An ARM Holdings executives keynote address at Advanced Micro Devices inaugural developer forum last year kicked off weeks of speculation that the two chip vendors, who are seeing their competition in PCs and mobile devices tick up, were on the verge of some sort of partnership.
In the end, Jem Davis, an ARM Fellow and vice president of technology for ARMs Media Processing Division, opened AMDs Fusion Developer Summit with a discussion about how OpenCL and open standards relate to compute systems.
And AMD executives, while not knocking down the idea of such a partnership in the future, said there was nothing in the works at the time. The two companies have a similar world view, and AMD was keeping its options open, John Taylor, director of client product and software marketing at AMD, said at the time.
ARM sees the world very similarly to how AMD does, Taylor told eWEEK.
That speculation could start up again this year, as AMDs second Fusion Developer Summit gets underway this week at Bellevue, Wash. In a June 7 post on ARMs corporate blog, Davis said he again will be speaking at the show, but not in a keynote. Instead, the ARM executive will be part of one of the keynote talks.
Davis did not elaborate on what he would talk about during his appearance, though he did say he would be making an announcement at the show.
This year, we have a great deal to discuss, he wrote in the blog. ARM is all about low power and many people in the industry now realize that GPUs [graphics processing units] have a central role to play in providing highly energy-efficient computing. Its an exciting future that can grow the ecosystem that surrounds computing.
Davis said that ARM has a unique portfolio of CPU, GPU, interconnect and physical IP [that] puts us in the forefront of one of the most important technological changes in a long time. The announcement would reflect on ARMs capabilities and those technological changes, he said.
AMD and larger rival Intel for years have dominated the PC and server markets with their x86-based processors. ARM-designed low-power chipsmanufactured by such vendors as Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instrumentscurrently dominate the booming smartphone and tablet markets. However, Intel and ARM have coveted each others businesses, and for its part, AMD officials have talked about moving into the tablet market.
Intel is expecting to make inroads into the mobile device space with its latest third-generation Core Ivy Bridge chips and new low-power Atom Z2460 Medfield platform. The first of the Intel-based smartphones are aimed at India and European markets. Intel also is expecting Intel-based Ultrabooks to carve into the tablet space.
For their part, ARM officials last month said they expect that by 2014, 10 to 20 percent of notebook markets will be based on ARM-designed chips. ARM and is manufacturing partners also have begun a push into the low-power server space, with Hewlett-Packard teaming up with ARM-based chip maker Calxeda and Dell with Marvell Technologies to develop extremely low-power data center servers. ARM executives expect server chips based on the upcoming ARM v8 architecturewhich includes such key server features as 64-bit computing capabilities, greater memory capacity and improved virtualization supportto hit the market next year, followed soon by ARM-based servers.
Intel, AMD and ARM are all expecting the release later this year of Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system to boost their efforts.
In the interview with eWEEK last year, AMDs Taylor said his company had spent heavily on the companys x86-based Fusion architecture, but that both AMD and ARM saw the potential of GPUs to push computing performance and scale without increasing energy consumption, a key concern for companies like Facebook, Apple and Google, which run massive, dense data centers filled with low-power systems. In addition, both AMD and ARM support OpenCL, a computing language that enables GPUs to be programmed like CPUs.
Whether that common ground will translate into a partnership is unclear.
Were constantly looking at where the market is headed and evaluating what our customer requirements are, AMDs Taylor said last year. Clearly, theres common ground between AMD and ARM [in regards to] balanced computing and the GPU as the key platform pushing the [computing] experience forward, but not at the expense of battery life.