ARM Cortex A5 chip takes mobile web mainstream

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ARM has a new processor that it said will revolutionise mobile devices and bring speedy internet browsing firmly into the mainstream.

The new Cortex A5 is being introduced at ARM's Techcon3 conference in Santa Clara. It's the successor to both the ARM9, which was first introduced in 2005 and is typically found in many low-end mobile phones, and also the ARM11, the chip currently found in higher-end devices such as the Nokia N97.

Eric Schorn, ARM's vice president of marketing, told IT PRO that the Cortex-A5 would deliver three times the processing power of the ARM9, yet would only consumer one third of the power of the ARM11.

The part is capable of running at up to 1GHz and - if a manufacturer wishes to - up to four can be paired together in one device.

Schorn said that the A5 would enable much better connectivity, and would enable users to sync data over the air without needing to be tethered to a computer.

He also claimed it would make a huge impact on mobile communications, particularly in the developing world. "In the developing world, people are using text messages, which is one-to-one, it's not an interactive pipe," he said. "[The Cortex A5] is revolutionary. We think we can deliver value to the developing world, and in our world."

ARM already has multiple licensees for the processor, according to Schorn. It will be delivered to integrators by the end of the year and Schorn said he expected devices featuring the Cortex A5 to appear in the market by 2011.

Schorn was also dismissive of Intel's drive into the low-power mobile device arena and stated that the Cortex A5 was many times smaller and more power efficient than the current Atom. He said that Intel's need for backwards compatibility was an issue for the chip giant.

"[Intel's] value proposition is tied to x86 and if we look at their die, the Cortex A5 is equivalent to their instruction set decoder, and if they are not going to change instruction set they have a huge challenge ahead," he said.

"x86 is baggage for them," Schorn added. "[Intel] has never had to go down [in power] before, and if they want to maintain compatibility they will have a challenge."

However, Intel is not standing still, and has ambitious plans for the smartphone market in 2011 with its Medfield processor.

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even is a twenty-year stalwart of technology journalism who is passionate about all areas of the industry, but telecoms and mobile and home entertainment are among his chief interests. He has written for many of the leading tech publications in the UK, such as PC Pro and Wired, and previously held the position of technology editor at ITPro before regularly contributing as a freelancer.

Known affectionately as a ‘geek’ to his friends, his passion has seen him land opportunities to speak about technology on BBC television broadcasts, as well as a number of speaking engagements at industry events.