ARM changes name of the netbook game

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Analysis: While GlobalFoundries and ARM are not yet ready to discuss the full deal between them, the news is significant, not just for those two companies, but for the Intel Corporation too.

GlobalFoundries' process technology is a little bit behind Intel's, but it said today it would move to 32 nanometer technology next year. It also has considerably more clout because of its merger with Chartered Semi, which has over 150 existing customers.

But ARM's statement that it wanted its core designs in 15 million mini-notebooks is most interesting because it confirms that Intel will be up against a powerful set of chip manufacturers including Samsung, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments. And these companies in turn have plenty of existing handset customers.

As we noted elsewhere recently, Intel plans to proliferate future versions of its Atom microprocessor as the driving engine behind netbook and even smaller devices. It has described a roadmap well into the future that includes ever smaller Atoms. But while it has been successful, very successful with the Atom processor in the netbook arena, smartphones, MIDs or whatever you care to call them are no open goal for the chip giant.

We've also noted that handset manufacturers have been reluctant to adopt Intel designs in the past - whether that's for competitive reasons or technical reasons is hard to say.

Kevin Smith, an ARM VP of marketing, told Bloomberg that its designs could capture as many as 15 percent of the mini notebook next year in cooperation with Freescale, Sharp and Pegatron. Pegatron is owned by Asustek.

It's clear from these snippets of information that there's a whole consortium of companies who want to make sure that they're serious players in the netbook and smaller device market and are equally determined that Intel not dominate this sector.

It will be intriguing to find out the exact nature of the GlobalFoundries ARM deal. The foundry will no doubt have early access to the work ARM is doing on its cores like its other partners, Samsung, TI and Qualcomm. And Pegatron will no doubt work on putting together some spiffy reference platforms.

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