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Arm in Consumer Tech: The Past, Present and Future

The Arm Podcast · Arm Viewpoints: Driving more powerful mobile experiences on Arm

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Arm has been at the heart of the most popular consumer devices for the past 25 years. This has led to Arm’s technology adopting a powerful position within the smartphone market, which is the most widely used device globally.

As smartphones continue to evolve with more advanced capabilities and use cases, so does Arm’s technology. Each year, the Client Line of Business in Arm launches new Total Compute Solutions, as well as CPU and GPU technologies not just for the smartphone market, but across a wide range of consumer devices. 2022 has been particularly special, with the launch of a brand-new flagship GPU called Immortalis.

In this Arm Viewpoints episode, Paul Williamson, SVP and GM of the Arm Client Line of Business, sat down with host Geof Wheelwright to discuss these new Solution and Product announcements. They discuss what’s driving their adoption now and into the future, from the astronomical growth of AAA mobile gaming to new 3D content on mobile.

The episode also explores Paul’s thoughts on the future of consumer tech and the likely big tech disruptors, while delving deeper into Paul and who he is – including how he got into tech, why he loves Arm, what he would tell a young Paul, and why he is still very much a child at heart when it comes to tech and hobbies too, from skateboarding to Lego!


Paul Williamson, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Client Line of Business

Paul Williamson, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Client Line of Business

Paul leads the client line of business at Arm. The client team defines the compute platform that shapes user experiences in the smartphone, AR/VR, DTV, gaming, and laptop/tablet markets.

Paul previously ran the security, IoT, and wireless businesses at Arm and has been involved in connected devices since the early days of Bluetooth, developing innovative products for consumer, medical, and industrial markets.

Prior to joining Arm, Paul led the low-power wireless division of CSR, a fabless semiconductor business (now part of Qualcomm). Paul started his career in engineering consultancy, working with leading global brands to develop innovative products and services. He holds an MEng from Durham University.

Geof Wheelwright, Host, Arm Viewpoints

Geof Wheelwright, Host, Arm Viewpoints

Geof Wheelwright is the host of Arm’s Viewpoints and New Reality podcasts. He has worked as a journalist, author, broadcaster and consultant for more than three decades – and in a variety of technical content management, corporate communications and senior management roles at several technology companies. He has contributed to a broad range of media outlets – including The Guardian, the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Independent, Canada’s National Post, Time Magazine, Newsweek and a number of specialist technology industry sites (such as Geekwire) and Travel titles (including Travel + Leisure).


Geof: Welcome back to the Arm viewpoints podcast. I’m really excited for today’s episode, which is all about the technology used in the devices you use. Every day from your smartphone to your TV, to your tablet, as part of that discussion, we’ll also dive further into mobile gaming. It’s popular and it’s big business.

According to the 2022 global games market report in 2021, the value of that market exceeded $180 billion. And even better news is that the technology behind mobile gaming is also advancing quickly. Our guest today to talk more about all. And much more is Paul Williamson, senior vice president and general manager of arms client line of business Paul’s team defines the compute platform that shapes user experiences in smartphones, augmented reality and virtual reality devices, digital TVs, as well as the gaming laptop and tablet markets.

Paul previously ran security internet of things and wireless businesses at arm. And he’s been involved in connected devices since the early days of Bluetooth developing innovative products for the consumer medical and industrial markets. Paul is a return guest to our show and we’re delighted to have him here.

This is his third appearance, and we really ought to have an award for that. So welcome


Paul: Thanks, Jeff. Really good to be here again. And yeah, I’m very glad to contribute.

Geof: So Paul, before we get started talking about technology, I want to do something a little different. I’m hoping we can spend a few minutes talking about you, how technology makes a difference in your life and how you like to have fun.

So are you game for this?

Paul: I’m game for that? That sounds good.

Geof: All right. Name one technology. You couldn’t live without. .

Paul: oh, wow. The obvious answer has to be the smartphone, but at the moment, actually, I’m having a lot of fun with a new toy, which is a smart robot lawn. mower,, so when I’m out traveling on work, it’s looking after the backyard for me and keeping the grass under control, which is which is great.

Geof: Okay. Tell me about one place you’d love to live for a year.

Paul: On a personal level. I escape once a year. It’s a bit of a secret, so I’m giving it away here, but to a place in the UK called the Isle of Scilly, which is of off the bottom west coast of little white sand islands. It’s remote hardly anyone lives there.

