Henri Richard, Chief Sales and Chief Marketing Officer at Freescale Semiconductor, answered our questions surrounding the embedded ARM application processor market and existing as well as evolving opportunities for developers. Read Richard’s view why Intel has difficulties gaining traction in traditional ARM areas of strength and on the ARM trends for the immediate future of hardware and application makers.
GBR: When we discuss mobile applications and entertainment development today, we typically think of smartphones and tablets. How is Freescale involved in these markets?
Henri Richard: Freescale has elected to participate in these markets very selectively. We focus on the professional applications that use smartphone or tablet like technologies and are involved in the apps processor, power management and sensors aspects of these platforms.
GBR: What would you consider the most significant technology trends in ARM processor technology today and why?
Henri Richard: We see some very interesting implementations of asymmetric core designs that will allow the combination of very low power modes with high performance modes. These “smart” multi core implementations will enable interesting use case models.
GBR: How will a Freescale processor for mobile applications in two or three years differ from the ones we have today?
Henri Richard: While I can’t discuss unreleased products, we clearly see a multitude of market opportunities where the combination of real-time kernels and higher-level industry standard OSes will require new generations of products like our industry first Vybrid family of processors.
GBR: What does the market entry of Intel into this segment mean for Freescale?
Henri Richard: Embedded computing is a market that is ruled by very different laws than the PC market. While Intel is always a competitor to be aware of, we don’t see them getting much traction with the customers that are the market makers. I think that everyone is concerned with not allowing embedded computing be ruled by the same model that killed true innovation in the PC world.
GBR: Has Intel’s entry changed Freescale’s product and market strategy?
Henri Richard: Not really. Competition is a good thing as long as monopolistic behaviors are not allowed to rule markets.
GBR: With Windows RT/Windows 8 for ARM coming later this year, is there an opportunity for Freescale to claim a stake in the notebook market?
Henri Richard: We have so many opportunities in the vast market of the “Internet of things” that I don’t see the need for Freescale to enter the notebook space, besides it isn’t clear to me that future generations will use notebooks
GBR: How significant do you think will this Windows RT/Windows 8 market be for Freescale?
Henri Richard: We are partnering with Microsoft in many areas and have done so for many years. Clearly, they are facing the most important product launch ever and we will support the joint customers that will make that platform choice.
GBR: Can ARM processor companies effectively compete in this market with traditional x86 makers?
Henri Richard: The competition is increasingly centered around system knowledge rather than core architecture. End user don’t care about instructions sets. Apple demonstrated clearly that you can be extraordinarily successful with a core-agnostic strategy.
GBR: Besides mobile products, it appears that the automotive environment could become a market for application developers. How long do you believe will this market take to develop until app developers can sell into this segment and why?
Henri Richard: Safety and legal liabilities are serious barriers to entry in the automotive market. While we could see opportunities for an app ecosystem at some point in the future, I don’t see it happening any time soon given the automotive manufacturers relentless pursuit of zero default and the potential issues with safety that downloadable apps would create.
GBR: How significant do you think will the automotive market be for app developers?
Henri Richard: While the opportunity for an open app market place is certainly not imminent, auto manufacturers are increasingly recognizing that the possibility of customizing the dashboard experience will become an integral part of their brand signature. They are rapidly hiring as many software engineers as they can and will compete on that part of the car experience as much as they do on the other attributes like performance, safety or luxury. So talented software developers that have an interest in the automotive sector will have a wealth of opportunities to choose from.
GBR: If an app developer asked you today what the most important trend for the next 12 months in processor development will be, what advice would you give?
Henri Richard: The advent of cheap multi core processors is creating both the opportunity for incredible performance and the challenge of highly capable parallelism in apps. When facing a new idea, app developers will need to structure their software to take advantage of this trend from the onset and always assume that we will provide them with more cores then they can use, at least for the decade ahead.
We would like to thank Henri Richard for taking time to answer our questions.
Henri Richard is Senior Vice President and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Freescale Semiconductor.