Processor chips help to power the devices we use and are being deployed for accelerated computing applications. One of the most common and well-known processor types is the central processing unit (CPU), also called the main processor, responsible for processing and executing instructions in notebooks, desktops, and servers. The CPU is contained on a single silicon-based metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) integrated circuit (IC) chip, with Intel and AMD as the leading CPU companies globally. In addition to CPUs, several specialized processing devices have followed, including application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), graphics processing units (GPUs), and the system-on-chip (SoC).
GPUs are optimized for training artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning models
The GPU, also called a graphics card, is a silicon-based microprocessor that specializes in accelerating the creation and rendering of images, videos, and animations. Leading GPU companies include Intel, Nvidia, and AMD, producing dedicated GPUs that can perform fast calculations while freeing the CPU to perform other tasks. Intel is particularly strong at developing integrated graphics that are built onto the same chip as the CPU, in addition to its dedicated GPUs first released in 2022. GPUs began as specialized ASICs, developed to accelerate specific 3D rendering tasks. Today, GPUs have evolved to become more general-purpose processors, working in parallel to other computer components to handle a growing range of applications, including crypto mining and machine learning tasks. One such example is the use of GPUs in the training and running of generative AI applications such as ChatGPT.
SOCs act as the brains in smartphones and other IoT devices
An SoC is an integrated circuit that combines all the functions of a computer on one IC or a microchip. An SoC will typically integrate the CPU, GPU, and memory, and are commonly found in smartphones, tablets, wearables, and other IoT devices. As an SoC integrates software at the hardware level, it uses less power, has better performance, and requires less space due to very large-scale integration (VLSI) - hence its popularity within modern-day smartphones. Furthermore, a mobile AP is an SoC designed to support applications running in a mobile operating system environment. Examples include Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips found in Android devices, and the Apple A16 Bionic chip found in the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max, with both SoCs using Arm’s processor architecture.
All eyes on Arm prior to the U.S. IPO in 2023
Arm, also recognized in the industry as ARM or Arm Holdings, is a semiconductor and software design company with its global headquarters in Cambridge, UK. Arm develops chip architecture and licenses it to other companies, who then use the design to create microcontrollers (MCUs), CPUs, ASICs, and SoCs. Most well-known for its mobile AP technologies, Arm continues to strengthen its position in the networking equipment, data center, cloud, and IoT device markets. The company, acquired by the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group in 2016, saw a failed takeover bid in 2022 from Nvidia because of regulatory challenges. Instead, SoftBank plans to seek an IPO of Arm in 2023.
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