The embedded market continues to move toward 32-bit processing. At the same time, the market has
seen a significant increase in the use of FPGAs as flexible, cost-effective platforms for the rapid design of
high-performance embedded systems. In combination, these trends are driving demand for 32-bit processors in programmable logic.

Certainly, there is no end to the number of new 32-bit processor architectures. However, most processor
intellectual property (IP) is developed for ASIC implementation. As a result, when implemented in the
coarse-grained architecture of FPGAs, the processors are often large and slow—a fate suffered by many
widely used processors when ported to programmable logic.

What has been lacking in the market is an FPGA-optimized, 32-bit processor based on an industry-standard architecture. To address this need, Actel and ARM developed the 32-bit Cortex-M1 processor, the first ARM core designed specifically for FPGA implementation. This white paper provides an introduction to the Cortex-M1 processor.