The British business in every smartphone

Although ARM is a company not often in the public limelight, Forbes has ranked them the 3rd most innovative company in the world. Their technology is present in over 95% of today’s smartphones, tablets and portable games consoles, and has shipped  more than 60 billion Systems on Chips (SoCs) to date. Their technology enables the creation of new markets and true transformation of industries and society.

Your Ready Business meets Richard Stamvik, Segment Manager, Operator Relations with the aim to find out more about the world’s leading semiconductor intellectual property (IP) supplier, ARM.

Could you start off by explaining who ARM is and what they do?

ARM is at the heart of the world’s most advanced digital products. Our technology enables the creation of new markets and transformation of industries and society. We design scalable, energy efficient-processors and related technologies to deliver the intelligence in applications ranging from sensors to servers, including smartphones, tablets, enterprise infrastructure and the Internet of Things (IoT). The company licenses technology designs to semiconductor companies. The semiconductor company will design and manufacture a chip utilising the ARM technology. The chip is then incorporated into a digital electronic product, which is sold to the consumer.

ARM receives a royalty, typically based on a percentage of the chip price, for every chip sold by the semiconductor company containing ARM technology. It takes an average of 3-4 years from the time the semiconductor company signs the license before royalties are incurred. Many customers are able to re-use the same ARM technology in various chips going into a broad range of end markets. Thus, each new chip starts a new stream of royalties.

What is your position at ARM and what does your team do?

I manage the relationships with EMEA operators and related ecosystems within our segment marketing team; the latter also covers market verticals such as embedded, mobile, server, network and IoT. The operator relations team is spread around the world and deals with the main mobile, fixed line and media operators.

Our team mainly focuses on improving our understanding of operators’ and their ecosystem’s requirements and views of the market. We advise on industry trends and directions, as well as ARM’s and our partners’ plans, helping to bring technology solutions to market and drive discussion amongst our partners.

How did ARM start?

ARM’s business model has been in our DNA from the start – to license our technology to silicon vendors, meaning that ARM’s value not only lies in the technology but also in our strong ecosystem of licensees. Today, the majority of silicon vendor companies are our licensees.

ARM started as an Acorn Computers project, building a microprocessor based on the Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) architecture to address the need for energy efficient and high performance microprocessors, as there were no suitable products available at the time. Acorn RISC Machines, or ARM for short, emerged as a separate company, now called ARM Holdings.

What do you think gives ARM its competitive edge?

Technically, a processor based on the RISC architecture is inherently energy efficient in executing tasks. This has proved extremely relevant for the mobile industry and battery powered devices as device performance requirements have grown much faster than battery efficiency. We now see the same technology being used in many areas beyond mobile devices, in everything from embedded microcontrollers to high performance computing where energy efficiency is important.

Commercially, it is our licensing model and strong ecosystem of over 1,200 partners ranging from silicon providers, through software and device providers and system integrators, to media owners and operators.

Do you work with your partners on new product and services R&D?

Yes we do. To enable technologies and services we take both a bottom-up approach – working with SoC, software and tools providers ensuring the right enablers for new devices and services are in place – and a top-down approach – ensuring the right offerings are available from the right partners at the right price/power/performance points supporting various use cases.

We also help kickstart development communities for example various IoT hackathons using the mbed hard- and software ecosystem supported by ARM and select partners, and the recently launched BBC Micro Bit project to help inspire a new generation of computer experts.

From a wider industry stance, we take part in standardisation for industry bodies, e g Linaro ensuring well optimised Linux software and tools for the ARM architecture, and tailoring this for verticals like mobile, home, server and networking solutions.

In addition, we conduct joint research with our partners on subjects such as hard and software optimisation, security, and new devices/services/use cases – all of which is aimed at exploring new areas for collaboration.

Now a question about your company culture. With over 3,400 employees, a diverse workforce and offices globally, how does ARM ensure that everyone is motivated and working towards a unified end goal?

ARM has a very strong company culture originating from its start-up days. Goals are regularly agreed, communicated and followed-up. Communication is open and frequent, and wherein barriers aren’t created by the organisation’s hierarchy. People from all parts of ARM are encouraged to move around internally to encourage the sharing and transferring of skills and understanding, ultimately contributing to ARM’s offering.

The company also works with its partner community to demonstrate thought leadership – incorporating insight from all parts of ARM and the partner’s organisation –at major global events like the Consumer Electronics Show, Mobile World Congress, ARM’s Partner Meeting and the TechCon, which also offers opportunities to interact and engage, internally and externally.

By creating a supportive working environment and encouraging staff to interact with partners and other market players and demonstrating their knowledge, people are up to speed with and feel empowered about their offering to the industry which is a great motivator!

What are the big differences in the industry today compared to the 90’s? And how are you evolving to get to the next phase?

The way we used phones 20 years ago was very different to how we use today’s internet-connected device that comes with a wealth of services. Today is very much about connecting devices, offering services across multiple devices, and agreeing on standards around hardware, software and how communication, security, and services should work together.

What does the future hold for ARM?

There is a lot more to be done to enable IoT, ubiquitous security and privacy, the continuous evolution towards even more performance and power efficient solutions and new industry verticals. To do this, it’s all about supporting our partners to succeed because that’s how, in the end, we succeed!