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Chip licensor ARM has become a clear-cut leader in the mobile market, with its low-power chip architectures fueling a massive 95 percent of the world's smartphones. But, the U.K.-based company is also relying on its hundreds of chip licensee partners to broaden its reach into other client device markets, including digital cameras and TVs.
In a recent interview with CRN, Jeff Chu, director of client computing at ARM, said the company is focusing intently on aligning itself with the consumerization of IT and other trends that challenge traditional methods of computing. Consumers no longer rely exclusively on desktop or notebook PCs to receive information, Chu explained, and ARM is ensuring it stays ahead of that trend by claiming a stake in other, less conventional computing markets.
"We have 95 percent of the mobile market today and, yes, PCs represent an opportunity [for ARM] to grow ... but really what you are seeing is the spill-over effect into other devices, and that ties back to the fact that computing is spreading across all of our devices," Chu said. "Computing isn’t a device anymore; it’s an experience."
One of the markets in which ARM is looking to grow is digital TVs and set-top boxes. Last year, Chu said, ARM held about 40 percent share in this market. But as more TVs become internet-connected and start to adopt a more PC-like role, it is looking to grow that number to between 70 and 80 percent by 2016.
The digital camera market, where ARM currently holds about 80 percent market share, is another potential area for growth, Chu continued.
ARM’s ability to so aggressively go after new markets -- and account for such a large portion of the markets in which it currently plays -- stems from its unique license-based business model. Its chip architectures are licensed to nearly 275 different companies, ranging from Nvidia to Texas Instruments, which infuse their own technology and then sell the finalized chips to their own respective markets, Chu explained.
This, in turn, allows ARM-based chips to touch a much broader range of markets, a feat that might not be possible without its licensee-based model.
The low-power nature of ARM-based chips also feeds into their ability to be adopted in a variety of devices and markets. Power efficiency, which Chu said is "inherently" part of ARM’s architecture, is especially critical to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, where battery life can deplete quickly if power isn’t conserved.