Samsung to license UK chip designs

A SMALL Cambridge firm will today announce a multimillion-pound deal that could put British chip technology into consumer electronics goods on sale worldwide.

Advanced RISC Machines designs innovative computer chips, then licenses other companies that want to use them in their own products. The company would not reveal the exact terms of the licensing deal with Samsung, one of the world's largest electronics companies, but said it hoped the partnership would give it access to applications beyond straightforward computing.

It could result in ARM chips being used at the heart of smart cards, cellular telephone and faxes, interactive televisions, multimedia systems, laser printers and hard-disk drives.

ARM began as a 12-strong operation in 1990, spun out of Acorn. It now has 70 staff, and expects to reach 200 by the end of next year. Robin Saxby, managing director, said of today's deal: 'Our goal is to make ours the leading consumer electronics chip.'

The company's financial performance over the past three years is persuasive. It lost pounds 220,000 on a turnover of pounds 950,000 in its first year, pounds 34,000 on a turnover of pounds 1.2m in its second, and in the first half of 1993 alone saw a profit of pounds 220,000 on a turnover of pounds 1.1m.

The company already has licensing arrangements with Sharp in Japan, VLSI Technology and Texas Instruments in the US and GEC-Plessey in the UK. An ARM chip is also at the heart of Apple's 'Newton' - a personal organiser with fax and electronic mail.

ARM designs a type of computer processor known as a Reduced Instruction Set Computer. This is a combination of hardware and software that relies on carrying out a few common operations to tackle a problem. Risc chips, often smaller than their conventional counterparts, are usually faster too.

The core of ARM's Risc chip is about one-eighth the size of a fingernail. Mr Saxby claims this is the world's smallest and offers the lowest power consumption and cheapest price.

Last year, ARM's chip took 8 per cent of the world market for Risc chips, placing it fourth after three US manufacturers.