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TI licenses next-generation ARM core

Aug 9, 2010 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 5 views

Texas Instruments (TI) announced it has become the first licensee for ARM's next-generation Cortex-A series processor core, currently code-named “Eagle.” The new core will form the basis of future, high-end CPUs for mobile devices, including entries in the OMAP product line, the company says.

TI says it "formally engaged with ARM on … [the Eagle] project in June 2009, establishing an advanced lead partnership. During this time, TI leveraged its low power, system-on-chip (SoC) platform expertise with ARM to advance the processor core's definition."

Remi El-Ouazzane, vice president of TI's OMAP platform business unit, stated:

Our position as ARM's advanced lead partner for its next-generation Cortex-A series processor core underscores TI's unwavering commitment to helping customers achieve success in the competitive mobile world. Our customers will be the first to leverage the new ARM processor core's far-reaching innovations via our industry-leading OMAP products.

TI's release added that "the new ARM processor core has the potential for broader market application across TI's product portfolio." This suggests, among other things, that Eagle will spread into the chipmaker's high-end models in its Sitara product line, which use ARM's Cortex-A8 cores. (A range-topping Sitara DM3730, clocked at 1GHz, has still not been formally announced by TI, but has already been publicized in devices such as the Variscite VAR-SOM-OM37 module and the BeagleBoard-xM.)

TI touted itself today as the "first licensee of the next-generation ARM Cortex-A series processor core." At the end of last month, however, ARM announced half-year financial results and said a "major semiconductor company" had become "the third lead-licensee for the Eagle Cortex-A class processor." How, or if, TI's license differs from the others has not been detailed; as suggested above, however, TI is said to have helped define Eagle's core.

Apart from that, relatively few details on Eagle have been offered by either ARM or TI so far. In a February conference call for investors, ARM chief executive Warren East (below) outlined three new processor core designs, codenamed "Eagle, "Heron," and "Merlin," to be unveiled during the next 12 to 18 months. Heron is apparently an upgrade to the Cortex-R class of processors, used in such things as engine management systems, inkjet printers, and hard disk drives, while Merlin is an upgrade to the Cortex-M family, used in microcontrollers.

ARM CEO Warren East

"Eagle … takes our application processor products onto yet another level of high performance," East added at the time. According to previous reports, Eagle will include a multi-core main processor, "high-end" graphics, and power usage that can be kept down by using Global Foundries' 28nm production process.

According to TI, its relationship with ARM began more than 15 years ago, since when around 250 million OMAP processors have been shipped. An early adopter of ARM's Cortex-A8 core, the chipmaker announced its OMAP4 in February 2009, incorporating the dual-core Cortex-A9 and MPCore interconnect layer. Sampling now, the OMAP4 SoCs will soon begin shipping in volume, TI says.

Mike Inglis, executive vice president and general manager for TI, stated:

TI and ARM have a long history of collaboration and exchanging technical ideas to develop and define innovative technologies. Together, we're finding new ways to bridge the gap between performance and power requirements, as is evident with our joint work on the next-generation Cortex-A series processor core's definition. We look forward to seeing TI come to market with game-changing solutions that place ARM's new processor core at the heart of tomorrow's consumer-focused smart mobile products.


Given that ARM started shipping its Cortex-A9 core in 2007, and SoCs based on it are still only sampling, we don't expect to see chips based on Eagle to begin shipping for several years.

Though no further details about Eagle were released by TI, an interesting document summarizing the company's previous collaborations with ARM may be found here in PDF format. A list of the more than 200 ARM licensees may be found here.

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