If you build it they will, it seems, come
A smartphone without 64-bit octacore—oh, how 2013:
When ARM announced (officially announced, that is, not the well-planted and precisely timed leaks) that it was going to offer a 64-bit version of its sensationally popular instruction set, the world, including AMD and Nvidia, went wild. All of a sudden the equally well-leaked Nvidia roadmap showing the mysterious Logan started to come into focus, and AMD’s acquisition of SeaMicro now made total sense. If you could cram a bunch of 64- bit capable processors in blades, why think of how dense you could make a server. That’s it! We’ll call them dense (as in tightly packed, not stupid) servers.
But our inside channels at the GPU company in Santa Clara told us, “No way, San Jose, not today, will we play, in the ARM server foray.” That could mean only one thing: Logan was going to be in your ear and face, in smartphones and tablets, and of course in the next-gen Shield.
Evidently Nvidia isn’t the only one planning a 64-bit quad-core ARM processor for the smartphone market. Our sources tell us Broadcom, Samsung, Qualcomm, and of course MediaTek will have 64-bit chips for the smartphone in the first half of 2014 too. Gosh, I wonder if they’ll mention any of this at CES???
MediaTek has led the industry and gotten a lot of free public relations coverage with their 8-core CPU. Getting orders from first-tier and second-tier China-based smartphone vendors, as well as some India-based device builders, hasn’t hurt them either—see, if you build it, they will come.
No doubt trendsetter and style-leader Apple started the whole thing when it brought out its 64-bit A7 processor used in the iPhone 5s. Whatever Apple does, everyone else does too. It usually takes about a half a year to a year later. If you want to be a forecaster, just watch Apple and then forecast what Samsung, Nvidia, and Qualcomm will do—it’s easy work, just doesn’t pay too well.
Ironically, rumor has it MediaTek may have to delay the launch of its 64- bit CPUs to the second half of 2014 be¬cause demand is so great for its classy eight.
Now I’m sure everyone knows a 64-bit machine is needed if you want to address a lot of memory, like say 18.5 Exabytes (that’s 18.446 x 1018), and that certainly is a problem in most smartphones, or maybe not. But you could use 64-bit for faster fingerprint detection, and since Apple has put fingerprint detection in their new phones, this time next year all smartphones and tablets will also have fingerprint sensors on them.
Also, we’re assuming Apple is planning to be able to gather a lot more data once it implements the PrimeSense 3D sensor in its products. If it does. And if it does, that 64-bit processing is likely to come in handy.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you build it cheap enough, will they come?
Fry’s, an electronics retail outfit in the U.S., of¬fered two low-cost tablets as “Black Friday” specials last week.
When you can buy a 7-inch tablet, even one with limited resolution, for less than $50 at a retail store, they become stocking-stuffers. How can the brands deal with that? Well, of course, they can— in the same way Bentley and Mercedes deal with Fiats: they ignore them. Low-cost items don’t affect their customer base.
But you’re not going to see any 8-core, 64-bit pro¬cessors in a sub-$100 tab¬let or a sub-$200 smartphone. And, you’re going to see a lot of 8-core 64-bit SoCs in a year’s time. Don’t worry, they’ll build them, and we’ll come and buy ’em.
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