ARM 64-bit processors could come to multifunction printers too

AppliedMicro is introducing its Helix ARM 64-bit embedded processor family at ARM TechCon

From smartphones, tablets and servers, ARM's 64-bit processors could soon spread to multifunction printers, storage and networking devices.

Chip maker AppliedMicro early next month will announce a new family of ARM-based chips called Helix, which is targeted at embedded devices and appliances used in data centers and offices. The company will share more details about the product family during a session at the ARM TechCon conference in Santa Clara, California, early next month.

AppliedMicro is best known for its 64-bit ARM server processor called X-Gene, and the Helix chips are based on the same ARMv8 architecture used in the server chip. The multicore Helix chips will be faster in performance and data throughput than AppliedMicro's existing 32-bit chips in multifunction printers, storage systems, media gateways and networking devices. The company currently relies mostly on the PowerPC architecture for its embedded chips.

The Helix chips will have "power-optimized" features, low-latency memory and custom pipelines for faster embedded-system performance, according to session notes.

AppliedMicro declined to provide additional details about Helix. But the ARMv8 architecture has features such as error correction and virtualization rarely found in embedded devices. Embedded chips also have a range of memory, storage and networking interfaces.

AppliedMicro's Helix will be one of many embedded device and "Internet of Things" announcements made by companies at TechCon, which is organized by ARM Holdings.

ARM licenses processor designs to chip companies, which then make products. ARM dominates smartphones and tablets, but is looking for a larger piece of the embedded market, which includes equipment used in casinos, banks, hospitals and other industries. ARM's older 32-bit architectures have gained ground, breaking years of dominance by the MIPS and PowerPC architectures.

AppliedMicro's immediate competitors will be Advanced Micro Devices and Cavium, which plan to ship ARM 64-bit chips for embedded devices. AMD has announced chips for networking, communication and other embedded devices. Cavium has mostly made networking and communication chips based on the MIPS architecture, but is now formulating 64-bit ARM chips for use in servers and embedded devices.

The delivery of Helix chips by AppliedMicro will be closely watched. The company introduced its X-Gene server chips in 2011, but delayed shipment of the products, which are now expected to be in servers early next year.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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