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ARM: The Non-Evil Monopolist 452

Posted by michael
from the there's-a-slogan-for-you dept.
yootje writes "ZDNet is running an article about ARM, a chip-maker who controls more than 80% of the cell phone market and 40% of the digital camera market. ARM shipped 780,000,000 processors last year. ZDNet finds it strange that no one seems to have anything against this company. And maybe it is strange: according to the article many would say ARM is a monopolist, but you never hear anyone say 'ARM sucks!'. But then again, why would they?"
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ARM: The Non-Evil Monopolist

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  • ARM--- (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jace of Fuse! (72042) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:05AM (#9659846) Homepage
    Why should I have anything against the company that makes the processor in my GBA? :D
    • Re:ARM--- (Score:4, Funny)

      by Trejkaz (615352) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:01AM (#9660006) Homepage
      Exactly. Whereas if the GBA had to run Windows, we would be totally furious.
    • Re:ARM--- (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aurispector (530273) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @07:43AM (#9660215)
      The strong arm tactics employed by
      MS, SCO, etc., reflect an implicit lack of faith that their products can compete fairly in an open market. If these companies really believed that their products and services were superior they wouldn't need to force people to use them.

      What does this say about the RIAA & MPAA?
      • Re:ARM--- (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lemmy Caution (8378)
        Um, often monopolies are the result of an open market. SCO isn't forcing people to use them, SCO is trying to force people to pay them for (groundless) IP claims. Microsoft isn't forcing anyone to use them, either.

        The RIAA and the MPAA aren't trying to force anyone to listen to their music or watch their films, either. They're trying to enforce a physical-property model on an effortlessly duplicable product, but that's hardly evidence of anything resembling a monopoly.
    • by c0p0n (770852)
      ... oh, forget it.
  • I kind of like ARM (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:06AM (#9659849) Homepage Journal
    Maybe their lack of problems comes from the fact that they don't employ sumbarine patents, price fixing, coercion or collusion to keep their position in the market.

    They just make a product that's good for its intended purpose and let the marketplace decide.

    If only more companies would follow that lead, this would be a better world.

    LK
    • by sacmog (779672) <sacmog@techemail.com> on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:12AM (#9659871) Homepage
      Hey, I have two ARM's and they don't suck at all. Maybe if they did I wouldn't need the ..... Never mind. Wrong topic. (Had to be said).
    • by Biogenesis (670772) <overclocker DOT ... e DOT com DOT au> on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:32AM (#9660070) Homepage
      It might also be the fact that it's not a name you hear all the time...if at all (this is the first I've heard of them. Like a lot of M$ hate exists because there are millions of people using products that advertise that they are made by M$ and couple that with a mostly undereducated userbase and you're bound to run into problems.

      So yeah, I think it's because when people see a computer crash they also see Microsoft (even if it's a dodgy realtek driver that actually crashed), result: Microsoft cops shit.

      If you get a dodgy phone with an ARM chip you're going to see Nokia/Erricson/etc result: Nokia/Erricson/ect cops shit.

      Likewise Olympus/Kodak/Canon etc will be blamed for poor cameras, again ARM gets away even if it's there problem.
      • by mek2600 (677900)
        Exactly. They're one of the few companies that befefits from obscurity. If you need to know who ARM is, you already know. If you don't need to know who ARM is then they're happy to continue their practice of not telling you who they are. A side benefit- I bet they save a lot on advertising this way. :)
        • by stevew (4845) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @09:36AM (#9660479) Journal
          There is so much nonsense in this series I'm not sure what to comment about.

          ARM advertises -just not in the magazines you read! Further, ARM isn't a monopolist, they just happen to be the most successful and oldest of the companies that supply this type of item. There is also Tensilica, MIPS, and ARC to name three of their competitors.

          They also have done a good job of propagating their technology by giving some of it away! What say you? Yep. They have published the specs for the AMBA bus which has become the defacto standard for connecting things together inside a chip.

          Now -they didn't give away their own implementations of this stuff, but the spec is more than sufficient to build the structure in a couple of days.

          Perhaps ARMs biggest success has indeed been their market path. They have done deals with every major chip manufacturer so that I can get access to their designs by merely paying royalties. I can go give them 750K up front if I want their IP to use myself, or I can pay maybe 50 cents a chip instead. This gives me a lower entry price with only the foundary guys paying the 750K. In one fashion they get paid twice!

          In any case, they aren't the only ones on the market, merely the most successful.
      • by aminorex (141494) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @11:26AM (#9660989) Homepage Journal
        The people who think Intel is evil are those
        who know their products from the inside out.
        The people who approve most of ARM are those
        who know their products from the inside out.

        ARM didn't set back human progress 30 years
        with segmented memory. Andy Grove *still*
        hasn't burned at the stake for that crime,
        believe it or not.
        • by Misagon (1135)
          The concept of segmented memory is not that bad if you do it right. Look at Multics. They got segmentation right, but it could of course be better.
          Intel did not combine segmentation with paging in the right way when they added paged memory.
          Besides, seg. has hardly been used on the PC for a decade anyway ...
        • by TheLink (130905)
          Intel's segmented memory isn't a sign of evilness. I don't see much malice in that. Incompetence maybe, or just lack of foresight.

