Fuelling the digital revolution

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Today, ARM is the leading provider of 16/32-bit embedded RISC microprocessor solutions. The company and its unique partnership business model, has greatly influenced the proliferation of digital applications and ARM intellectual property is now becoming the architecture of choice in this field.

The word ‘digital’ first became popular with the introduction of the ‘digital watch’. A watch displaying the time with a digital reading was completely new and excited a generation. Few realised that these digital representations heralded a new world based upon digitisation. Today we send messages, documents, images, programmes and much more, from millions of digital databases. The result has been a revolution based upon digitisation. In today’s new economy the companies that have both innovated and invested in the development of intellectual property are fuelling the digital world.

The high technology organisations investing heavily in research and development (R&D) are creating the products that are transforming our lives. ARM focuses on the creation of ideas and technical methods through research and development. As users of high technology products, we often attribute the technology that makes them work to the brand name on the outside of the product. In most cases, however, the manufacturer of the product will have bought in the technology that allows it to function. In fact the chances are that you have used a product powered by ARM technology within the last hour. It could have been an MP3 player, a mobile phone, a handheld personal organiser or a digital camera. This case study focuses upon how ARM has developed a global influence despite being a relatively small player in a fast-moving industry. It has achieved this through its technology, its unique business model and its investment in R&D.

The first ARM Powered® processor was used on a desktop computer back in 1987. ARM was then no more than a small design team working within the Acorn Group, a company that developed computers for the educational market. ARM was established as a separate company in 1990 with only 12 employees working in a converted barn near Cambridge. The early aim was to establish a silicon chip design that would become a standard for the emerging digital marketplace.

Intellectual property

ARM has been ranked as the leading supplier of 32-bit RISC microprocessor intellectual property in the world. By licensing rather than manufacturing and selling its chip technology, ARM has developed a way of working that has redefined the ways in which microprocessors are designed, produced and sold. This has enabled ARM to respond to new areas of electronics and create a range of products that drive key applications across a variety of diverse markets.

ARM’s expertise in design, combined with innovative engineering from global partners has brought a wide array of electronic products to life. These include some of the more obvious applications such as MP3 players, mobile phones and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to less obvious applications such as advanced braking systems in cars and on-board diagnostic systems.

ARM was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1998. However, as a company with a global reach, it is also quoted on the Nasdaq, which was established in 1971 as the world’s first electronic stock market and America’s leading market for foreign listed companies.

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