President of ARM Foresees 16-Core, 32-Core Chips for Smartphones

Simon Segars: Moore’s Law Will Enable Cost-Efficient Multi-Core ARM Chips

by Anton Shilov
03/04/2013 | 11:58 PM

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.