LONDON Motorola Inc.'s Semiconductor Products Sector has signed a licensing deal that will allow it to use the cores of ARM Holdings Ltd. in a wide range of products.
The agreement, announced Monday (Dec. 4) in London, effectively acknowledges the reality that Motorola's internally developed MCore has not reached the critical mass required to be attractive to customers in the commercial embedded space.
Over the past few years, Motorola tried to seed the market for its 32-bit low-power-consumption engine by providing MCore licenses to Japan- and Korea-based technology institutes and universities, but MCore failed to attract much commercial support outside of Motorola's internal design teams.
Under the terms of the agreement with ARM, Motorola will promote products incorporating ARM cores alongside the PowerPC, MCore and ColdFire range of 32-bit embedded processors.
"Since they have taken an architectural license as well as the ri ght to use standard products like the ARM7 and ARM9, they have much more flexibility than some of our other partners," said Robin Saxby, chairman and chief executive officer of ARM (Cambridge, England).
ARM said the agreement will enable Motorola's OEM customers to combine ARM's software and tools portfolios with Motorola's systems and wireless expertise to develop a wide range of systems solutions. The licensed products include chip sets, software, development tools and reference platforms.
"Motorola is a very significant ARM licensee," said Saxby. "This agreement will enable the company to greatly enhance its DigitalDNA portfolio."
Billy Edwards, senior vice president of Motorola's Semiconductor Products Sector, noted that "the embedded market is exploding it's bigger than we expected. This is a great combination that allows us to increase our embedded portfolio to suit everyone's needs. We're looking to meet the incre asingly specific requirements of our customers."
Edwards declined to give details of the type of products Motorola plans to develop using ARM technologies, but said that the initial designs, to be introduced over the next 12 months, will be in the wireless segment, where ARM has made its technology an "almost de facto standard."
Apart from Motorola, only Intel Corp. enjoys the level of flexibility to apply ARM technology to create highly customized system solutions, Saxby said. "The ARM architecture is well aligned with Motorola's road maps for the wireless and other markets," he said. "They'll be more announcements to follow."
Asked about early claims that Motorola's MCore initiative was an "ARM killer," Edwards said he could not comment.
The ever-diplomatic Saxby said he was confident that there was no conflict of interest. Asked about MCore, he said that "both products can service the market."
The MCore architecture continues to be used within Motorola for certain chip designs, a com pany spokesman said.
However, several key staff at the MCore technology center in Austin, Texas have left the company this year, including design manager Jim Thomas, who left Motorola after more than two decades to join Philips Semiconductor and its Trimedia VLIW processor development group in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Other MCore managers have simply moved across town to new jobs at Intel Corp.'s XScale processor development team.
Anthony Clark and John Walko write for Electronics Times, EE Times' sister paper in the United Kingdom.