          Intel doesn't seem to have such great CPU designers (they did start to get better with the 486 onwards. Still...), but they seem to have very good process and fab engineers.
    • They just make a product that's good for its intended purpose and let the marketplace decide.

      If only more companies would follow that lead, this would be a better world.


      Don't you think this would be unfair to the people who are unable to make a product that's good for its intended purpose? What would all the PHB's do?

      How do you expect the Darl McBride's of the world to get rich?

      In fact, this points to a basic premise. It's a dog eat dog world. Everyone wants to compete. ARM is an example th
  • Shipped? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mst76 (629405) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:06AM (#9659852)
    I didn't know ARM "shipped" any processors at all.
    • Re:Shipped? (Score:2, Informative)

      by deminisma (703135)
      Right. As the article says ARM designs chips and then license the designs to parties that then manufacture them.
    • Re:Shipped? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by joe_bruin (266648) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:29AM (#9660065) Homepage Journal
      ARM shipped 780,000,000 processors last year

      indeed, i don't think ARM shipped any processors at all. ARM designs and licenses cores. from low powered arm7's in your run of the mill mp3 player, to a 400+mhz arm9/strongarm/xscale in high end pdas. arm-based chips are produced by dozens of manufacturers in many countries. arm cores run linux (and have a big developer community), wince, and multiple embedded operating systems.

      i think the real failing of the linked story, however, is that ARM IS NOT A MONOPOLY. sure, they may ship more chips than anyone else. they make a good product. but in the embedded world, there is choice. mips, 68000, super-h, powerpc, dozens of proprietary architectures, even low end x86. if arm decided to pull some of the stuff that intel and microsoft try, they'd have the bottom pulled out of them as everyone migrates to their favorite arch of the day.
      • Re:Shipped? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sirsnork (530512)
        Just to be picky ;-), isn't the xscale an Intel chip that is just compatible with the ARM instruction set?

        I don't think ARM had anything to do with it, in fact I'm pretty sure it's Intels attempt to take market share off ARM.
  • Not just a monopoly. (Score:5, Informative)

    by rebeka thomas (673264) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:07AM (#9659854)
    Being a monopoly isn't illegal

    Using your monopoly position in illegal anticompetitive ways however, is.

    • Yes, but (Score:5, Informative)

      by Raul654 (453029) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:10AM (#9659864) Homepage
      The government also have to show harm to the consumer (at least in the US you do - I don't think they have to in Europe). This is always the hardest part.
      • Re:Yes, but (Score:5, Informative)

        by CAIMLAS (41445) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:20AM (#9659890) Homepage
        I think that, in this scenario, there really hasnt been any harm to the consumer.

        ARM has produced solid products for years and years. They're widely accepted in the "industry" as powerful processors for application-specific tasks that consume low amounts of power, on a relatively small budget.

        What's more, they're a kind of standard. If you're hiring a microcontroller programmer, or an embedded programmer, I'd say there's a pretty good chance that they at least have some exposure to working with ARM hardware, as opposed to something more obscure.

        All this combined decreases the cost of development for the companies, and results in more products coming to market.
    • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:24AM (#9660056) Homepage
      Being a monopoly isn't illegal

      Using your monopoly position in illegal anticompetitive ways however, is.


      Sort of quasi-off-topic, but here goes:

      In Finland we have a rather interesting and deliberate monopoly situation in regards to gambling. Slot machines, tables and casinos are all controlled by RAY [www.ray.fi] (decided by the state, I believe), but RAY on the other hand is a non-profit organization. RAY actially funds all sorts of cultural and social service activities. The same applies to Veikkaus [veikkaus.fi], which controls the lottery, betting on sports and similar stuff.

      The result is that gambling in Finland is indirectly giving money to charity, weird, but nice in it's own way. I guess I'm just trying to say that even a regulated monopoly can be a good thing, sometimes anyhow.
    • by Artifakt (700173) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:56AM (#9660132)
      Being a Monopoly is just a precondition that has to be proved in Antitrust cases.
      In an average criminal case, the DA has to prove that the accused had an opportunity to commit the crime (if the accused claims he didn't, at least). That doesn't mean that every person who had an opportunity to commit the crime did it, but that none of the persons who didn't have any opportunity did. There are probably 100,000 people who can't account for where they were at the time in the OJ Simpson case, and lived close enough to the crime scene that they could theoretically have had an opportunity, but that doesn't mean we should put them all on trial.
      A company that isn't a monopoly has no way to commit certain antitrust violations, but a company that is a monopoly can. That's all it means, can and not did.
    • I don't care what the article says, ARM isn't a monopoly and this is another case of people mis-using the term.

      ARM isn't a monopoly because ARM doesn't have such dominance that it could control the market if it wanted to. To give a comparison: If Microsoft insisted that every computer in 2005 should support the Apple Desktop Bus instead of USB or PS/2 Keyboard/Mice, and ceased selling operating systems that support the older standards, virtually every commodity PC manufacturer in the world would have to c

  • I thought ARM (Score:5, Informative)

    by mocm (141920) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:09AM (#9659859) Homepage
    only designs CPUs. Do they really manufacturethem?
    The article only talks about CPUs shipped, but not that ARM ships them.
    AFAIK ARM cores are use by many chipmaker from Intel to TI, but arm don't sell CPUs.
    • Re:I thought ARM (Score:5, Informative)

      by tsho (129531) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:22AM (#9659899)
      You're right.

