Yesterday ARM announced that they were establishing a new CPU design center in the Hsinchu Science Park. This industrial park is home to a multitude of other semiconductor companies including MediaTek and TSMC. ARM’s first CPU design center in Asia will focus mainly on the development of the Cortex-M series of CPUs aimed at traditional embedded applications and the mythical internet of things. There are two major advantages to this move for ARM: proximity and talent. The Cortex-M series of products are the bottom of ARM’s product stack and their individual contribution to the bill of materials of the products they’re in is minuscule. As such these are very weak chips in an absolute sense and there is a lot of pressure to make sure that these chips are as cheap as possible.
To ensure a competitive cost structure for these Cortex-M cores ARM need to leverage the ability of the Taiwanese supply chain to lower costs. Opening this new design center allows them to hire the Taiwanese engineers that have been working for years in extremely cost sensitive sectors of the semiconductor business and to use their skills sets to minimize the cost of building a Cortex-M-based solution. Additionally having a design center in such close proximity to TSMC is an obvious advantage. That said ARM’s partnership with TSMC is already exceptionally close so the main benefit for ARM will probably be in helping new customers get acquainted with building Cortex-M products at TSMC.
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Disclosures: Charlie Demerjian and Stone Arch Networking Services, Inc. have no consulting relationships, investment relationships, or hold any investment positions with any of the companies mentioned in this report.
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