The Anonymous Widower

ARM: Can ‘Crown Jewel’ Of UK Technology Be Protected?

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

These are the introductory paragraphs.

The UK government is “looking at options” to protect and ensure future investment in Cambridge-based ARM Holdings, which is being bought by US tech giant Nvidia from Japan’s Softbank.

This is a much more relaxed attitude than the government took when Softbank bought the world-leading chip designer in July 2016. At that time, Softbank announced it had agreed to legally binding commitments to increase investment, headcount and preserve its headquarters in the UK.

It is not too late for the government to impose conditions, but conversations on whether to impose them or what they might be have not even started.

Some of the original founders of ARM Holdings, would appear to be not very happy.

I have followed the company for a number of years, as I was in the same class at Liverpool University with Robin Saxby, who was ARM’s first CEO.

At great surprise to myself, I made a nice sum of money by investing in the shares at the right time.

I am less unhappy, as I think two opposite outcomes would be good for the UK.

  • It all goes pear-shaped and large numbers of talented engineers in Cambridge create several children of ARM.
  • Nvidia decides that the ARM model and location is better and moves the headquarters of the group to the UK. Trump and his policies could make this likely, by picking fights with countries where Nvidia and ARM have large markets.

It will be interesting to see what happens.


September 14, 2020 Posted by | Business, Computing, Finance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Is This The Future Of Patient Monitoring?

As anybody who has spent time in hospital connected to a traditional heart, blood pressure, pulse and temperature monitor will know, it is not an easy process. Leads fall off, moving around is difficult and you are often in need of staff. I’ve only spent time recently in good hospitals, where they were enough staff to check on me regularly and that includes two NHS hospitals. But in one NHS hospital, I had a private room and a quick visual check as the nurse passed by wouldn’t have been possible.

In some ways the current system is like driving a car without a fuel gauge and every few miles, you have to get out to dip the tank to see if you’ve enough fuel to carry on.

But then enter the engineers!

I have just watched this story on BBC Breakfast Here’s the first three paragraphs.

The NHS is starting to test a sticking-plaster-sized patient-monitoring patch.

Placed on the chest, it wirelessly transmits data on heart rate, breathing and body-temperature while the patient is free to move around.

Independent experts say the system, developed in Britain, could ease pressure on wards and has the potential to monitor patients in their own home.

I think we all have to remember, that this is the first device. No-one would be able to predict how far this technology will go. And how a healthcare system like the will be able to use it in the future!

On the other hand, there is also this statement in the story.

But the Royal College of Nursing says there is no substitute for having enough staff.

In some ways that shows what a good system it must be, as the Luddites and Nimbys always try to stop good developments.

Read more about the company; Sensium Healthcare, behind the development here.

As it’s got one or more ultra-low power chips in there somewhere, is this another application of technology from ARM?

July 22, 2014 Posted by | Health, News | , , | Leave a comment

Who Wants A $20 Smartphone?

I found an article entitled Why ARM Believes We’ll See a $20 Smartphone

This is the first paragraph.

 ARM Holdings (ARMH) believes the company’s future will be brighter because it’s embracing both ends of the computing business – high-end devices such as smartphones and tablets with quad-core, 64-bit processors, as well as increasingly inexpensive mobile devices running on new single-core chips.

The future seems to be ARM

May 8, 2014 Posted by | Computing, World | , | 1 Comment

Are Google And ARM Holdings Forming An Alliance On Servers?

There has been a couple of reports on the Internet about a link-up between ARM Holdings and Google forming an alliance to create low energy use and high power servers. The Register bills it as Chipzilla versus The Chocolate Factory, in this article.

The last paragraph of the article, wich refers to the reports, is significant.

Such a scenario would be far worse news for Intel than merely losing a few million CPU sales each year.

So has Intel finally met its match in a small Cambridge company?

I think the answer is yes and we must make sure that this amazing UK company stays independent.

December 16, 2013 Posted by | Computing, News | , , | Leave a comment

More ARM Processors Than People

A friend has told me that he was in a meeting and one of the founders of ARM pointed out, that there were probably more ARM processors in the room than people.

As I type this, I’m wondering how many ARM processors are in this room with me.

For a start, there’s my Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini, which has an ARM CPU and GPU.  As the CPU is dual core, is that a total of three or two?

There’s also a modern Samsung television, two set-top boxes, four Nokia phones, including three 6310i, two digital cameras and a Samsung Tab, all of which might contain one or more ARM processors.

I think that I’m outnumbered! But take note that in 2012, they sold 8.7 billion units!

November 15, 2013 Posted by | Computing, World | , | Leave a comment

Intel Raises The White Flag

This article about Intel and its fight with ARM could be the most significant story about the rise of the Cambridge upstart for the next few months. This is the opening paragraph.

Unable to break through with its own mobile Atom chipset, it seems that Intel finally raised the white flag and has decided to begin manufacturing 64-bit ARM chips of its own.

The article, then goes on to speculate about future relationships between ARM, Intel and Apple. It finishes with this statement.

Intel’s potential ability to make high quality 64-bit ARM CPU’s may be enough to entice Apple into taking the plunge, and perhaps even get an exclusivity agreement in the meantime.

That would be an alliance!

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Computing, News | , , | Leave a comment

The Enormous Amount Of Energy Used By Computer Servers

In all the hot air talked about fracking, wind power and nuclear power, very rarely does the argument stray into energy usage. The only thing people seem to worry about is the cost of their household energy bills and filling up their car.

But accpording to this academic report from Stanford University in 2010, over ten percent of all US electricity was used to power computer and IT equipment. Here’s the relevant part.

