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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
Future mobiles to get chip boost
Close-up of chip, Eyewire
Arm-designed chips are used in most mobile phones
Chip designer Arm is unveiling the latest generation of processors that will power future mobile phones.

Processors built with the Cortex A8 design will have more than one billion transistors on board and will be many times more powerful than current ones.

Phones using A8 chips will be able to play high-quality video or handle speaker-independent voice recognition.

Arm said it expected handsets and other gadgets using the chip design to appear in large numbers in 2007/2008.

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Although it does not make chips itself, Arm's processor designs are used in the computing cores of more than 85% of the world's mobile phone handsets.

Currently, the Arm 7 family of processors dominates and is used to power the classic "voice-centric" mobile phone, said Rob Coombs, director of mobile solutions at Arm.

He said that phones using Arm 9 processors form the mid-range of today's handsets - known as feature phones - and Arm 11 based chips are for the so-called smart phones at the top end of the scale.

Cortex A8 processors will be far more powerful than even the current crop of top-of-the-line Arm-designed chips, said Mr Coombs. For example, he said, early tests suggested the A8 chips could top the 1,000 Dhrystone Mip (Dips) mark. Future versions could hit 2,000 Dips.

DMip, or Dip, is an industry standard measure of processor performance and measures how many millions of instructions a second a chip can crank through.

By comparison, Arm 9 chips typically achieve 150-300 Dips.

This should make it possible to produce phones that can handle detailed video and TV, high-resolution screens, 3D graphics, switch more easily between different types of wireless networks and cope with multiplayer gaming.

Arm also expects the Cortex A8 family to appear in set-top boxes, handheld games machines as well as in cars.

Although the design of the new processor family is complete it will take a couple of years for the new chips to be completed and to filter through to finished products.

There was typically a three-year gap between the finalisation of a design and the mass production of a chip based on it.

Mr Coombs said there were already 5 of the world's largest silicon companies who have licensed the Cortex-A8 processor design at the time of public announcement on Tuesday 4th October.

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