Intel has signed a licensing agreement with chip designer ARM that will enable ARM licensees to manufacture ARM-based system-on-a-chips at Intel's fabrication facilities, including the leading-edge 10nm fabs.
The deal is part of a strategic shift at Intel to offer more foundry services to third parties, including access to the very latest manufacturing facilities.
"We are furthering these ecosystem efforts with new foundational intellectual property that our customers can use," said Zane Ball, vice president of Intel's Technology and Manufacturing Group and co-general manager of the firm's Custom Foundry business.
"Our 10nm design platform for foundry customers will now offer access to ARM Artisan physical IP, including POP IP, based on the most advanced ARM cores and Cortex series processors.
"Optimising this technology for Intel's 10nm process means that foundry customers can take advantage of the IP to achieve best-in-class PPA (power, performance, area) for power-efficient, high-performance implementations of their designs for mobile, IoT and other consumer applications."
One of the first customers will be South Korean electronics company LG, which plans to make smartphones using 10nm ARM-based microprocessors in 2017.
Intriguingly, the deal isn't a one-off, according to Will Abbey, general manager at ARM's Physical Design group, but is expected to be the start of a "long-term, mutually beneficial partnership with Intel Custom Foundry".
"One of the strengths and differentiators of the Artisan platform is the availability of ARM core-optimised intellectual property, what we call ARM POP technology," Abbey said in a blog post.
"The value of POP technology for an ARM core on the Intel 10nm process is tremendous, as it will allow quicker knowledge transfer, enabling customers to lower their risk in implementing the most advanced ARM cores on Intel's leading-edge process technology.
"Additionally, POP technology enables silicon partners to accelerate the implementation and tape-outs of their ARM-based designs. The initial POP IP will be for two future advanced ARM Cortex-A processor cores designed for mobile computing applications in ARM big.LITTLE or standalone configurations."
The announcement was made at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco this week, at which the company also confirmed that its latest Kaby Lake 14nm microprocessors are already on their way to computer makers for incorporation into PCs from the autumn.
Intel uses its intellectual property in manufacturing to keep ahead of rivals in PC and server microprocessing technology, but the company's general absence from mobile has made it dependent on a moribund PC market and a slowing server market.
Tapping into the desires of designers focused on the ARM architecture to produce chips on 10nm fabs will help finance Intel's continued development on the manufacturing side, while denying rivals, such as Samsung and TSMC, customers for their foundries.
This is not the first time that Intel has dabbled in ARM. The company acquired StrongARM, ARM microprocessors designed by Digital Equipment Corporation, in 1997 and subsequently developed it into the Xscale architecture.
However, this business was sold to Marvell Technology in 2006, while Intel closed the DEC fab where StrongARM and Xscale were made in 2013.
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