ARM Maintains Lead Over MIPS And Power Architecture In The Battle For The Digital Home

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 

LONDON, England — Analysis of findings from Semicast’s Embedded Processing Service shows that ARM (LSE: ARM; Nasdaq: ARMH) maintained its position as the leading architecture for embedded processors in digital home applications in 2008, ahead of MIPS (NasdaqGS: MIPS) and Power Architecture.

In its most recent analysis of the market opportunities for ARM in embedded processing, Semicast estimates that cell phones accounted for around 60% of revenues for ARM-based embedded processors in 2008, with other applications making up the remaining 40%. Over the next five years, that ratio is forecast to move to closer to 50/50, as ARM expands its presence in markets and applications beyond the phone. Colin Barnden, Principal Analyst at Semicast Research, commented “Semicast identifies the Digital Home as a key growth area for the ARM architecture in the years ahead, as well as one of the key battlegrounds for suppliers of embedded processors”.

ARM is estimated to have maintained the leading position over both MIPS and Power Architecture in digital home applications in 2008 and, looking beyond the 2009 downturn, Semicast judges that ARM will extend its lead over both architectures in the medium term. Semicast’s research shows that ARM and MIPS are engaged in a ferocious battle in applications such as home networking gear, handheld games consoles, media players/MP3 players, digital cameras, digital TVs, set-top boxes and DVD recorders, all of which are key growth areas for both architectures over the coming years. In comparison, Power Architecture has achieved the dominant position in wired games consoles, with design-wins for the Sony PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Xbox 360. However Power Architecture is forecast to see only a moderate increase in revenues in other areas of the Digital Home, so its presence in the coming years is judged to remain somewhat limited to the console arena.

Historically, x86 has not had a significant presence in the Digital Home, with its mix of price, performance and power consumption not best suited to consumer appliances. However lower power, lower cost variants of the x86 processor have been introduced in recent years, such as Intel’s Atom, while the partnership between Intel and TSMC to introduce the Atom processor as a CPU core for ASICs and ASSPs will further help to establish the x86 architecture in the Digital Home, where highly customized solutions are the norm. In the view of Semicast, x86 has some way to go to catch ARM, MIPS and Power Architecture in the Digital Home, so it cannot be viewed as a significant competitor in the short term. However it would be unwise to dismiss the medium and long term threat; for example, should AMD or Intel dislodge Power Architecture with an x86 processor in one of the next generation of wired games consoles, x86 revenues could pass Power Architecture’s in the Digital Home even prior to 2014.

Of suppliers of ARM, MIPS and Power Architecture-based embedded processors to digital home applications in 2008, Broadcom is estimated to have been the market leader. IBM, NXP, Samsung and Toshiba make up the top five, which between them accounted for over 50% of processor revenues.