ARM announces leap in processor power

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ARM Holdings, the Cambridge-based semiconductor technology developer, yesterday unveiled a new processor that will power the next generation of mobile devices and vastly increase the battery life of high-tech gadgets.

Companies that develop mobile phones are under constant pressure to support flashy new functions, but need to ensure that the user experience is consistent as new applications can put a strain on the performance of the device. This is particularly true with battery life as features such as video calling, internet surfing and three-dimensional graphics use a lot of power.

To meet the needs of future devices, ARM has unveiled its new multi-core processor – the Cortex A9 – overnight at its developer conference in California. The new processor is up to 16 times faster than the high-tech company's previous Cortex processor according to Ian Drew, vice president of segment marketing at ARM, and will be built into devices such as smart-phones for release in 2010. He described the new processor as "the building blocks" for future devices.

Mr Drew said consumers will want devices to have comparable, if not better, battery life than today's models. "People measure battery power in days, not hours and I don't think that is going to change," he said.

The company has already signed up a host of hardware customers including semiconductor giants Texas Instruments, ST Microelectronics and NEC, as well as Symbian, the mobile phone operating system developer.

Mario Morales, an analyst with research company IDC, said: "ARM continues to raise the bar in performance for mobile and battery operated applications."

Devices using ARM's previous Cortex product – A8 – will start to appear on the market in 2008 said Mr Drew and will better support richer graphics, internet browsing and mobile broadband access, as well as "whacky new features" such as using a mobile phone as a video projector.