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Monday, May 30, 2011, 07:35 am PT (10:35 am ET)

ARM expects to control 50% of mobile chip market by 2015

Led by devices like the iPhone and iPad, ARM Holdings expects its reference chip designs to be found in 50 percent of mobile devices sold by the year 2015.

ARM-based chips are currently found in about 10 percent of mobile devices, and that number is expected by the company to increase to 15 percent by the end of 2011. But according to Bloomberg, ARM President Tudor Brown expects the company's share to explode in the next few years, reaching half of all mobile devices by 2015.

ARM currently plays an important role with Apple products, with the custom A5 processor found inside the iPad 2, while its predecessor, the A4, is found in the iPhone 4, fourth-generation iPod touch, and Apple TV, all released in 2010.

Apple's tremendous growth with sales of the iPhone and the new product category represented by the iPad have played an important part in the spread of ARM-based chips. And earlier this year, Microsoft announced it too would get into the ARM game with the next version of Windows to offer compatibility with the system-on-a-chip architecture.

Brown also said on Monday that he expects ARM to start generating royalty revenue from Microsoft by the end of 2012. While ARM is currently a major player in creating chips for devices like smartphones and tablets, the deal with Microsoft is expected to boost its presence in laptops as well.

The details come soon after a rumor surfaced that Apple, in its internal labs, built a test MacBook Air powered by the same low-power A5 processor found in the iPad 2. An anonymous source said the test MacBook Air "performed better than expected," though the device, allegedly built by Quanta Computer, was characterized as an "experiment."

A4 processor


Earlier this month, a separate rumor claimed that Apple plans to move its laptops from Intel to ARM processors "as soon as possible." It was said that Apple could begin the transition when 64-bit variations of ARM-based chip designs are available at the end of 2012 or by early 2013.

Apple began designing its own ARM-based chips starting with the release of the first-generation iPad, powered by its custom A4 processor. That became possible through Apple's acquisition of chipmaker PA Semi for $278 million in 2008.