ARM’s new CEO will resist the siren call of acquisition, chasing smaller, more ubiquitous chips rather than a lucrative pay out from Apple or other 300 licensees of the widespread SoC technology. Currently president of the firm, Simon Segars told the Guardian that ARM would cling resolutely to independence no matter how big the wallet waved under its nose, describing the strategy as “the right model” in a market that demands confidentiality.
ARM is privy to the roadmaps and product plans of hundreds of companies, Segars pointed out, many of whom are arch rivals in the marketplace. “They rely on the neutrality of our position” he insists, a continuation of the strategy of outgoing CEO Warren East. East will step down from his role in July, ending twelve years in charge of the chip tech firm.
However, while ARM’s current good fortune is on the back of smartphones and tablets, such as Apple’s iPhone and iPad, Segars isn’t in idle. The company is looking to the so-called “internet of things” – every device having a web connection, and able to intercommunicate its status – where it envisages the the next surge in growth.
ARM chips “could be embedded in lightbulbs, the concrete of the road you’re driving on, in the bathroom scales” Segars explains, or “in your refrigerator working out when the milk is going to go off.”
Some of the company’s biggest licensees, such as Texas Instruments, have already thrown their weight behind the internet of things. The OMAP manufacturer will backtrack from smartphone chips and instead look to embedded SoCs, it announced back in September 2012, with a new line of low-power wireless options.
Meanwhile, ARM is also looking to crank up the pressure on Intel, with plans to push its chip technology into what would traditionally have been considered the domain of x86 processors. Servers and mainstream PCs are another target for ARM, with 64-bit models in the pipeline.
However, it’s the potential for a big name like Apple to jump ship from Intel and instead use low-power, efficient ARM-based chips that has many tongues wagging in the industry. That has prompted speculation that Apple might try to invest or even acquire ARM outright, something though that does not look likely with Segars at the helm.