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The Year in Review – Noteworthy Developments

As we near the holidays, I have decided to do a quick summary of the interesting embedded hardware stories of the year. Some of these you may be familiar with already, but if not, enjoy!

AMD deploys servers with ARM

AMD announced in October that it will be launching Opteron chips built around ARM cores. These new processors are targeted at the microserver market. The alliance between AMD and ARM is further secured by their joint membership in the HSA Foundation along with Imagination Technologies, MediaTek and Qualcomm.  

Intel launches Crystal Forest

Intel continued to meet the Tick-Tock cadence and launched the Crystal Forest embedded processor platform. The milestone of this product is the incorporation of data plane technology, making it a more direct rival for other networking processor providers. The platform is designed with emphasis on scalable performance, security, and cost.

STMicroelectronics gets out of ST-Ericsson

STMicroelectronics is planning a swift exit from the applications processor market as it moves to leave the ST-Ericsson venture. This marks the second embedded processor vendor to leave the applications processor market this year: TI exited from the mobile chip market and refocused its OMAP processors on more traditional embedded applications. This suggests that margins are getting extremely tight in the mobile market and competitors that meet with delayed time to market can’t justify the expense any longer.  

MIPS on the auction block

A consolidation in the embedded processor IP space occurred when Imagination Technologies acquired MIPS in November. The acquisition included the operating business and a number of patents. ARM acquired the rest of the patents in order to circumvent any future patent infringement. The MIPS architecture will continue to be supported for the time being.

So, in a nutshell, we have interesting new partnerships, new product launches, market exits and acquisitions. The overall weakness of the semiconductor market over the past several quarters has created a tough environment, and uncertainty is high in some segments. With any luck, though, the fiscal cliff will pass muster and restore overall confidence in the economy. This should in turn bring renewed growth to the embedded markets within the next several quarters.

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!

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