      It's well known that ARM is a Connected Community is a global network of companies aligned to provide a complete solution, from design to manufacture, for products based on the ARM architecture.

      Look here: http://www.arm.com/community/

  • by Da_Slayer (37022) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:10AM (#9659861)
    Maybe it is cause ARM does not really shove itself down people's throats. Their business practices help set them apart. In addition, they embrace open source/standards and it's ideals. An example: ...the OpenMAX(TM) working group to define a royalty-free, cross-platform API (application programming interface) that standardizes access to multimedia processing primitives used extensively in video codecs such as MPEG-4, audio and image codecs, and 2D and 3D graphics. The OpenMAX API will enable library and codec implementers to rapidly and effectively make use of the full potential of new silicon - regardless of the underlying hardware architecture.

    Lets see free, cross platform, standardized and hardware independent. That meets all my requirements of a good idea(tm). Also their support for embedded Linux probably does not hurt them either.
    • Not to be crass, but ARM is like the plantation masters who were kind to "their negros". Just wait till a slave tries to escape and you'll see just how nice they really are.

      Sure, ARM is easier going than alot of other outfits, and we don't notice them as much because they deal mostly with companies instead of individuals so their effects on peoples liberty aren't directly noticed as much. But's lets make no mistake about it, there is no nice way to enforce patents any more than there is a nice way to rap
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:11AM (#9659867)
    There are plenty of other monopolies or near monopolies out there. Go read up on Sysco if you want one (they control basically all grain silos in the US). The ones people care about are the one that get press time. The ones that stay low on the radar, almost nobody cares about. Most people don't actually do a lot of general research, they just get in to whatever is news. You have to do a bit of digging to come upon lesser known monopolies.
    • Go read up on Sysco if you want one (they control basically all grain silos in the US). The ones people care about are the one that get press time. The ones that stay low on the radar, almost nobody cares about.

      And Sysco stays "low on the radar" because they don't make a hell of a lot of difference to most people's lives. Maybe bread is a few cents more expensive because of Sysco, big deal. Maybe Sysco executives are fabulously wealthy, but why should anybody care?

      But Microsoft doesn't stay low on the
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:18AM (#9660045)
        If Sysco destoryed all their grain storage and stocks? This would be their right, as they own it. Do you think that would have no impact on the world? Do not think it would have more impact than software bugs?

        Sysco is just the chosen example, there are plenty of others. How about General Electric? They aren't the singular monopoly you are used to, but rather the verticle type, controlling a whole line of products. The make your light bulbs, your appliances, they sell you your insurance, make your medical equipment, your jet engines, you weapon systems, etc. They are a larger company than even Microsoft, the largest in the world last I checked.

        Thing is, you really do care about what you hear about. Now if you have a special intrest in something that most peopel don't and thus hear about something that affects it, maybe you care about something most people don't but really, you limit your scope of care to that which you hear about and matters to you.

        Don't pretend like there aren't other monopolies out there, and that they can't do things to fuck people over. If you haven't researched it and/or don't care, that's fine, but that doesn't change the reality of the situation.

        Also notice I never mentioned Microsoft. I am simply pointing out a general trend. I like using the Sysco example because most people haven't heard of them, and because most people dismiss them with a wave as you do. They never consider what a widespread interruption to the food supply would mean.

        My real point is that companies can be monopolies, so long as they stay off the public radar. My dad works for one such company, but no one knows they are a monopoly so no one cares.
        • by Sique (173459) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:27AM (#9660063) Homepage
          If Sysco destoryed all their grain storage and stocks? This would be their right, as they own it.


          No, they can't. They have contracts to serve. If they leased the grain silos to someone, then they have to keep the silos in good condition, repair any damages and make sure, they are fully functional. If they fail to provide the services they leased out, they have to pay hefty contractual fines. They don't have the "This silo comes without any warranty whatsoever" EULAs.
    • Go read up on Sysco if you want one (they control basically all grain silos in the US).

      It's Cisco, and they make routers, not grain silos. The grain silos guys, geez, what's their name. It starts with an 'S'.
    • by foidulus (743482) * on Saturday July 10, 2004 @10:38AM (#9660771)
      I thought he had a monopoly on thongs....
      Oh, Sysco, not Sisqo, my mistake!
      Sorry, couldn't resist
  • With that amount shipping a year... I really should get around to fiddling with ARM assembly more. Not a bad way to land a job, I bet.
    • Why would learning assembly language help you to a job? Widen your horizon, programming languages are just tools. Its the mind that makes the difference.
    • When I worked in a mobile phone conslutancy, we wanted to remain flexible, and targeted both Hitachi and ARM processors. To do this, we wrote everything apart from a tiny abstracted kernel in portable C.
      All the DSP and layer 1 stuff took place on ASICS, obviously. That's reflected in other places where I've worked too - assembly just isn't required for 99% of tasks nowadays.

