Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On the eve of redistribution.

Until recently, the global chip market is controlled by producers of solutions for the "full" computers - desktops, servers and notebooks. Recently, however, the rapid growth in market segments such as smartphones and communicators, netbooks and UMPC, and now Tablet PCs, has led to what the market began to play an important role producing processors for handheld devices.

As stated in a fresh report to IDC, in 2009, sales of smartphones grew by 15.1% to 174.2 million pieces. At the same time in the last quarter of the year they reached the record mark in history - 54.5 million smart phones, or 39% higher in comparison with the same period in 2008. And now, the supply continues to grow.

Also, according to IDC, the proportion of smartphones (they are in IDC extendable called "converged devices") at the end of last year amounted to 15,4% market share in mobile devices in general. For comparison: in 2008 the proportion of such devices was in numerical terms, 12,7% of the market.

Now the growth of the smartphone segment is largely driven by mobile operators. They have already felt the growing demand for smart phones, as well as the prospects for increasing (thanks to smart phones) subscriber demand for additional services and media content. Consequently, many operators have begun to offer more attractive packages, including artificially low-cost smartphone and a special rate plan. And now on the market of portable devices with a functional mobile triumphantly go further and tablet PCs.

All the above will inevitably change the balance of power in the microprocessor market. And these changes are already occurring. One of the most ambitious players, the company ARM, to disclose information about its plans to develop a new generation of processor architectures. Already in 2010 ARM intends to bring to market, at least three cores, code-named Eagle, Heron, and Merlin.

The most productive solution includes a series of Eagle (the family of chips Cortex-A). These processors can handle high-definition video, and also have high energy efficiency. Cortex-A will be used in smartphones and other gadgets with touch screens and access to the network. Kernels Heron and Merlin are calculated for use in families of Cortex-R and Cortex-M, respectively. Chips Cortex-R are designed for embedded systems; Cortex-M - for industrial equipment, motor controls, etc.

ARM expects to reach its decisions the maximum number of sectors of the market of mobile devices. The head of the company Warren East in an interview site PC Pro said that in the coming years netbooks occupy 90% of the PC market. In his view, the main obstacle to the spread of low-cost laptop computers - lack of support for the ARM processor in Windows. That is why Warren East hopes for rapid development of mobile OS based on Linux - and especially Google Chrome OS, which will promote the popularization of systems based on chip ARM. At the same time in the company ARM "high hopes" that Microsoft is also aware of the market potential of low-cost computers and still implements support for the ARM processor in their products.

But the blow to the dominance of sworn colleagues Intel and Qualcomm is preparing to inflict, not only ARM. Let us recall that at a recent presentation planshetnika iPad Steve Jobs introduced and its key component - the processor A4 production of PA Semi. Its history began in 2008 - when Apple acquired the Californian chip developer PA Semi for $ 278 million and the A4 was the first processor, set up PA Semi has as a unit of Apple. Omniscient experts said that the "apple company" has decided to become a direct competitor to Intel and Qualcomm.

Primarily, of course, Intel. After all, the microprocessor giant, there is a similar solution - Moorestown chip. And at its base have already created the first smartphone - LG GW990.

However, I personally more attractive view of Forward Concepts analyst Will Strauss. He believes that using the A4 instead of buying a third-party solutions, Apple is trying to create its own "ecosystem" of electronic components, so that later no one could depend. And in the long run it will give us the maximum profit and consolidate control over the market.

In turn, an analyst with research firm In-Stat, Jim McGregor points out that Apple, having decided to independently develop and produce processors that can be spoiled a lot of blood Intel. The fact that Intel has invested too much effort, money, intelligence and marketing resources in the family chip Atom. MacGregor writes: "Every step that Apple has done in the way of the iPhone to the" pill "iPad, was designed to share the processor and its Intel Atom".

The threat to the Atom really there. According to the company Goldman Sachs, in 2010 Apple will sell about 6 million iPad-s. With this agreement, and ISuppli analyst Jagdish Rebello: "Absolutely, and Intel, and Qualcomm would like to participate in the development iPad. But now Apple has a good chance" otest "have their share of the microprocessor market."

And here is another story, showing what intrigues now enmeshed in relations chip makers and creators of mobile gadgets. In November 2009 the first CEO of Qualcomm Paul Jacobs told the media industry that his company is negotiating with Apple to supply its products for the iPhone. However, in January 2010 at the Consumer Electronics Show the company's management announced an exclusive agreement with Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo - they say, they themselves have to set up production of notebooks based on Snapdragon processors from Qualcomm.

As for Intel, her spokesman Bill Calder on the iPad said: "Apple has done a good job. Nevertheless, we remain convinced that the Intel chips will fuel the increase in a wide range of intelligent devices from smartphones to tablet.

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