2
When you go for very simple, very low performance designs, the "x86 tax" (that is, supporting hundreds and hundreds of microprocessor instructions) is quite expensive in terms of complexity (processor size), speed (lower frequency due to higher complexity) and energy use (instruction decoder). x86 has advantages in code size (lower) and memory use, but those aren't significant at the low performance target (after all, RAM is quite inexpensive).
On the other hand, it seems that at high-performance processors (Ivy Bridge, ...) the "x86 tax" is under 5% in transistors (processor size). The 10% overhead you're talking about is in mid-market processors, on the low end the overhead is quite a bit higher


RE: ARM revenue
By StevoLincolnite on 2/6/2013 11:53:32 PM , Rating: 2
I would think the "x86 tax" would be much smaller than 5 or 10%.
The Pentium MMX had about 4.5 million transistors and can run x86 code fine.
These days we are heading into multiple billions of transistors, so the basic x86 functionality in terms of die-size cost would be absolutely trivial.
Stuff like SSE and AVX instructions add to the die size, but again after multiple moves to a smaller fabrication process it would take up bugger-all die space.

I think AMD claimed at one stage that x64 alone at one stage was taking up a fraction of the Athlon 64's die area, but after a few die shrinks it accounted for less than 1%.

You also need to account that ARM processors are in the same league as Intel Atom which is very competitive in terms of power consumption/performance and that is an old 5 year architecture, Core based chips... Sure are more complex, but they are also 10's of multiples faster.


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