      FP.
    • A better reason to learn ARM assembly would be that it's actually really rather pleasant. Very simple, very consistent, very powerful.
  • by bobhagopian (681765) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:13AM (#9659874)
    I propose a simpler explanation: obscurity. The fact that ARM has a large market share doesn't automatically mean that everyone knows about it -- in fact, how many /.ers can honestly say that we know a lot about ARM?

    In short, we at /. are really good at complaining about Microsoft, Intel, AMD, SCO, and just about any company whose name is mentioned. But because ARM keeps a pretty low profile, it avoids the hatred that will inevitably be directed toward it now that its on slashdot.
    • With exception to the nnARM guy, who wrote an ARM7 clone in VHDL...

      http://www.us.design-reuse.com/news/news277.html
    • They might be obscure to you, but not to many of us. They simply haven't recieved any criticism because they haven't done anything to warrant it.
    • by h0tblack (575548) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:02AM (#9660007)
      Arm have a very interesting history. They were originally setup by Acorn back in the early/mid eighties to produce a CPU for the future lines of desktop machines Acorn were producing (A3000, RiscPC's etc). This enabled Acorn to be the first with RISC-on-the-Desktop machines a long time before Apple came along with their claim to this title with their PPC based desktop machines about ten years later.
      ARM were floated off as a seperate entity by Acorn (a very wise move which enabled ARM to grow where Acorn failed) with investment by Acorn, VLSI and Apple (they used the ARM in their Newton). Being a member of Acorn's enthusiast group I was offered dirt cheap shares and only wish I'd had the money to buy some as they rapidly increased in value. Part of this increase came about as ARM partnered with Digital to work on the StrongARM, before becoming rather closer to Digital, and then in turn Intel (as part of some agreement following the two large companies throwing law-suits at each other over unrealted matters). Intel's involvment with ARM enabled them to produce the XScale and no-doubt helped increase penetration in the wider mobile market.
      It's amazing to see a company that I knew from a young age grow into such a pervasive entity. I still have a couple of old Acorn machines, the most powerful of which has one of the first StrongARM chips availible in it, it wasn't until a decade later that I got my next StrongARM, in the form of a much smaller Zaurus. There's also ARM's lurking in games-consoles (GBA, Dreamcast), routers, PDA's, portable music players, mobile phones, infact just about every type of small device. A Lot of people use products with ARM tech in them without even realising it.
      • I also remember hearing that the ARM architecture/instruction set was particularly nice - something about being able to jump or branch on any instruction.

        Does anyone know more about this?
      • There's also ARM's lurking in games-consoles (GBA, Dreamcast), routers, PDA's, portable music players, mobile phones, infact just about every type of small device.

        The Dreamcast uses a Super H 4 as its primary processor, as it needs the SH4's ability to manipulate floating-point vectors natively at reasonable speed.

        There may be an ARM core tucked in there for other purposes (sound?), but SH4 is the heart of the machine.
      • The Dreamcast contains a Hitachi SuperH 4 CPU and a graphics processor developed by PowerVR. The SH4 has many similarities to the ARM, but has very a strong floating point unit (for instance, it's possible to combine blocks of floating point registers for very efficient matrix operations).

        -John
  • i'm not saying this, that, or the other thing about arm, but if you look at the debacle of california and their power problems when electricity was deregulated there, then it is clear that for some matters, a monopoly is actually a good thing

    it's simplistic to think monopoly=bad automatically

    but it's also bad to not recognize where monopolies are a necessary evil due to the high cost and other barriers to competition (do you really want to wire all of california a number of times redundantly for electricity?)

    where you recognize a monopoly as inescapable, you must regulate them, bind them with legislation, and watch them like a hawk... and then they are "good"

    btw, here's another monopoly that just made the news, and no, they are neither good nor necessary:

    us govt and de beers in an agreement to allow them to reenter the us market after a 50 year hiatus for monopolistic practices [bloomberg.com]
    • it's simplistic to think monopoly=bad automatically

      Well, yes and no. A monopoly is not automatically a bad thing. But the market situation lets the supplier set a price where the market, as a whole, is being hurt.

      This does not mean a supplier (in this case ARM) will by default pick such a price - although it would be feasible from a business point of view. There are other aspects to consider: marketing aspects, a low price as an entry barrier etc.

      And even if the supplier does pick the optimal price
    • by AvantLegion (595806) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:35AM (#9660084) Journal
      but if you look at the debacle of california and their power problems when electricity was deregulated there,

      Except applying the word to "deregulation" to CA's power is about as incorrect of a use of a word as is humanly possible.

      Only in California does "deregulation" mean "forced sell-offs, forced price setting, prohibition of long-term supplier contracts, and more external price controls". Only in California can you "deregulate" something and actually come out the other end with more regulation.

      Never, ever should the word "deregulation" be used to refer to what happened in California. There are precious few more gross misuses of a term than that.

  • by King_of_Prussia (741355) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:14AM (#9659878)
    something to hold against a company or person? I thought America was the land of capitalism, where those who rise to the top of their fields (be they individuals or corporations) are lauded for their achievements, not sniped at from the sidelines for being more successful than someone else. I come from a country where "tall poppy syndrome" (the cutting down of those above you) is endemic, and it is not a pleasant environment to operate a business in. If America wishes to stay on top of the world's technology ladder, it would be beneficial to eradicate this attitude towards success.

