ARM has been designing chips that support 64-bit software for years, but the company also continues to support 32-bit code.
This will change a bit in a few years.
ARM has announced that starting in 2022, all of its “big” CPU cores will be 64-bit only. But it opens up the possibility that ARM will continue to offer 32-bit support for new energy-efficient chips using its “LITTLE” CPU cores.
So chances are this means that if you buy a new high-end phone, tablet or PC in 2022, and it uses the latest ARM processor, it may only be able to run 64-bit applications.
ARM’s big.LITTLE technology allows pairing high-performance (and more power-hungry) CPU cores with low-power cores on a single chip. I suspect that if the “big” core is 64-bit only, that means most chips using this design won’t be able to run 32-bit software from 2022 either.
However, some cheap phones and tablets use chips that only use LITTLE CPU cores, in which case it seems likely that 32-bit software will continue to be supported for some time to come.
So why switch? According to ARM, the 64-bit instruction set brings the “performance improvements and computing power” needed for “complex digital immersive experiences that consumers demand,” and even simply recompiling 32-bit applications to 64-bit brings Performance improvements and security.
ARM says it expects to ship a chip design by 2022 that will deliver a 30 percent performance boost over the current ARM Cortex-A78 CPU core, and the company has some timetable designs for its next- and next-generation processors, featuring:
The “Matterhorn Generation” in 2021
“Makalu Generation” in 2022
Focusing on 64-bit also gives software developers one goal instead of two. Although this does pose some risks to users. If you’ve been relying on old apps abandoned by developers and haven’t been updated in years, they may not work on devices with newer ARM chips a few years from now. Unless you’re using a cheap phone that only has LITTLE CPU cores.