Why Intel’s deal with Rockchip is the first salvo in a long war against ARM.
You saw the announcement and one may say, who cares?
Well yes, Rockchip is not Qualcomm or Mediatek, and its focus is the low-to-mid end of ARM ecosystem. And that is precisely the segment of the ARM market that was affected to the greatest extent by higher ARM license fees for the next cores in this segment — rumoured to be some $20 Million for the Cortex-A12 core, for instance. For that money, other companies like the local independent IP startup Icube could design you a brand new multi-threaded 64-bit CPU-GPU hybrid, useable even in HPC.
So, in parallel with its ARM business, Rockchip is now going to be part of the Atom “ecosystem” a boring but correct word for the case. Why is it important for Intel? Well, Atom stuff, not to mention ULV Broadwell and Skylake CPUs over the next two years, can easily beat even the top ARM offerings in performance, but the cost remains an issue. So, why not try a “pincer” movement on ARM and cover it from the top by its higher-speed Atoms and such, while companies like Rockchip help optimise the low end platform cost to help at the bottom?
While ARM is having a time of its life these days, they should take the challenge more seriously — after all, since the first 1985 “Acorn RISC Machine”, i.e. ARM, appeared, the processors stayed 32-bit, until this year. Not much innovation, compared to, say, MIPS which was fully 64-bit since 1990, and fully mature in its 64-bitness? Rockchip may not be the biggest of the bunch, but it is a beginning of a trend among the ARM licensees if the terms do not improve further.