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IBM, Samsung, TI form firm for ARM chips

IBM, Texas Instruments, Samsung, ARM, and others have formed a company to accelerate product development on ARM processors.

IBM, Texas Instruments, Samsung, ARM, and others have formed a company to streamline development of products, such as tablets, on ARM processors.

Newly formed company Linaro is backed financially by a coterie of big companies. Linaro

Typically, companies wanting to develop for ARM processors--one of the most prolific chip designs in the world--need to wade through a morass of different operating systems and versions of those operating systems. Those include Google's Android and Chrome OSes, Ubuntu Linux, Palm's WebOS, and MeeGo from Intel and Nokia.

The new company, Linaro, is a non-profit software engineering outfit that intends to simplify the development process and is backed to the tune of "tens of millions of dollars" by its founding members, Tom Lantzsch, an executive officer at Linaro, said in a phone interview.

ARM's chief rival, Intel, has an advantage because it doesn't face as unwieldy a ecosystem as ARM does. In short, Intel is one chip company with one chip architecture.

ARM chips--used widely in cell phones, smartphones, and expected to populate a raft of upcoming tablets--are designed and manufactured by range of companies including Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Nvidia, Freescale, ST-Ericsson, and Samsung.

"On the one side you have many chips, and on the other side you have many distributions (software versions)," said Lantzsch. Linaro's goal is to make sure the latest software version can be readily "ported" to the latest silicon.

"Imagine two tablet makers going to the same silicon vendor. Let's say Texas Instruments in this case. And both want to get a tablet into the market and both want to do that, for example, on Android. What you'll find is there are differences in the versions (of Android). And then you'll have other tablet makers wanting to do a tablet on Chrome or MeeGo," Lantzsch said. The resources of TI and its customers will be strained to meet all these competing demands, he said. Linaro aims to streamline and optimize this process.

"Linaro will provide a stable and optimized base for distributions and developers by creating new releases of optimized tools, kernel and middleware software validated for a wide range of (chips), every six months," the company said in a statement.

Linaro's first software and tools release is due out in November and will provide optimizations for the latest range of ARM CortexTM-A family of processors, the company said.