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Broadcom licenses ARMv7, ARMv8 for future solutions

Broadcom is ponying up for ARMv7 and ARMv8 licenses for future processors the chip maker plans to develop and design for broadband solutions, set-top boxes, and other possible product avenues.

ARM's 32-bit ARMv7 architecture, used in the UK firm's Cortex-A15 and Cortex-A9 designs, is the foundation for many of the current processors found in mobile devices and embedded systems. ARM is also moving to a 64-bit instruction set for the first time with its next-gen ARMv8 architecture and Broadcom is "one of the lead partners for the Cortex-A50 series of processors, the first implementation of the ARMv8 architecture," the companies said on Tuesday.

"As the first ARM architecture to enable 64- as well as 32-bit execution, the ARMv8 architecture represents a significant milestone for ARM and opens up new opportunities and markets for our silicon partners," ARM president Simon Segars said in a statement.

In recent years, Broadcom has been pushing several leading edge technologies for embedded systems and, of course, its range of wireless and wired communications products, including NFC and speedier "5G" Wi-Fi chips built to the 802.11ac standard.

"Access to the ARMv7 and ARMv8 architecture will enable Broadcom to bring innovation through highly optimised 32- and 64-bit SoC implementations to deliver high-performance, low-power solutions across a broad range of market applications including broadband access and set-top box," Daniel A. Marotta, executive vice president and general manager of Broadcom's Broadband Communications Group, said.

It's natural when hearing of a new ARM licensee to think of the possibility that a new player in mobile device processors might be emerging, given the ARM architecture's dominance in the chips that power smartphones, tablets, and other consumer devices. Broadcom, however, is probably not making such a play, according to Patrick Moorhead, lead analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy.

"I believe that like Broadcom says, this is in fact for set-top box and broadband implementations. They just don't have the capacity to dive into the smartphone market — it's such a crowded field and Broadcom doesn't add incrementally to it," Moorhead said.

Will 2013 be the year that the "ARMpire" strikes back? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below!