    I see this kind of ting far too often on slashdot, a post about some great achievement followed by a snarky comment from an editor about its inefficiency or some other nit, to be followed up by hundreds of posts proclaiming how they would have done it better. I say applaud those innovating and succeeding, don't discourage them.

    PS, I have 8 gmail invites to give away (I can't get rid of them fast enough lol), so if you want one please post your obfuscated email addresses below (logged in members only, preference given to subscribers).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:18AM (#9659887)
    http://www.eetimes.com/story/OEG20011102S0121
  • by njdj (458173) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:21AM (#9659892)
    ZDNet finds it strange that no one seems to have anything against this company.

    What ZDNet is implying is this: "People don't like Microsoft because it's a monopoly. But they don't dislike ARM, which is also a monopoly. That's inconsistent and illogical."

    Firstly, it's highly questionable whether ARM can be called a monopoly in the sense that MSFT is, because ARM has only about 80% of its market, vs over 90% in the case of MSFT. ARM's competitors have more than twice as much market share as MSFT's competitors.

    But, much more to the point, ARM has not engaged in illegal practices to bankrupt its competitors. Remember, for example, Microsoft's piracy of Stacker's technology. Remember how they broke Netscape, by reducing the price of their own browser to zero by cross-subsidizing its development. Today, MSFT is trying to strangle Linux by concluding agreements with PC vendors which prohibit sales of dual-boot systems. These agreements, forced on PC vendors by MSFT's enormous market power, are almost certainly illegal, but taking MSFT to court would cost many millions of dollars and the case would last for years. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

    MSFT's attitude is, it's OK to break the law if you can get away with it or if the benefit exceeds the costs. That's why Microsoft is widely (and correctly) perceived as evil, not because it has a large market share.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... for such market dominance. And Motorola, Samsung, Sony and everyone else too. I've vaguely known about ARM for a long time and associated them with RISC chips and some PDAs but didn't know they have gotten so big. This is really big, isn't it? Biggest chip supplier to the hottest and still growing appliance market. The Brits have lost it in many areas where they used to do well but this is pleasant surprise. Congrats to the Brits for a job well done.
  • Hasn't most software either stayed the same price or is now more expensive, while hardware gets cheaper? (50% rhetoric/ 50% inquiry)
    • Hasn't most software either stayed the same price or is now more expensive

      Er, no. Remember the early low functionality word processors and spreadsheets at GBP400 each? You can now get equivalent functionality in freeware or shareware, or a fully functional commercial office suite for less than the original price of a single application. And that's in cash terms, factor in inflation and the prices have come down still further.

      Another example. Remember renting database servers for tens of thousands per mon
  • maybe this... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danalien (545655) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:28AM (#9659913) Homepage
    maybe this link [arm.com] will shead some light on why no-one is agains ARM?! ....

    ..they aren't in the business of 'competeing in/on a manufacturing' bases, but to provide their costumers with the designs they need (Seems like a 'service oriented' approach, to me).

    /* they make their money by licesing 'the final design' on some royalty-base *I guess*, and I guess their costumers sees those royalties as 'part of the manufacturing costs' and don't really care much more about them. +Plus it would cost 'them' more to R&D and Devel/Debug etc etc on their own, then to go with ARM .... Finally it brews down to 'costs' and it seems ARM provides a compelling cost-effecting product/service(s) .... */

  • by DrSkwid (118965) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:29AM (#9659918) Homepage Journal

    Following on from her success with BBC Basic, Sophie Wilson [dotgeek.org] was asked to help with the instruction set, testing it by hand, on paper !

    • by Nighttime (231023) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:16AM (#9660037) Homepage Journal
      Actually, Sophie Wilson is a transsexual.

      And before I get modded a troll for this, it's a well-known fact in the Acorn community. Acorn being the company that helped start ARM and produced a range of desktop machines using said chips. He/she also was involved with the design of the BBC microcomputer.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:47AM (#9660113)
        This is true. He was Roger Wilson when he designed the ARM chip. She is now Sophie. She's fantastically intelligent, but does not suffer fools gladly. You really need to know your stuff if you want to talk to her, and she can be a bit intimidating. Not that she's unfriendly. She also wrote a fair chunk of RiscOS, and sits on the board of Eidos. If you look at Eidos games (eg Tomb Raider) you will find all the FMV scenes are in Acorn-originated Replay format. With this video codec Acorn computers could do full-screen FMV when PCs where struggling along with postage-stamp size video. Sophie is a visionary and we've a lot to thank her for.

        Phillip.
      • by seanvaandering (604658) <sean.vaandering@gmail. c o m> on Saturday July 10, 2004 @10:03AM (#9660597)
        Actually, Sophie Wilson is a transsexual.

        Sophie Wilson, formerly Roger Wilson, is a British computer scientist. In 1978 she designed the Acorn Microcomputer, which was the first of a long line of computers sold by Acorn, Ltd. In 1981 she developed BBC BASIC for the BBC Microcomputer, a microcomputer that enabled Acorn to win a contract with the British Broadcasting Corporation. In 1983 she developed one of the first RISC processors, the Acorn RISC Machine (ARM).

