ARM’s practice of licensing its low-power CPU cores to practically anyone who wants to build a chip has been wildly successful in the past five years. It’s had the effect of flinging computing power from a PC at the center of the network out to every node, from printers to routers to NAS boxes, smart phones, and tablets. As a result, ARM has become the biggest threat to Intel’s dominance that we’ve seen in a generation. However, in order for ARM-based CPUs to step into even more roles, they have some catching up to do. For starters, they’re going to have to transition to 64-bit memory addressing.
Plans are already in place to do so, of course, and David Kanter has taken a long, hard look at the proposed ARMv8 archiecture. His overview is worth reading, if you care about such things. Kanter mostly likes what he sees. Allow me to lift a bit from his conclusions:
Like x86, ARMv7 had a fair bit of cruft, and the architects took care to remove many of the byzantine aspects of the instruction set that were difficult to implement. The peculiar interrupt modes and banked registers are mostly gone. Predication and implicit shift operations have been dramatically curtailed. The load/store multiple instructions have also been eliminated, replaced with load/store pair. Collectively, these changes make AArch64 potentially more efficient than ARMv7 and easier to implement in modern process technology.
Among other things, ARMv8 should have a very direct impact on Nvidia’s project Denver and, of course, the future of Apple’s iDevices.