ARM to "take seriously" any Intel plan to make chips for rivals

TAIPEI Mon May 30, 2011 4:26am EDT

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TAIPEI (Reuters) - British chip designer ARM Holdings Plc, which licenses its chip technology to other makers, will take any plan by Intel Corp to make chips for rivals "very seriously," a top executive said on Monday.

Intel said last week it would consider making chips for rivals, a move that might help it gain bigger access to the mobile device realm and pose a threat to ARM's current dominance in the tablet and smartphones sector.

"It's important that Intel makes a change in their business model. Intel has never done this before, so we have to take it very seriously," ARM's marketing executive vice president Ian Drew told Reuters in an interview ahead of the Computex computer show in Taipei.

Intel views its massive lead in manufacturing know-how as a key asset and opening its factories up to competitors would be a major shift for the industry.

Intel noted that it would be happy to produce chip cores based on its own architecture for other companies but that allowing rival architectures to be manufactured in its plants would be "a tough decision."

Drew said he believes ARM's business model has less restrictions than Intel's, and the company is confident in keeping its current market shares of 80 percent in tablets and 90 percent in smartphones.

ARM has been far ahead of Intel in the red-hot mobile arena and its chips are the industry standard for Apple's mobile gadgets and other devices running Google's Android operating system.

ARM's power-sipping architecture is used in processors produced by Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Nvidia and Samsung Electronics.

Underscoring ARM's dominance, Microsoft, previously faithful to Intel's x86 chip architecture, said in January it would configure its Windows software for ARM chips, in recognition that tablets were eroding growth in its PC stronghold.

ARM's President Tudor Brown told a media conference earlier on Monday that the company will still focus on mobile devices.

"Traditional PC chips only accounted for 6 percent of our whole PC chip shipments of 6 billion units last year," Brown said.

"The contribution will still be less than 10 percent in the future."

Brown also said the company aims to lift its market share in the tablet sector to 15 percent by the end of 2011 and over 50 percent in 2015 from 10 percent now.

ARM currently has over 200 licensing partners, including seven in China and 15 in Taiwan.

The British company has over 100 staff in Asia, including Japan but excluding India, and plans to add around 20 more within the next year, according to Drew.

(Editing by Jonathan Standing; Editing by Ken Wills)

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