ARM Holdings occupy something of an interesting position in the mobile processor market. ARM do not manufacturer any processors themselves but instead licence the technology to other manufacturers, such as Samsung, Nvidia, Qualcomm and MediaTek. As such, the business avoids the manufacturing risk and can concentrate on developing the processor cores, instruction and chipsets that will power the mobile devices in our hands. This gives them something of a unique perspective on things mobile technology related and they have today broadcast on Twitter their fifteen predictions for the industry in 2015. Some of these predictions do not feel like they're looking too hard into their crystal ball, but some might raise an eyebrow. So let's take a look at a few of these, but I do not intend to discuss all of them!
The first two predictions that I wish to discuss are that 50% of all smartphones shipped in 2015 will come with a 64-bit processor and that we'll see the first 64-bit devices shipping for less than $70. This shows that whilst 64-bit mobile processing is definitely coming, it isn't here yet and we are likely to still see new 32-bit handset designs for the rest of the year. However, the introduction of such an inexpensive handset with 64-bit technology does perhaps carry the "almost inevitable" badge. Prices are going to continue to drop, technology will continue to march.
ARM are expecting wearable devices to continue to enter the market, with projections surrounding wirelessly chargeable devices, increases in IoT (Internet of Things) revenue and the consolidation of the current broad spread of IoT standards. A few things need to happen before we see an explosion in IoT technologies and the wearable market: they need to pass the "I can't leave you at home" test (more for wearables) and the Chinese consumer has to start buying in droves. Once this happens, we may expect prices to tumble as more and more companies start to take these markets seriously. Currently, there are too many standards competing for attention. ARM also reckon that there's a robotic market waiting in the wings to pick up where the wearable market may peter out.
Security is going to increase in prominence. ARM believe that biometric technologies will drive what it is calling "alternative ID strategies;" as humans, the concept of a username and password is too limiting and instead ARM believe that we'll be switching to other ways to identify ourselves to our devices. This will be driven in part by the increasing (or at least the perception) of cyberattacks. ARM believe we'll see more and more component manufacturers provide hardware security options, similar in the way that Qualcomm are building in a hardware kill switch into their latest Snapdragon processors.
ARM Holdings are also projecting a massive uptick in mobile payments, presumably driven by the mindshare that Apple will no doubt generate when they eventually invent, sorry, launch their watch product. ARM believe that switching to a smart device with "chip and PIN" functionality will make retail more efficient.
Looking through the list, I would reiterate my sentiments that ARM are not especially pushing the boat out here. I am a little disappointed that the market for 64-bit smartphones will only be around 50% during the year, because this implies that they are expecting many new devices to be launched with a 32-bit processor (and it would be nice to think that 32-bit processors will be rapidly made obsolete as 2015 rumbles on). The push into biometric security in place of more traditional methods also seems fair enough as the technology becomes more accurate and reliable. But what do our readers think of the list? Is there anything here that surprised you?