It’s a bit of isolation and peace and yeah definitely would love to go and live a full year around there. That would be exciting.

Geof: Okay. Now fill in the blank in this sentence. I’m happiest one. I’ve just eaten

Paul: Lasagna with the kids. You and Garfield have that in common. That’s true.

Geof: okay. Tell me one thing about you that most people don’t know, but would surprise them.

Paul: I think the one that has surprised people a little bit recently is that as a kid, I was a massive skateboard fan. Maybe not a big surprise for anyone who grew up in the eighties, but I still have a skateboard and I do go down to the skate ramp with my kids at the weekends and actually risk my knees and my lower limb health by continuing to have a go at it.

Yeah, skateboarding is. A sort of slightly secret hobby of mine still.

Geof: Okay. So your middle name’s Tony hawk. Okay. So if price was no object, what would you buy? And I was thinking about this and I was thinking, oh, a private island but I know from having watched enough James Bond movies, that never ends well.

So what would you buy?

Paul: I still really enjoy engaging with the kids in building Lego and things like that. And I’ve just never got the time more than the money, but I think. A massive set of the sort of robotics Lego stuff to go and do a load of automation and building. That would be a fun thing to do.

Geof: Yeah. Yeah, that would be amazing. Life size, millennium Falcon. Here we

come. .

Paul: Yeah. Anything you could imagine just an entire room loaded with it would be would be fantastic.

Geof: So why did you first get into technology?

Paul: Yeah, I, so I was thinking back about technology recently and I think the first time it comes back to that and perhaps the reason answer around Lego as being a sort of hobby interest is when, as a kid I started to build Lego. My dad, who was also into tech actually hooked it up to what was our Acorn Atom at the time. And we built a few robots that we could do some interesting stuff with. And yeah, that, that is probably the first time I studied to get an idea of what technology was and certainly programming and processes and the rest of it.

I was quite young for getting into that and very fortunate to have. Tech savvy family who could introduce me, but that, that was probably the earliest sort of awareness of technology.

Geof: And what inspired you to first join Arm and how long have you been there?.

Paul: Oh, I’ve been at Arm now for coming up to eight years.

What inspired me to join was looking, I was, I’d been running a division of a company called CSR who big in Bluetooth and wireless connectivity. And we’d just gone through the process of selling the business to Qualcomm, but I was looking for a company where. I could have some impact on the world where I felt there was exciting things happening and Arm down the road, there were some really inspiring leaders there and the vision they had for the future sounded fascinating.

And I remember coming in for my interview and having a lunch with the group and thinking these are definitely the kind of people I want to work with. And I can see that they’re having real impact in the world. That looks really exciting. So that was what drew me in.

Geof: I know you would enjoy doing technology projects with your son.

And when we talked before, you’ve mentioned your exciting work with Unity, your enthusiasm for geocaching, and some of your projects involving the Raspberry Pi and Arduino, it seems that your job lets you bring all of those things together. What do you love most about the job?

Paul: Oh, the job itself. I think it is that perspective of the breadth of the impact of the technology.

Arm we’re so fortunate that we get to partner with. These really influential businesses in the world. And we get to see how our technology can, play a part in, impacting those businesses and enhancing those businesses. And all of that comes into real things that we can frankly, it’s the kind of thing you can show to your kids or to your mum. You can point at things and go, Hey, look, this is what that technology is doing. And this is what is under the hood. That’s making it possible. And that is always a joy to be able to point to that around something you’re contributing to that’s a real pleasure.

Geof: Paul, you’ve been leading the client line of business for a while and helping drive a lot of fascinating innovation in recent years. So what’s the latest from your team?.

Paul: yeah, it’s exciting time for the team at the moment we’ve been on this journey with total compute solutions towards building better performance targeted around the full experience of the compute device in the client. Use cases, everything from smartphones through to AR VR of the future. But this year we’re bringing that together in a new and exciting way around what we’re seeing as. Evolution of the visual experience, the move to more and more 3d content. Being partly about gaming, but moving beyond that into new exciting areas.

And, we’ve just, this week had a launch of I suppose uncovering some of that new technology that sort of sets that path. And really exciting time in the team to be able to share with the world a bit more of what we’ve been playing at and what that might do for the future that all users will experience.

Geof: So I’d like to switch gears now and talk a bit about the announcement that you just had and talk about, first of all why did you develop that particular solution and also maybe what kind of difference it’s going to make to arm’s partner ecosystem?

