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How ARM-based SoMs have come to the fore

While our first System On Modules (SoMs) were DSP-based, we have introduced several ARM-based SoMs over the last couple of years.

MityDSPs of varying sorts are still used in many of our customers’ applications, but there’s no doubt that the embedded market has been moving towards ARM for a number of years, a trend that really became noticeable (to me anyway) with the availability of ARM7 based devices.

At that point, Intel architectures that had been deployed so successfully in PC’s were not especially practical for many embedded products, other than those that were well suited with PC-104. They required too much power and were too complex for the more straightforward and simpler designs that many of the growing number of embedded products coming to market needed.

As ARM became more common, an entire ecosystem began to build up around it – debug tools and compilers, both open source (GNU) and commercial. The momentum became inescapable – apparently so inescapable that a non-technical business publication like Business Week took notice.  A recent article by Ashlee Vance, “The Unlikely Tale of How ARM Came to Rule the World”, highlights the takeover by ARM, noting that “just about every smartphone, mobile phone, and tablet runs on an ARM core.”

Of course, those consumer products are a far cry from the sorts of applications that our SoMs get embedded in, but ARM is certainly making headway in our world. And it’s entertaining to read Business Week’s view on how ARM took over (and fun to brush up on its history).

We all know the old expression “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”, so there’s no doubt another up and coming architecture out there that will rule the world at some point. I’m not sure what it is. Intel recently tried to compete with its Atom, but that tended to require more power, and hasn’t yet gone viral like ARM did. (I don’t think it will.)

Any candidates in your mind for what the next world-ruling architecture will be?