        More on Sophie at her homepage [sophie.org.uk]
    • > Following on from her success with BBC Basic, Sophie Wilson was asked to help with the instruction set, testing it by hand, on paper.

      Heh... BBC basic....

      Amazingly fast... too bad it also didn't do any garbage collection or freeing of memory of no longer used variables and such... I recall wondering for a while how they got it as fast as they did.. untill I got my hands on the basic roms.

      For that matter.. the ARM was first used in the Acorn Archimedes wasn't it?
  • because... (Score:2, Informative)

    by dj245 (732906)
    And maybe it is strange: according to the article many would say ARM is a monopolist, but you never hear anyone say 'ARM sucks!'. But then again, why would they?"

    Intel is Arm's strongest compeditor in low-power embedded chips with its Xscale chips. Unfortunately, Intel has applied the Pentium 4's famous Netburst architecture to the poor Xscale, resulting in marvelous clock speeds of over 700mhz, but with much added heat and power consumption. You can probably imagine what this does to battery life. The

    • Re:because... (Score:2, Informative)

      by mooman22 (312066)
      Unless I am very much mistaken the XScale is based on the ARM instruction set.

      So Intel isn't competing against ARM with the XScale as they pay ARM to use the design.

      Rather than making it suck, Intel have produced a higher clock rate version of the architecture for use in applications that need more oomph.

      See: Intel PXA255 Processor with Intel XScale Technology [intel.com]
    • Re:because... (Score:3, Informative)

      by mikrorechner (621077)
      Intel is Arm's strongest compeditor in low-power embedded chips with its Xscale chips.
      Sorry, but that's BS.

      As you can see here [intel.com] and here [arm.com], Xscale is based on ARM designs, thus making Intel an ARM customer, not a competitor.
  • not strange ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mqx (792882)
    ``and maybe it is strange: according to the article many would say ARM is a monopolist, but you never hear anyone say 'ARM sucks!'. But then again, why would they?"``

    It's not strange at all: consumers and end users know little nor care little about the embedded processor, and frankly, the choice of embedded processor has little if any impact on the end user.

    There are many other monopolies in various parts of society that people don't get worked up about.

  • by ezraekman (650090) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @05:43AM (#9659964) Homepage

    I don't think people dislike monopolies. They dislike what monopolies have come to represent, and what they can lead to. I don't hate the idea of a monopoly. Do you? I just don't like the apparent and usually inevitable consequences.

    Monopolies aren't inherently evil, just like dictators. It's just that in almost every example of their existence, they have shown to be detrimental to individuals, businesses, or society as a whole. A "benevolent", utilitarian dictator with the intent to make life better for his/her people could be beneficial to society. He/she would not be limited by legislation, and could focus on working towards a better future without worrying about bureaucracy or red tape. History demonstrates that any good utilitarian tries to amass as much wealth and influence as possible in order to serve these exact purposes. The more power they have, the better job they can do to serve the people. Humans would do much better with a benevolent dictator that they could ever come close to with any semblance of democracy.

    Of course, history also demonstrates that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The day the "benevolent" dictator decides that they've done enough for society and that it's time to serve themselves is the day that everything goes downhill. The unfortunate fact is that those who would make good dictators would never be ruthless enough to attain such power. If they were, they probably wouldn't be in the best interest of the public good.

    A monopoly is not bad in theory. If a company or organization had a monopoly on... say, microchips, they could drive the technology much faster and better, because they would control every aspect of it. They wouldn't have to worry so much about their software being compatible with their hardware, because they always know exactly what processor is being used. They wouldn't have to fight with competitors over standards, and could add as much functionality as they wanted, setting their own standards.

    Unfortunately, theory is not the real world. In practice, monopolies don't do things because they're in the best interest of the public. They do them because they're in the best interest of the company. (Or at least, the company's officers.) This leads to higher profits (theoretically), but lower customer satisfaction. Some side-effects include buggy software, products that fail or break sooner than they should, etc. Because of this, the getting-screwed-public gets fed up and starts hollering. Thus, everyone hates monopolies. But what if the products and services of a monopoly just worked? I'll bet John Q. Public wouldn't care one way or the other at that point.

    The average person doesn't care if something goes well. They become livid when there's a problem. A customer won't usually do very much if a company does their job exceedingly well. They will usually boycott the company and stage a rally if the company does poorly. I took an entrepreneurship class in 1992, and learned that the average person would tell 3 people when they were pleased with a product or service, but 11 when they were displeased. Since the internet became the next big thing (around 1994-1995) those numbers have probably skyrocketed. Humans are a loud, complaining bunch.

    So is a monopoly bad? Not inherently, but they usually end up that way. I'd say that no one is going after ARM because their products just work and don't seem to cause problems. Their monopoly has not intentionally shut down any competition, or blatantly violated anti-trust laws. Until they screw us, I say more power to 'em.

    • does NOT corrupt absolutely; absolute power attracts the corrupt. No matter how "benevolent" a dictator, it is immoral to coerce men to act against their will. Only someone corrupt would WANT absolute power; viz. every president since, oh, 1792.
  • No choice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nempo (325296)
    I think people don't say 'ARM sucks' because you can't really customize your cell phone/pda with this or that cpu, how much ram/hdd you want or what gfx card you want.

