ARM has expanded its DesignStart program, intended to promote the creation of SoCs by startups and OEMs, by providing access to the Cortex-M3 as well as the M0 with no up-front licence fee.
In autumn 2015, at the ARM TechCon event, the company first made the M0 available for free under a special pre-commercialization licence. Users could move to production with a pre-packaged $40,000 licence.
“It helped thousands get access to the Cortex-M0,” said ARM senior product marketing manager Phil Burr. “Now as part of SoftBank, ARM is able to make bold changes. This will make it easier for developers to make chips that are tailored to their needs. They can now get access to the Cortex-M3, a mainstream core for connected intelligence applications.”
There are other structural changes to the DesignStart program. “We’ve made access simpler and faster with two flavors: DesignStart Eval and DesignStart Pro.”
The DesignStart Eval program provides access through a clickthrough agreement to a downloadable core suitable for prototyping and which can be deployed on an FPGA. The Pro, said Burr, “lets you sign a simplified contract and start on commercialization. We’ve brought out a web-based mechanism for that so it’s much simpler to access the IP”.
The Pro licence calls for royalties beginning at 1000 units. For an M3 SoC with an average selling price of $1, the royalties amount to a little under $200,000 after 5 million units have been shipped. The royalty per unit declines slightly after that point. ARM will continue with its standard licences for these cores for a different mixture of up-front licence and royalty cost.
ARM expects usage to be focused primarily on mixed-signal SoC designs that “are likely to be aimed at older processes: 90nm or even 180nm”, Burr noted.