In 2010, over 10% of electricity in the U.S. was due to computer and IT equipment usage. At the current rate we’re going, analysts and experts figure that 10% of the world’s power bill will be spent on running computers. To give a more concrete example of how much energy this is, Dixon shows that one 50,000 square feet data center uses about 5 megawatts, but continuously. This energy output would satisfy the needs of 5000 homes. In another staggering example, assorted US data centers use a collective 7000 megawatt data centers from seven different plants; this is more power than is used by the State of Mississippi. Even more surprising is that this astronomical power consumption is just by the plants themselves – cooling systems use as much energy as the plants.

Also in this article in the FT. it says that in 2010, Goggle used about 258 Megawatts continuously.

Since this refers to 2010, I wonder how much of the UK’s energy usage goes in that area now.

According to this article, in 2012 average demand for electricity was 35.8 Gigawatt.  Just imagine having to pay that bill!

So let’s assume that only five percent of that energy is used for computer servers, so that is 1790 megawatt. Bear in mind that the UK’s largest power station,  Drax,  has a capability of generating 3960 megawatts or seven percent of the UK’s electricity. So nearly half of its output and the enormous amount of CO2, Drax emits could be used to power computer equipment.

I need better figures here, but it would seem that a substantial part of UK electricity is used in computing.

But help is at hand in this area. To make computers use less power, you can do many things; like write better software and install more efficient cooling systems.

The biggest fight though is in the area of making chips that consume less electricity and there’s a war going on there, between the dominant Intel and the upstart from Cambridge called ARM. Whether Intel can hold off ARM is a subject for debate, but in a year or so, the average server will consume a lot less power than it does now. Unfortunately, the search, social networking, data storing and other IT companies will be a lot bigger, so all we will be doing with better technology is eating into the growth in energy usage.

I think though, this will mean that many large server farms will relocate to countries, where energy costs are lowest.


August 17, 2013 Posted by | Computing, News, World | , , , , | 1 Comment

ARM Fire Another Shot

My trawl last night picked up this news item about ARM.  ARM’s chief marketing officer, Ian Drew, is reported to have said:

Mobile users expect a range of devices at different price points, and for a mid-range mobile experience to include some high end mobile features. With a billion smart phones predicted to ship in 2013, and tablets projected to out-ship notebook PCs, device-makers can now provide quality, high-performance mobile products with the features that matter the most, at a range of price points.

I probably would agree.  I for instance don’t use a smart phone, but carry a £10 Nokia phone and a Fuji Coolpix camera.  For notes, I carry a small notebook and a couple of pens. So I don’t need a smart phone. I just want something to make and receive calls and text messages. In London, I’m never far from home and there are maps everywhere, so who needs on-line information and maps and the constant terror of e-mail, much of which is spam?

So a mid-range phone might just be the right one for me.  But what would be better is a camera, that was wirelessly connected to my phone, so that I could post pictures quickly.  If a camera is part of the phone, you inevitably end up with something that is just too big and the sort of device, that is regularly nicked.

I don’t think I’m alone either, in that several of my friends don’t have smart phones.

So have ARM come up with a winner in their new range of processor designed for smaller smart phones and tablets?

I think they have!

June 4, 2013 Posted by | Computing, News | , | Leave a comment

Innocent Sell Out

Innocent smoothies have sold out to Coca-Cola and you can read about it here in the Guardian.

In some ways it’s rather sad.

But in some ways, it’s due to the culture that says you can’t be small and create a global brand. Although, over the last few years, some global British companies like ARM and Brompton have done just that.

I won’t stop having the odd smoothie, but I do think that in the UK, their sell-out may have opened up the market for a new brand to move into the hole. After all, look how we’ve all fallen out of love with Starbucks, if the morgue in Islington is anything to go by.

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Business, Food | , , | 2 Comments

The Star That Is ARM

I am linking to this article, which has the full speech of ARM’s CEO’s statement giving the Q4 2012 Financial Results. It is a full nine pages long, so it won’t be an easy read. This statement from the first page is very telling.

So let’s start off with the highlights for Q4. Well, Q4 was a fantastic finish to 2012. We saw our continued momentum in licensing and sold 36 licenses in the last quarter. That’s another year of over 100 licenses in the full year.

As someone, who used to put his own intellectual property on someone else’s hardware designs, this number of licences is a significant number, as obviously, the more licences the company signs, the more money it will earn.

I don’t know anything about the technicalities of what ARM does, but judging by the company’s success, it must be pretty damn good. But to me, just as it was for Metier Management Systems with Artemis, when we owned the company, the managers have got the marketing and revenue model right.

In fact, I might argue, that getting that right is more important than getting the product to a hundred percent of your design aims.  As obviously, if you are generating lots of money, it is easier to close that last gap in your designs.

So often, I’ve seen wonderful ideas fail, because their revenue model wasn’t designed well enough and doesn’t feed itself back strong enough into product development.

There is another thing that ARM and Metier had in common.  ARM is and Metier was considered a almost a crusade or political movement by those that started the companies and those that worked there. The companies that I’ve dealt with or know of, that have had that zeal are hard to come by. My short list would include Apple,  Dyson, Rolls-Royce and Zopa.  Although, there are one or two architectural or construction companies, that in a few years time, might join them. And don’t underestimate other companies in all sorts of high-tech fields, using an ARM-style of cash-flow model, based on a group of individuals having a unique idea and the determination to see it through.

I can also think of several companies that had everything and then blew it! You could say we did that with Metier by selling out and a lot of other high-tech companies have done the same. And then there’s some that have just lost their way like IBM and Automony.

February 6, 2013 Posted by | Business, Computing, Finance, News | , , , , , | Leave a comment