ARM announces 14nm deal with IBM

The good news continues for British chip design firm ARM, undoubtedly the darling of this year's Consumer Electronics Show, which has just announced a deal with IBM to help smooth the path to a 14nm production process.

ARM is best known as a specialist in designing low-power, high-performance processors - and ships the vast majority of the processors found in the embedded, smartphone, and tablet markets. Recently, it's been making moves on x86 giant Intel, introducing server-friendly features - including support for large quantities of memory and virtualisation extensions - and declaring its clear intention to attack the netbook, notebook, and even desktop markets.

The company's low-power designs, based around the RISC architecture it developed back when it was still known as Acorn RISC Machines, are considered the best in the business - but the company has some difficult times ahead as it attempts to shrink the process size to create smaller, faster, and even more power-efficient designs.

That's where IBM, which also designs its own processors, comes in: extending a collaborative research and development agreement which was already in place between the two companies, this most recent deal will see IBM help ARM move beyond the 40nm, 32nm, and 28nm process sizes it currently uses right the way down to a 14nm process size - producing chips that are cheaper, faster, and generally better than anything currently available from ARM's many licensees.

Michael Cadigan, general manager of IBM's microelectronics arm, stated of the agreement: "We plan to continue working closely with ARM and our foundry customers to speed the momentum of ARM technology by delivering highly advanced, low-power semiconductor technology for a variety of new communications and computing devices."

Simon Segars, executive vice president of ARM's physical intellectual property division, was equally ebullient about the deal: "IBM has a proven track record of delivering the core research and development that is relied upon by major semiconductor vendors worldwide for their advanced semiconductor devices. Their leadership of the ISDA alliance, which features a diverse set of top-tier companies as members, is growing in importance as consolidation trends in the semiconductor manufacturing industry continue."

With ARM already leading in the mobile markets, and Microsoft's announcement at CES that Windows 8 would support the company's architecture, this latest announcement is yet one more thing for x86 leader Intel to worry about.

Terms of the deal were not publicised by either company.