TSMC boosts ARM processor to 3.1 GHz
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company last Thursday announced that it has built an ARM-based microprocessor that has broken the 3GHz speed barrier. TSMC is the largest contract chip manufacturer in the world, and this feat was made possible using the company's 28-nanometer manufacturing process. TSMC says it was able to run a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor at 3.1GHz under "typical conditions," and it can be used in high-performance applications such as inside networking appliances and tablets.
In comparison, the dual-core 1GHz A5 chip used in the iPad is built using a 45nm process, though reports have surfaced of an improved 32nm A5 chip appearing in limited batches of the iPad 2. Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC) Ivy Bridge microprocessor, however, rolled out just weeks ago incorporating a new cutting-edge 22nm transistor design.
ARM President Tudor Brown has previously said that the company expects that half of all mobile PCs, which include tablets and mini PCs, will be powered by ARM-based processors by 2015. The company has also set its eyes on the lucrative $9 billion per year server processor market, and hopes to ship server-based ARM processors in volume. Indeed, at least one large computer manufacturer, HP, is reportedly working on ARM-based servers.
The challenge for a company that has as long a history focused on achieving highly-efficient processors with long battery life is more than just cranking up the processor's clock speed. Under the hood, most ARM processors are 32-bit at a time when 64-bit desktop and laptop computers have gained critical mass.
Also, some of the top operating systems in the world such as Windows 7 are not designed to run on ARM, though this is set to change with the next iteration of Windows from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). Microsoft has announced a version of Windows 8 for the ARM platform, though existing applications and device drivers will have to be rewritten specifically for ARM.
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