Paul: As part of the launch, I was really fortunate to get to talk to John Romero legendary game developer and founder of ID games behind doom.

And so on in that discussion, it really emphasized. That, what we had in mind is, is very real. And that is the challenge to create compelling 3d experiences. And, John lived that through the launch of. The first 3d games. And as he articulated really clearly in the early days, that was really hard.

It was really tough for developers, really difficult. It was something they had to sort of engineer from scratch to be able to create something that felt 3d before they could finally equate create something where you really could look around and navigate a 3d space. I feel like in the world of mobile devices and smartphones specifically, 3d content, has seemed a little niche, somewhat, it has been 3d game content and there are some really good 3d games out there, but it’s been a sort of journey that is emerging just now around that transitioning to the way we interact with a lot of more of the experiences we have with our smartphone.

So we are really starting to see google maps, for example, or apple maps, being able to hold up and look at the world around you and have things overlaid on that in 3d with real lighting effects that they look tangible, the possibility of bringing that kind of experience into more and more applications is very real, but it requires some very different underlying technology that’s going to make that possible.

And this year’s release is really about that. It’s about making those 3d visuals. Accessible to developers and the capabilities and the hardware present on way more of the devices that we’re going to be using every day. So that can become a reality.

Geof: And as you’re doing that, thinking a about how you bring that to life, what technology trends do you consider with the new total compute solutions?

Paul: You mentioned the ecosystem and working with our ecosystem is really important. And we balance two things. One is sort. What are those developers? What are those ecosystem players like the game engine companies, like the operating system vendors, what are they trying to achieve with their products?

What experiences do they want to bring to the user? But at the same time, because we’re having to look forward. Plus three years, sometimes in our technology, when we’re designing or formulating what its capabilities will be. We also have to look at you. A bit of crystal ball gazing, to some extent of where do we think these trends are going.

And that is where we were able to join the dots by having this broad ecosystem. There are so many people developing now, forearm and writing and creating applications on Arm that we have the luxury of being able to draw from the insights of that broader community and work out what does that really mean for what’s going to be needed in two or three years? Some of its prediction and some of it’s ahead of its time, bringing hardware, Ray tracing to a mobile device as we are doing with Immortalis this year is something that people will have looked at and thought, is this really the right time?

But what we are seeing is data points and trends that show that the path to really doing these immersive, augmented reality things with true lighting is going to need that kind of capability in the hardware. And when you add that to people, you. Over half the gaming market globally being consumed on mobile devices.

The idea that 3d content was just for a big console is long since passed. Bringing those two themes together, you can see that now is absolutely the right time for us to equip the next generation of these devices with much greater three dimensional rendering performance and richer visuals with things like Ray tracing and variable rate shading that just makes that sustainable for the long battery life of the device.

Geof: Now let’s talk a bit more specifically about Immortalis. So you were talking about the future and there’s nothing more future facing than a name like Immortalis . So what’s the thinking behind launching this flagship, the GPU now and you were talking about technology trends.

What technology trends are you thinking about and targeting. With Immortalis?

Paul: it really comes to that theme of that gaming and the future of augmented reality, where we are needing to meet or promise the consumer something that says that if you use this technology, you can expect that it will give you the best Android experience for three dimensional visuals.

And that is what Immortalis is about. In the past, we’ve had a very scalable GPU design in the form of Mali that can scale from very small things and still can today, from a small smart watch through to a big screen DTV, but Actually being able to set the promise of this has got the best features.

This has the highest sort of commitment to putting the right system resources in place to make sure you can go that extra mile and play longer and have a, fully featured visual experience. That is what Immortalis is about. And. Now seems to be the right time because we are seeing this uptick in 3d gaming.

And I see it again, we come back to my kids, you’re always looking to your kids for the future. And I see them playing rich, 3d gaming content on their mobile phones. And they expect to be able to take it with them anywhere they go much to my frustration sometimes in the car at the dinner table, wherever we don’t want it.

But this is the reality of gaming today is we are seeing. Triple A gaming titles things like even Call of Duty coming down onto mobile as a platform which previously might have been the reserve of the console market. And there are a number of sort of drivers for that, but whatever those drivers are, the underlying technology needs to be ready.

So now is the right time to deliver something that meets that promise and has that bold name of immortalis. We are giving you that immortal experience in the game to play for longer.

Geof: You talk about that kind of commitment. And you’re also reminding me of like when my twin boys were 10 years old they were wanting to play their games all of the time and they didn’t work all of the time. And I would challenge anyone who ever wants to get into tech support to provide tech support for very demanding 10 year old boys.

