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Multi-core microprocessors are relatively new for the market of smartphones and tablets; the majority of programs do not take advantage of those additional cores, even though the situation is improving. However, the low costs of software development for mobile devices, inventive software designers and the Moore’s law will over time make multi-core and even many-core chips for portable devices viable.

“Having eight cores on the same die seems like […] crazy. It is a lot of processing capability in a phone. [..] But the great thing about phones is the fact that it is a very open platform. Developing software is very easy, very low cost; and as you put all this performance in, somebody will think of something to do with it. So eight cores seems like far more in the land of compute power today. Will we see 16, 32 in a few years’ time? I think two things are going to govern that. Basically the drive of Moore's Law driving cost down meaning that you can put all of those transistors in at very low cost,” said Simon Segars, the president of ARM, in an interview with Engadget web-site.

This year a number of SoC designers, including Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm, MediaTek and others have already introduced, or plan to introduce, multi-core system-on-chips featuring ARM Big.Little technology which allows to combine low-power and high-performance cores inside the same chip.

While multi-core and many-core microprocessors can be used to drive performance of demanding applications, additional cores may run additional tasks. Given that modern smartphones are used to run many apps instantly, many-core SoCs are going to get quite useful.

“Overtime, I am sure you will see more and more cores. There is a limit to how much parallelism you can get out of any one application, but I think you will see the different processors being used for different tasks in parallel. Where the limit is of that I do not know. I mean when you think back, you know, the iPad is only three years old. Smartphones themselves are a relatively new product category, and I do not think we are at the end of people just working out what they can be used for by any means,” said Mr. Segars.

Tags: ARM, Cortex, ARMv8, Samsung, Qualcomm, Mediatek, Big.Little

Discussion

Comments currently: 4
Discussion started: 03/05/13 09:53:58 AM
Latest comment: 03/05/13 08:33:42 PM
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1. 
Only time can tell and it depends on how power-hungry future apps will be. Other than that, when they can squeeze 32 cores into a smartphone, I would rather get an 4-core or 8-core to maximize the battery life. Not to mention cost, space, and heat dissipation issues.

Never say never, but there has got to be a balance. Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should.
0 0 [Posted by: gamoniac  | Date: 03/05/13 09:53:58 AM]
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You must not be familiar with how Moore's Law proceeds and more cores are added. Simply having a 32 core phone wouldn't be any worse than the highest end phone today. It's still the same size. More cores does mean more potential, but it also means lower energy consumption.

If your phone only uses but 2 out of the 32 cores, then it's only going to use a significant fraction of the energy and heat compared to a modern day dual core phone.

At the same time, ARM processors aren't very powerful and lacking a lot of useful instructions that would improve the computational speed drastically. Looking at how the future of smartphones is going to be what Ubuntu is looking to, where your phone is also your PC, we need more cores, and faster cores.
0 0 [Posted by: mmstick  | Date: 03/05/13 10:21:54 AM]
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2. 
Smartphone makers can't even make them use 4 threads effectively at present, and that's with a large amount of recently programmed apps running simultaneously on an average smartphone. Utilizing 32 cores will be difficult if not impossible. I would like to see Warren East propose a way to circumvent Amdahl's law to justify that many CPU cores in a smartphone SoC. Until then he is just blowing smoke a usual.
1 0 [Posted by: lol123  | Date: 03/05/13 04:33:06 PM]
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3. 
Multi-cores for Parallelism Multi tasking is good. Plus Multi-cores for One Task Parallelism even better.
0 0 [Posted by: jpunk  | Date: 03/05/13 08:33:42 PM]
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