Arm readies processing cores for 64-bit computing

Arm Holdings will unveil new plans for processing cores that support 64-bit computing within the next few weeks, and has already shown samples at private viewings, sources close to the company said at an Arm technology conference in Taipei.

The company's move into 64-bit computing shows it's serious about putting out powerful processors to meet the needs of businesses and consumers. Most personal computers today are based on 32-bit computing, while supercomputers, servers and other bigger systems use 64-bit computing, which can address more memory.

More memory can significantly improve performance for people running a lot of applications at once in just about any device.

Intel, the world's largest chip maker, already offers a number of processors for 64-bit computing,, including for servers, desktops and mobile computers, as does its rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

Intel and AMD both make processors based on the x86 architecture, while Arm's chips are based on an entirely different architecture, meaning that x86 software needs to be rewritten before it will run on Arm processor cores. Arm's processor designs, though, are more often found in mobile devices or embedded systems than in desktop PCs today.

Arm's move to put out a 64-bit processing core will give its partners more options to design products for more markets, including servers, the source said. Arm only designs the processor cores: its customers and partners take those designs and turn them into chips.

Currently, companies such as Marvell Technology use 32-bit Arm processing cores in chips designed for servers.

Arm recently announced its latest processor, the Cortex A15, which is its highest-performance product yet, according to the company. It's also a 32-bit processor.

Sources said the next Arm Cortex processor to be unveiled will support 64-bit computing. An announcement of the processor could come as early as next week.

Officially, Arm is keeping mum about its plans for upcoming processors.

Arm has not talked publicly about its processor roadmap beyond the A15, said Tudor Brown, president of Arm, when asked about 64-bit processors at a news conference.

The idea for 64-bit computing in PCs has become more popular in recent years for a few reasons. Most processors used in PCs can already handle a 64-bit operating system, and more memory is available cheaply because the price of memory has dropped significantly due to stiff competition among memory chip makers.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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