Paul: Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right. The user expectations now. Huge. You can’t have glitches, you can’t have downtime, you can’t have devices running out of battery life.

There is an expectation that they’re going to keep going and they’re going to keep meeting that performance. And I. True for kids, but true for adults, I’m find myself, recently have been almost all the way around the world to, as COVID has lifted and we’ve had the opportunity to visit our customers and my reliance on my mobile device, stepping off a plane in, in, in Seoul in Korea and navigating the city when I wanted to leave the hotel, being able to lift the phone, look around, use the camera and the maps and, do that 3d viewing needs that battery life to continue.

And. You then need it for payment. Now, contactless payments becoming more common. People are reliant on this thing. You can’t afford for it to switch off halfway through your day or have a glitch. So sustain performance and long battery life with these new experiences is really critical.

Geof: Think that brings the discussion back to more broadly talking about consumer technology. Tell me about the journey for consumer technology to become such a big market for arm. And I, cuz I know arm’s heritage is in mobile.

Paul: Yeah, that’s absolutely true. And the mobile device and our smartphones remains hugely influential in all of these markets. And I think in the start Arm was the right solution because primarily of the power efficiency of the technology that provided compute for mobile and also the business model, we had to partner with multiple providers when the market was forming in mobile and then later in smartphone. What has really spun out from there is now the biggest software developer ecosystem in the world. People are targeting. For all of their development and they’re building richer and more complex tools and coding at a higher and more abstracted layer year by year. And that means if you are trying to create something new like augmented reality or virtual reality experiences, you need to bring those developers and those assets through, to this new world.

That is what we define in total compute around developer access. It’s being able to bring that skill set, those tools, those, that broad ecosystem that goes with it, into these new worlds. You know where we’re looking at say taking 3d experiences in smartphone.

If you’re also going to deliver 3d content, let’s say we want to make it possible for people to sit at home and get a 3d, immersive experience of being at a concert on the big screen in their living room, just as much as they’re when they’re looking into their smartphone or maybe in VR headsets in the future.

 You wouldn’t go and cut this link and go and start from scratch somewhere else. You’re gonna want to bring all those rich 3d assets, those developer tools you’re gonna want to be able to take, I don’t know, a game content creation house and bring them into an events live events, theater, and have them deploy all of their assets in the same world.

And so for us, it’s about building the sort of developer ecosystem ever further. And that’s why it has such relevance across all of the consumer devices we have today. On, on two fronts, one, it allow. FA from a, from the business side, faster time to market for these news ex new experiences, economies of scale and the ability to reuse all of those learnings which economically makes sense.

But I think also from the creative side of this, the people who are thinking up these ideas and experiences, they have this opportunity to imagine what that can be like, just look at things like the atmosphere, you can create in cinematic experience today and think about how that can be. If it, you want to bring it across these multiple formats from your big screen, to your small screen, to your headset you are gonna want to be able to transport all of that creative content, however you have developed it and created it across those platforms.

And that’s what we’re about. We’re about enabling those ecosystem partners to, to make that possible for creators as. So

Geof: you’re talking a lot about what people are doing right now and that’s really exciting and all the work that those partners are doing. But where do you see it hitting in the future? What are the big technology trends or potential disruptors that we should be watching out for?

Paul: That’s a that’s a tricky one. I think the, always predicting the future is a dangerous game and I am still waiting for my hover board to replace my skateboard. But I equally see, there are many things that have of been predicted that have come surprisingly close to reality.

And I think the. While the path to AR and VR will be bumpy, right? There’s the early traction is in sort of conventional gaming. If I wind back to the sort of John Romero discussion of the early days of, Wolfenstein and then through, into doom of how do you progress this technology and make it engaging? It is finding individual experiences that create some level of joy for people that you can then enhance and build up that sort of ecosystem and that capability. And I think, the overlaying, the real world around us with either pass-through VR or augmented reality is going to happen.

And it is very real. It certainly looks really clunky today and I think that was exemplified recently. Mark Zuckerberg recently took Twitter and showed off the four different headset prototypes. He had all of which had different hardware, each bit of hardware solving a different problem that is needed to be solved to make this real and the progress to solving them all in one, in something that’s incredibly lightweight and comfortable is a long path not kid ourselves. But equally I can look back and say it, it really, in a, some ways doesn’t take that long when you look backwards and so projecting forwards, we’ve got to have a similar sort of mindset. Moving from those early 3d games to stuff that we see today, that frankly is scarily real when you put a headset on was not that big, a leap and 3d navigation within a virtual world became frankly, seamless to an entire generation. In a matter of, less than 10 years. And I think, looking forward, we will see that clunky bumpy path to something that is seamless and people really enjoy and find excitement from. But it’s gonna be hard work for all of us. No, certainly arm, a big part of that.

