ARM is a family of instruction set architectures for computer processors based on a reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture. A RISC-based computer design approach means ARM processors require significantly fewer transistors than typical CISC x86 processors in most personal computers. This approach reduces costs, heat and power use. Such reductions are desirable traits for light, portable, battery-powered devices—including smartphones, laptops, tablet and notepad computers, and other embedded systems. A simpler design facilitates more efficient multi-core CPUs and higher core counts at lower cost, providing improved energy efficiency for servers.
ARM Holdings develops the instruction set and architecture for ARM-based products, but does not manufacture these products. The company periodically releases updates to its cores. Current cores from ARM Holdings support a 32-bit address space and 32-bit arithmetic; the ARMv8-A architecture, announced in October 2011, adds support for a 64-bit address space and 64-bit arithmetic. Instructions for ARM Holdings' cores have 32 bits wide fixed-length instructions, but later versions of the architecture also support a variable-length instruction set that provides both 32 and 16 bits wide instructions for improved code density. Some cores can also provide hardware execution of Java bytecodes.
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