    If you could actually build a DIY phone as most builds their computer THEN we probably would complain about the monopoly.
  • by Fizzl (209397) <[fizzl] [at] [fizzl.net]> on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:00AM (#9660002) Homepage Journal
    ARM does good business. They support they cutomers. they make good products. That's all. I don't care if they are a monopoly as long as they continue to be the benevolent dictator.

    They ship exactly what the customer wants. In cell-phone markets it's common to "roll your own" processor. You basically order the ARM core and then tell them exactly what instructions you want to be in the chip. They will deliver that.
  • by spectrokid (660550) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:05AM (#9660015) Homepage
    ARM does not sell to the consumer. They sell to other companies who have a professional purchase department. And if ARM tries to pull the same stunts as MS does, they will see a decline in sales, like, DAMN fast....
    • like MS? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Xtifr (1323) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @07:32AM (#9660202) Homepage
      Somewhere around 90% of MS's operating system sales are to other companies, called OEMs, or Original Equipment Manufacturers. Companies like HP and IBM and Dell and Gateway and a horde of smaller vendors. It's MS's actual customers, the OEMs, who were complaining about their strong-arm tactics and abusive pricing schemes and whatnot. (Although many of the OEMs complained quietly, for fear of offending the great and mighty MS who could crush them like a bug and triple the overall costs of their systems on a whim.) The whole reason the USDOJ got involved with the question of browsers is that OEMs wanted to offer their customers a choice between Netscape and IE (this was, if you'll recall, back when Netscape dominated the market), and MS said, "try it and we'll remove your generative organs with a rusty spoon."

      Anyway, the real point is not that MS has a "more real" monopoly or something. The big issue is that MS abuses their monopoly. Gratuitously and incessantly. When you have a monopoly, free market rules no longer apply (by definition), so the market has to trust in your good behavior. Which is why abuse of monopoly is called "anti-trust".
  • Maybe they're like that company in Halloween 3, just laying low until they can "activate" all their chips.
  • Bit if background (Score:5, Informative)

    by aitsu (592587) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:17AM (#9660042)
    I used to use an ARM computer when home computing was taking off in the UK. They weren't ARM then, they were called Acorn, building oddball "home" computers like the Acorn Atom. In the 1980s Acorn fought off rival bids from the likes of Sinclair to land a deal with the Department of Education and the BBC to develop the BBC Microcomputer and later the Acorn Electron. Its version of BASIC - BBC BASIC - became the programming language standard taught in all schools in the UK for a whole generation. In fact you could stick me infront of a Beeb now and I could probably knock off a simple text adventure without even thinking. ARM, incidentally, used to stand for Acorn RISC Machines. (Later, the 'A' came to stand for 'Advanced'.) Yes, they were in fact one of the earier companies to commercialise RISC computing with their R-series designs, which were also supplied to UK schools in the form of the Acorn Archimedes computer. The Archimedes was one awesome machine.

    This is all from memory, however. Here's a more accurate history [atterer.net].

    • My BBC Model B still works :)

      I learned a lot with that great machine - only 32kb RAM, most of which was taken up with the current video mode's memory map. I used to tuck little bits of 6502 machine code into unused buffer areas to try and get the most out of it. It also had some of the best games ever:

      - Elite
      - Citadel
      - Repton et al

      I got a sideways RAM image (two actually) of a C compiler once, and learned my first few lines of C. You couldn't #include more than 3 files deep due to RAM constraints.
  • Not a monopoly (Score:5, Informative)

    by haxor.dk (463614) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:35AM (#9660080) Homepage
    ARM may have a dominant position, but they do not have a monopoly.

    Economically, ARM is engaged what is called "monopolistic competition". They have a product which is interchangeable with that of competitiors, but is differentiated from the alternative offerings. Same as Nike shoes, BMW cars, Apple computers.
  • by sjmurdoch (193425) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:47AM (#9660114) Homepage
    In 2001 a student produced an open source microprocessor [opencores.org] implementing a cut down version of the ARM instruction set, However not long after, ARM pressured OpenCores to remove the it from their website, and nnARM disappeared [design-reuse.com].

    Maybe the reason people like ARM is that at the moment, most of their competition is from big companies and not open source. If projects like OpenCores catch on and FPGAs become cheaper then maybe open source can perform as well in that region as it does in software. Then I think people would not be happy with ARM taking down compatible products, just as people would not be happy if Microsoft went after WINE.
  • Instruction set (Score:3, Informative)

    by Maljin Jolt (746064) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @06:48AM (#9660116) Journal
    To me, ARM instruction set looks simple and elegant and completely in the spirit of John von Neumann's original idea how an universal computing device should be designed.

    Comparing to it, x86 architecture evolves for 30 years like a deseased mutant infected with cancer. Backward compatibility on instruction set is a total nonsense from engineering point of you. You do not feed hay or put a saddle on your today's car either.
    • x86 architecture...deseased mutant infected with cancer

      Hey, stop it! You're giving diseased, cancerous mutants a bad name!

