LONDON The Cortex-M0 has just become the fastest licensed ARM core in history. The core which offers 32-bit performance in the footprint of a 16-bit processor, has been licensed by 15 companies since its launch in February this year.
According to Dominic Pajak, product manager of the ARM Cortex-M0, almost half of the licensees are new to ARM. Of the 15 only five have so far been named: NXP, Triad Semiconductor, Melfas, Austriamicrosystems and the latest sign-up Chungbuk Technopark.
Pajak said that there are more companies in the pipeline to sign licenses and some could be confirmed before the end of the year.
“A lot of the licensees that are new to ARM are active in the 8-bit sector and are moving direct to 32-bit devices,” said Pajak. “The gate-count for a Cortex-M0 processor part is similar to that of an 8-bit device and the memory requirement is less and there are benefits in terms of energy efficiency.”
So what has attracted the new customers? “With the M0 we are making sure that there is a lot of documentation publicly available. One thing we have done that is different with the M0 is that we have created a lot of examples so that out of the box you do not have a steep learning curve,” said Pajak.
NXP was lead partner on the development of Cortex-M0 but Geoff Lees, vice president and general manager of the microcontroller division at NXP, believes the proliferation of licensees for the core is a good thing. “All of the 100 or so embedded microcontroller producers will be using a core from somewhere but we see advantages in having a single scalable architecture for our range based on a variety of cores.” There is also an advantage that the more people take up a core, the better the development tools become.
“In the tools sector a good thing about having a few well set-up competitors in the same space is that the whole infrastructure improves,” added Lees.
NXP recently said its 15 parts based on the Cortex-M0 will be available from distributors in December. Lees said that while NXP does not do customer-specific parts it has received more requests to add peripherals to the Cortex-M0-based range than any other family it has ever released.
“In the last few months of talking to customers they have been asking us to add peripherals like temperature sensors and DACs. We are getting power supply companies wanting to use it as their central controller. Because of the ARM infrastructure and the design tools environment we can do a derivative in four weeks. It takes a couple weeks to discuss the functional enhancements with a customer and four weeks to implement although a more significant design will take longer.”