On our side, looking mainly at mobile phones, it can vary by use case. But it’s not going to be noticed by customers on a day-to-day basis. What people do on their phones isn’t really impacted by high level speculative caching. Your phone is not constantly doing a bunch of massive local processing, trying to do a lot of different things in parallel. It’s running and closing apps. It’s fetching data. It’s not actually processing spreadsheets or doing recompiles and such where real work would be impacted.
We’re not impacted greatly either from a standpoint of this speculative caching, out-of-order execution methodology. It’s not in all of our processors. The volume of product shipped — a low percentage of products we ship even have this in their architecture. Around five percent. It’s a subset of our Cortex-A chips. By default, otherwise they’re not impacted. We have a website with a table online showing a couple of Cortex-A and a couple of Cortex-R chips that are impacted. The biggest one of the Cortex-A chips we sell, the highest volume, is probably Cortex-A 53, which is not impacted.
This was an interesting one. The silver lining I saw on this particular event — this wasn’t a situation like some of the earlier flaws, where the NHS was hacked in the U.K. with ransomware. This was a preemptive strike. Researchers found a potential liability. The industry got together and worked through a bunch of methodologies and ideas to mitigate it. Nothing actually happened. There were meetings taking place between a number of companies. From the outside looking in you’d say, “Wait, these guys are all together at the table? They’re working collaboratively to solve a broad problem? That’s great!” That actually happened.
The biggest learning in this is it won’t be the first time. The biggest benefit we got is we know our counterparts at all the other companies. We know all the folks involved. This is not going away. This is the world we live in. It requires a hardware and software ecosystem that works together. It’s not just one company.
We work very closely with the OS vendors anyway, but this forges not only a deeper sense of responsibility, but at fairly senior levels — again, the silver lining in all this, people get it. They know it’s important that we don’t just have these conversations as a one-off. When we develop our next-generation processors we work closely with the software folks in terms of features and so on. Sometimes there’s very good input and sometimes it’s a different level of interaction. This will help. This puts at the top of the mind, “Here are the things we’re thinking about. What are the tradeoffs?”
We’re addressing Spectre especially. We’re looking at it in future products as far as hardware and a software discipline. People look at this as if it’s fundamentally a hardware issue, but it’s very much hardware and software, because it’s using how the software works with the CPU on this timing. Both things have to be addressed in the future.
VB: I saw a Reuters story saying that if the patches start slowing down Intel processors, maybe that’s another reason to think about ARM server processors.
Haas: We’d like to think there are a lot of other good reasons to think about ARM server processors. The end of last year there was a lot of good momentum around ARM-based servers, with the stuff Qualcomm and others were doing. We feel like it’s a long, continued march. I also think what’s going to happen in the server space is the move of distributed processing from the cloud to different areas of the network to the edge. We’ll keep at it. The flaw is maybe good marketing, but we have a lot of other good momentum going on.
VB: I saw some of the ARM-based Windows PCs here. Always on is nice, always connected.
Haas: One of the nice things, too, about having — I think we spoke back in the Windows RT days about this. A lot of the issues around Windows RT have been addressed now with Windows 10. One, fundamentally, the fact that you can run it in the enterprise. You don’t have an app compatibility issue. Underneath the hood it doesn’t look as negative to the user as far as running two different OSs.
Also, five years later, the world has changed. Virtually all the modern applications today are written for this. One of the issues we faced back in 2012 was, does iTunes run on Windows RT? At the time it didn’t. Now Spotify and Pandora–even the whole concept of how people get access to music is web-based, which by default means, who cares what the CPU is? That’s a micro-example. The app ecosystem has moved so fast in five years that I think, for the end user who buys one of these machines, there should be no compromise not only in terms of the experience, but also in the apps they’re used to running.
I haven’t seen the machines out there on this go-round. I know there a lot more people talking. Lenovo just announced theirs this week. I don’t think Microsoft would have done this just for the sake of saying, “We need another hardware platform out there.” ARM’s never talked about Mhz and those types of things. We’ve always been talking about how we can advance the user experience. I think they saw this opportunity, with ARM and Qualcomm working together, to say, “Oh, we can advance the user experience around connectivity and battery life.”
To their credit, they never wavered on the fundamental value proposition of mobility and power. People want the battery life and mobility of their laptops to be the same as their tablets or their phones. That’s a fundamental user experience thing. That’s there with these machines.
VB: Are you guys getting toward the Singularity that Masayoshi Son’s been talking about?
Haas: It’s a big focus. You’ve seen him speak. He talks about 300-year plans. He has a long time horizon. He’s definitely a big thinker. No question about that.
There’s a video of Softbank World, where he had a number of the companies on stage — Boston Dynamics, ARM, and so on. One of the benefits of being part of the Softbank ecosystem is just the interaction we get with the portfolio companies involved with Softbank. It isn’t a situation where we’re encouraged to work more closely with companies in the portfolio, but on the flip side, this whole notion of singularity, of a broader ecosystem working together, where the human brain and the artificial brain become one, or the artificial brain passes the human brain — realizing that vision, there are a lot of benefits to being under the Softbank umbrella. It’s an exciting time.
VB: There’s a company here called Roader, a little Dutch startup. They have a camera you hang around your neck. It’s constantly recording. The battery can last seven hours, because one thing they’re not doing is saving anything. They’re keeping that video in a 10-second buffer, and so you press this button and it says, “Save that 10 seconds, plus 10 more afterward.” They call it a time machine. You can save something you were going to miss because you didn’t get your smartphone out in time, like your kid taking his first steps.
Haas: It’s a huge area. One of the areas we’re seeing huge demand for is around intelligent computer vision. You’re recording, but there’s some level of intelligence that knows whether what you’re recording is relevant. In the security space, if you’re recording a parking lot for an hour and nothing in it moves, you don’t keep that data. Once you start seeing something strange, then you start recording. The interesting part comes from a learning standpoint. If you have one of these things and it has some intelligence, it starts to learn behaviorally what things you find interesting. That’s a massive opportunity.
We’re doing a lot of work in the IP area around intelligent computer vision. It’s probably the single biggest growth area for us in the IP space. People are trying to build these smart cameras, “smart” being defined by making intelligent decisions about when to record and when not to record, and then the learning piece that says, “Okay, I now know that white Audi that I thought was mysterious is actually always there at 7:17 in the morning, so maybe I don’t need to make decisions around it.” There are limitless opportunities there.
VB: You think about something like a police shooting. There’s no reason not to record that. These cameras they’re using now are still the GoPro kind.
Haas: If you solve the issue of intelligent recording and storage and battery life, then these cameras are always on. They’re already always on in surveillance situations. We just have to solve the battery life. That goes back to this edge compute thing I talked about earlier. The whole notion of edge compute is a massive growth space now. That drives a lot of issues around power.
VB: AI in the cloud is not as good as AI in the device. You can supplement what’s in the device, but if you make the device smarter, you save a lot of traffic.
Haas: It’s a supplement, yeah. You have to reduce the traffic. Again, localized machine learning is always going to be better. But there’s a tradeoff as far as how much you can do, at least today. It’s only going to get better.
VB: 5G comes along and relieves some of the traffic problems.
Haas: That has to happen, because on the flip side, as more and more — with 100 trillion devices online, you’ve got a petadata problem. You can’t take the data through the current pipes. 5G helps to some extent.