Stuff of fantasy you say? Simon Segars would like to disagree with you. The President of ARM believes Moore’s Law will enable cost-efficient multi-core ARM processing chips for smartphones.
That said, however, multi-core processors for smartphones do seem like a new thing — it was only yesterday dual-core processors arrived for handsets, and now quad-core is the new norm for power processing on mobile platforms.
Talking to Engadget, the President of ARM said:
“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.”
However, it must be said that most programs do not yet take advantage of these additional cores, not all software is optimized to make the most of them. Still, the situation is improving, and the (relatively) low cost of developing for the mobile platform is paving the way for solutions like these.
Segars concluded that parallelism will dictate things in this regards:
“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.”
A number of SoC designers — including titans like Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm, and MediaTek — have already introduced or plan to introduce multi-core system-on-chips that feature ARM’s Big.Little technology, allowing for a combination of low-power yet high-performance inside a chip.
Considering the fact that most smartphones are often used to run many apps at the same time (even in the background), having this extra headroom with all these extra cores will only prove to be useful.