Geof: When you talk about looking back, I remember playing Wolfenstein like in the early eighties and what we see today. Doom was such a huge advance and you look at where we’re at today and that just seems almost prehistoric so that there’s lots of opportunity for development and it looks lots of opportunity for arm. So maybe you tell me a bit about how you see Arm growing more from here particularly in, in this market.

Paul: Yeah, growth for Arm’s exciting. We, because of our exposure to so much of this, we have that unique opportunity to support these new business ideas and these new use cases as they grow.

And growth Arm happens in many different ways. Some of it is technological growth, new problems to solve new, interesting challenges. And that, that creates huge opportunity for our teams as well, which is always exciting to us. I think in terms of value growth for arm, us becoming a greater part of those solutions. And actually the more we can make these capabilities accessible to developers the more we bring value to the system as a whole and our proportion of the value of that overall system increases. We already have very high market share let’s be clear. But I think in the future, the importance of our technology is getting stronger.

Things like machine learning performance. We’re able to bring that to developers very quickly by deploying it through our CPUs and GPUs today, which mean that they can deploy use cases and applications that we can’t yet imagine that are gonna be really impactful. And therefore Arm is a key ingredient to enabling that increased value in their services.

And our business model. Built on shared success. When our partners are able to create more value to consumers we get a share of that even at a very small level. And that is how we grow. And I think the experiences and the. Shape of those consumer experiences is getting to ever wider audiences, which is always good for us. And also those experiences are getting more and more creative and more and more part of our life. That, that’s how I see our primary angle for growth.

Geof: What excites you most about the future of technology?

Paul: I think it is seeing the sort. The moments of joy in, in people’s faces when they’re experiencing these new things.

For the first time I come back to my robot lawn mower. you know, I know it’s not client device, but genuinely huge smile on my face when I watched it curiously skating around the edge of my lawn, it seems a very trivial thing and it is, but equally helping. My family set themselves up with really simple things like just using their phones to access services and whether it be yeah, checking into flights or mobile payment, those sort of little moments of magic and wonder of, wow, I can do that.

And. The way devices have helped us through COVID, I entered Korea recently, as I said with a fully digital passport for COVID on my smartphone, which allowed me to navigate freely in the country. It’s, it is wonderful. And it, it creates that moment of joy when this stuff works for us and enables us to do new things.

And that is what I think is exciting about the future is we’re seeing more of those evolve more quickly than ever before. And I think that’s gonna accelerate..

Geof: As you look back on all of this and how things have gone forward. If you could say something about this tech journey to your younger self. So you go back to, to young Paul working with his acorn Atom. just starting to dabble with technology. What would you say to, to your younger self?

Paul: I think I would say, hold on to that curiosity. The world around us can, bring pressures to bear that mean we at times lose the perspective of that joy. And that sounds a very down thing to finish on, but, I think the inverse is true. If we can hold onto that childhood curiosity and fun and excitement in that, that you see them experience in the world and try and hold onto that. As we grow in, in, in the world, I think that is the thing that I would encourage myself to hold onto cuz it’s the thing that fuel me today and, getting back to that that curiosity and that creativity is the greatest source of joy for me.

Geof: And what would you want to hear from your younger self?

Paul: Oh, that’s an interesting one. I think I think my younger self would look at this and go, I can’t believe you are doing all this stuff. I think it would ground me in the privilege I have because and I get that a little bit from my kids. I come back from meeting technology leaders or interacting with people and you. For me, it’s a day job to go and talk to some of the most impactful people in the technology world. And that are impacting the products that are in the hands of my family and my friends. And that is something that, I have to not take for granted.

It’s really cool. And I’m very privileged to be able to do it.

Geof: Yeah, it is cool. Thanks, Paul, for what I’m gonna think of as our first time travel episode, where we took a trip to the past, and we heard from young Paul where we learned about the exciting news that’s happening right now, about Arm immortals and what it will bring in the future.

And speaking of the future, we look forward to bringing you more news in the next episode of Arm viewpoints, and look forward to connecting with you all again. Thanks for listening today.

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