  • Arm sucks! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Free Bird (160885) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @07:01AM (#9660144)
    If you've ever had to program one in assembly, you'll know what I mean. The carry flag is inverted! Seriously, what kind of idiot would design such an architecture?
  • The reason why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stephenry (648792) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @07:37AM (#9660209)
    Firstly, they operate in a market where their customers could easily up and move to one of their competitors. Their bus architecture is standardised, so all it would take would be to floorplan a new CPU and port their software to the new platform. The embedded market does not have the tremendous momentum that the PC-compatible industry has.

    Secondly, they are based in a country (the UK/EU) that actually UPHOLD it's competition laws; and thus they couldn't get away with what Micrsoft has in the US.

  • by adzoox (615327) * on Saturday July 10, 2004 @07:57AM (#9660242) Journal
    One possible reason may be because ARM is actually a recent entity to marketshare.

    If you remember ARM got its start by producing a mobile chip that was similar to the PowerPC and fast enough for Apple's Newton line.

    It was very ironic that Palm decided to use Apple's desktop chip (the 68030) - which devloped into the Dragonball processor. And to me, this is one reason that only recent Palm offerings even come close to the Newton.

    ARM holdings MAY not have been in any hot seat because of Apple.

    While I don't think Apple owns any more shares in the company, at one point, they owned a majority stake. Sales of ARM stock ended up being a saviour to Apple's bottom line. This is one of the MAIN reasons Apple discontinued the Newton (or Jobs chose to axe the Newton) Myths place it on revenge against Sculley and on product consolidation. When, in fact, Jobs saw it as opportunity to fudge a bottom line and to gain research and development dollar for the iMac line.

    THIS - is one reason I think ARM isn't considered a monpolist - after all - Apple owns 100% of the Apple market and they aren't considered a monoplist - ARM is still benefiting from this relationship.
  • by hey! (33014) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @09:58AM (#9660568) Homepage Journal
    Look around you; are the most deserving people people always the ones getting promoted?

    Think about the IT industry. Are the best products the ones that usually win?

    We want to believe that merit is rewarded; and to some degree it is. But the only way we can believe this absolutely is either to close our eyes or to buy into a tautological definition of merit: merit is that that succeeds. There's no particular mystery as to why ARM is not resented: it is dominant and it has technically superior products. It confirms our cherished belief that if you build a technically superior product, you will win (ignoring the history of desktop ARM of course), and so we feel well disposed towards them. What really motivates contempt among the technologically sophisticate is not success, or copyrights, or patents, but when mediocrity wins and undermines our belief in the fairness of "the system".

    A note about the tautological definition of merit. I was an MIS director in the late 80s early 90s. At the time we were on an exponential growth curve for personal computer adoption in business. Apple had a product that was superior to DOS (and later Windows) in so many ways it was laughable to compare the two. However, it cost more than twice as much to equip people with a Mac as with a PeeCee; in an era when a typical computer order was by the truckload, this was huge. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Now, was Microsoft more meritorious than Apple? Well from the point of view of their shareholders there is no question this is true. The situation from their customers' standpoint is murkier.

    Yes, the availability of a cheaper, lower cost personal computer probably sped the adoption of computers. We probably reached the 90% point of equipping office workers a couple of years earlier. Yet even back in the 80s there were studies even then that the cost of training and supporting users dwarfed the costs of buying the box, but most people could not quite bring themselves to believe this could possbly be true. Like in many things, the human capacity for inconsistency was amazing: it was not common for CEOs and top brass to have Macs and the troops to be equipped with PCs. Clearly they understood the value of quality to their own productivity. But, a loading dock full of computer crates was a tangible sign that you were making progress in "computerizing" your business.

    Of course now people know the costs of training and support in spades, which is why you hear people bandying terms like "TCO" about when they thought this was mere flummery fifteen years ago. It's just the cost of other things like network security that they're blind about. I can confidently predict the world will settle on a cheap, half-assed solution to this problem and deal with the negative consequences for years to come.

    The point is long winded story is not to say that Microsoft is evil for having succeeded with a product that was not very good. It's to point out that the tautological theory of merit ignores the way that real peole focus on the very short term. Often the company that wins is the one that keeps their customers focused on the short term. ARM in fact, got a lucky break; they are in a sense a failure in the desktop processor market, but succeeded by finding a niche in the embedded processor market. If for some reason their design drew several times the power, they could well be another entry on the roll of talented failures.

  • by mrm677 (456727) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @10:34AM (#9660746)
    Embedded Systems usually do not have many issues with backwards compatibility. Switching to another core is not a big deal. Of course this doesn't apply with things like Palm Pilots where users load their own software

    I used to work on a high-volume embedded product. The first generation used a popular Motorola chip, the 2nd used one based on ARM. Most of our C-code remained unchanged when we switched cores. Just some hardware-abstraction layer stuff, and that was less than 5% of the code.
  • by v1 (525388) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @10:41AM (#9660799) Homepage Journal
    to BE a monopoly. What's illegal is to abuse your monopoly status. If Arm doesn't abuse its position, then nobody will complain. Sometimes being a monopoly is a good thing - the higher your production, the higher your protential efficiency. If you are passing this savings to the consumer, everyone wins.

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