The PC era is fast winding up

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Jul 29 2013, 17:13pm hrs
Technology adoption in India is now more or less similar to other markets around the world. The increased adoption of both tablets and smartphones has led to the emergence of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, where employees are increasingly opting to use their personal devices at the workplace. It is safe to say that these devices have successfully established themselves as a strong second screen, says Guru Ganesan, managing director, ARM India. Headquartered in Cambridge, UK, and employing over 2,300 people, ARM Holdings is a leading semiconductor intellectual property (IP) supplier. ARMs IP enables the development of low power, high performance digital products and forms the foundation for nearly all smartphones, around 80% of digital cameras and 35% of all electronic devices. ARM has 28 offices around the world, including design centres in China, Taiwan, France, India, Sweden, and the US. The design centre in India is led by Guru Ganesan, who took over as the MD of ARM India in June 2009. Prior to that, he was vice-president, engineering at ARM, San Jose, California. In a recent interaction with Sudhir Chowdhary, he talks about how the connectivity of devices from cars to kettles is creating a potential market for billions of low-power, low-cost processors. Excerpts:

Smartphones and tablets are the buzzword these days. Is the PC dead Where do you see the trend going

The latest Gartner report states that global shipments of PCs slumped 10.9% in the second quarter, the fifth straight quarterly decline. And according to IDC, global shipments of smart connected devices (PCs, tablets, and smartphones) are expected to surpass 1.7 billion units by 2014 with smartphones and tablets driving most of this growth. It is safe to say that these devices have successfully established themselves as a strong second screen but it is still too early to write off the PC completely.

Workplaces continue to use PCs. We are definitely not in a post-PC era, but with growing workplace and mobile trends such bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and increasing adoption of connected devices, the PC era is fast winding up. The next generation of computing is coming and ARM will play a central role in that evolution.

Competition in mobile phone and tablet chip designs is intensifying. Recently, Samsung picked up an Intel chip over ARM for its new tablet model. What are your views on this development

Close to 2.6 billion ARM-based chips were shipped in the first three months of 2013. We license intellectual property (IP) to a network of over 2,500 partners, which includes the worlds leading semiconductor and systems companies. ARM technology is in use in 95% of smartphones, 80% of digital cameras, and 35% of all electronic devices. With the diversity of ARM IP and the broad ecosystem of partners we work with, what we have is not just legacy but domain expertise. We always focus on low power designs. Initially, while other companies focused on high performance, ARM focused on creating power efficient designs along with high performance and that leadership will continue to drive our value propositions.

What kind of work is being done out of the India design centre of ARM

ARM India is the companys second biggest design centre in the world after Cambridge. Key activities out of our India design centre include physical IP for all the fabs across all nodes, processor architecture validation, device validation, system level validation, system IP development, benchmarking activities and device driver development.

What is ARM doing differently from its competitors

ARM does not build or fabricate chips. Instead, we design the chip architecture and receive license and royalty fees from companies that use our designs. This in itself is the single biggest differentiator from our competition. We work closely with our partners (connected community) and our vision is to enable and enhance the value chain by facilitating all stakeholders to collaborate and develop. Enabling ecosystems that drive innovation is a critical part of what ARM does with its partnership based business model.

Innovation continues to define the way we run our business. Our big.LITTLE design is a game-changer. ARM big.LITTLE processing is an energy saving technology where the highest performance ARM CPUs are combined with the most efficient ARM CPUs and allows the systems software to seamlessly and dynamically switch between the two, depending on energy requirements. For instance, a big ARM Cortex-A15 processor is paired with a LITTLE Cortex-A7 processor and this combination has improved battery life by 70%.

How important is the India market for ARM in terms of business

Currently, we work with multiple India local partners and Indian arms of global companies. The ESDM industry in India is at an inflection point. The key elements of the National Electronics Policy include setting up of fabless semiconductor companies, manufacturing clusters, semiconductor fabs, setting up electronics development fund, preferential market access to locally designed and/or manufactured products.

The high growth domestic consumption of electronic goods, projected to be $400 billion by 2020, offers a huge opportunity for both domestic and multinational companies to invest more in India. We expect the ESDM industry to grow exponentially in India and there is a huge opportunity for ARM to lead as the market leader in the semiconductor IP companies like ARM in India.

What will be your strategy going forward for the India market

ARM has the biggest ecosystem in the industry and we work very closely with all our partners. We develop products for global market. A number of market segments are identified as high growth opportunities in India and our partners will play a strong role in these domains. We continue to work with the start-ups, VCs, industry bodies, governments, public and private sectors, MNCs, universities and various other stakeholders to develop the market in India.

What will the Indian devices market look like in ten years from now

India bypassed the PC era and has leapfrogged straight into the mobile revolution. IDCs report said the India phone market saw a close to 24% increase in shipments year-on-year, primarily driven by the surge in the smartphone shipments over the last year; the smartphone market grew 74% year-on-year from 2012 Q1 to 2013 Q1.

Technology adoption in India is now more or less similar to other markets around the world. Hence, what is true for worldwide will also be true for India. One can see global products being launched in India at a much faster clip these days.

With every passing year, we will continue to see more disruptive devices that can transform usage patterns and adoption trends. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a reality today. The IoT will be an enabler of new products, services and consumer behaviour and the same will be true for the India market. And ARM is helping its connected community make this new world possible.