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ARM: Intel Has An Uphill Climb Ahead

By - Source: Computerworld | B 54 comments

Intel will have a tough time entering a market primarily owned by ARM-based technology.

This week brought a little controversy to the love triangle that comprise rivals/partners Intel, ARM and Microsoft. Earlier this week Intel CEO Paul Otellini revealed intentions to enter the mobile sector. Intel's Renee James later indicated that Microsoft is currently developing four versions of Windows 8: one for x86 and three for ARM-based SoCs. James even pointed out that the x86 version will include a Windows 7 mode and compatibility for legacy software. The ARM-based versions will not.

Microsoft immediately blasted Intel for the comments, calling them factually inaccurate and misleading. "From the first demonstrations of Windows on SoC, we have been clear about our goals and have emphasized that we are at the technology demonstration stage," the company said without addressing specific Intel statements. "As such, we have no further details or information at this time."

Now ARM's mobile strategist James Bruce has come out of the woodwork saying that the mobile market is more complex that what Intel is accustomed to. In fact, the x86 chip maker has an uphill battle in the road ahead, especially in a market seemingly assimilated by ARM thanks to its 95-percent dominance in both cell phone and smartphone sectors. That doesn't even include tablets.

Right now ARM doesn't consider Intel as a threat. Bruce pointed out that currently there are no smartphones shipping with the Atom processor. "I'm sure there are going to be handsets shipping at some point in the future with Atom processors," he acknowledged. "To be honest, from our perspective, proof is really very much in production."

Over the past few days, analysts have reported that Intel will probably unveil new mobile x86 chips within the next 12 to 18 months. But Bruce said that there's more to entering the mobile market than merely producing a powerful yet efficient processor. It's not like the PC arena where Intel dominates over rivals AMD and VIA. Intel will be up against an entire ecosystem established by ARM's architecture and licensing, essentially taking on Apple, Samsung, Nvidia and Qualcomm.

"Obviously, when you have a company like Intel saying it's going to focus on your market, you're going to take notice," he said. "The key thing to emphasize is that this is not an Intel vs. ARM battle but Intel vs. the ARM ecosystem. The mobile market is not just about one chip going into multiple handsets but about multiple pieces required for multiple handset designs."

"The key thing to keep in mind is that the mobile market is not a monolithic market with one solution fits all," he added.. "ARM's partners are delivering many different chips at many different price points and capabilities that allow the ARM ecosystem to address the entire mobile market...."

Intel will have a hard time entering the market, he said. It's not about selling processors. It's about selling a near-completed cell phone on one chip, one containing the CPU, GPU, memory, video codecs, 3G/4G radio and more.

Of course, ARM is now heading into the PC and server sectors, with Nvidia already signed on to lease the architecture for PC chips. But as with Intel and its struggles to get a foothold in the mobile sector, ARM too may face the same uphill battle entering Intel's home territory. That said, this may be a good time to prime up the recliner and pop a bowl of popcorn to watch the heavyweights duke it out in style.

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  • 0 Hide
    milktea , May 20, 2011 8:40 PM
    "watch the heavyweights duke it out in style"
    I like that! The battle between ARM and x86 in both the mobile and non-mobile sector. Very good news for consumer. :D 
  • -1 Hide
    milktea , May 20, 2011 8:42 PM
    Let's have a count.
    Who thinks x86 is most likely going downhill in the future??
  • -1 Hide
    atikkur , May 20, 2011 8:48 PM
    my phone is still nokia 1600,, my pc is quite uptodate, SB yeaaah. why arm for pc?
  • 0 Hide
    reggieray , May 20, 2011 8:57 PM
    Intel and MS aka Wintel were caught up in the bloatware easily for over a decade maybe two. Microsoft would release bigger fatter OS's that were resource hogs and Intel would go along with nwere faster chips. It worked great for years but it looks like they both got caught with their pants down.
  • 0 Hide
    reggieray , May 20, 2011 8:59 PM
    Some better chip designs and OS's were lost because of the MS/intel monopoly. RISC chips and OS's, then there is OS2 Warp for starters.
  • 1 Hide
    reggieray , May 20, 2011 9:00 PM
    Tom's has one of the highest Ghostery findings on the web, (advertisement tracking) 13 on this page alone.
  • 3 Hide
    jimmysmitty , May 20, 2011 9:02 PM
    milkteaLet's have a count.Who thinks x86 is most likely going downhill in the future??


    I don't. Sorry but switching to ARM for everything would be near impossible. Its the same reason Intel's Itanium IA64 arch didn't take over and instead we have x86-64. The change is too hard for the majority of consumers.

    As for the x86 mobile sector, I don't see it as anything more than a win for consumers. Having more choices never hurts and Intel has shown that Atom is decent for the small app based markets.

    I only hope they spur ARM to make major innovations. I actually want to see a 22nm 3D Tri Gate based CPU in a smartphone that has stacked RAM. That would be awesome.

    ReggieRayIntel and MS aka Wintel were caught up in the bloatware easily for over a decade maybe two. Microsoft would release bigger fatter OS's that were resource hogs and Intel would go along with nwere faster chips. It worked great for years but it looks like they both got caught with their pants down.


    Not sure how this applies or what truth there is. Intel has never added any bloatware and like AMD continues to try and make CPUs faster. Windows is hardly bloated as even 7 only uses less than 1GB of RAM. Of course Windows is still well behind CPU power.

    A current system with a Sandy Bridge CPU or Phenom II is more than powerful enough for Windows 7 and will probably be more powerful than whats needed for Windows 8.

    If you want to complain about bloatware, talk to the OEMs such as Dell, HP and such who continually take pay-offs to include crap software that's not needed by the majority of the people or is just plain crap (I'm looking at you Norton, McAffe etc).
  • 2 Hide
    deltatux , May 20, 2011 9:39 PM
    Since the mobile market has no reliance on Microsoft ... I say x86 is pretty much stuck to the conventional PC market and Intel's just wasting money like they did with Itanium.

    Though, I do question how ARM on the desktop will play out due to the over-reliance on Microsoft.
  • 2 Hide
    captaincharisma , May 20, 2011 9:42 PM
    i think they had the same conversation 30 years ago with x86 vs. RISC CPU's and we all know how much there used commercially now
  • 1 Hide
    captaincharisma , May 20, 2011 9:45 PM
    ReggieRaySome better chip designs and OS's were lost because of the MS/intel monopoly. RISC chips and OS's, then there is OS2 Warp for starters.


    thats funny because MS help make OS2 Warp. at least on the business versions of it
  • 1 Hide
    nebun , May 20, 2011 9:57 PM
    intel needs to stick with destop cpus....can't wait to get a cell phone with tegra2
  • 3 Hide
    dread_cthulhu , May 20, 2011 9:59 PM
    jimmysmittyI don't. Sorry but switching to ARM for everything would be near impossible. Its the same reason Intel's Itanium IA64 arch didn't take over and instead we have x86-64. The change is too hard for the majority of consumers.As for the x86 mobile sector, I don't see it as anything more than a win for consumers. Having more choices never hurts and Intel has shown that Atom is decent for the small app based markets.I only hope they spur ARM to make major innovations. I actually want to see a 22nm 3D Tri Gate based CPU in a smartphone that has stacked RAM. That would be awesome.Not sure how this applies or what truth there is. Intel has never added any bloatware and like AMD continues to try and make CPUs faster. Windows is hardly bloated as even 7 only uses less than 1GB of RAM. Of course Windows is still well behind CPU power.A current system with a Sandy Bridge CPU or Phenom II is more than powerful enough for Windows 7 and will probably be more powerful than whats needed for Windows 8.If you want to complain about bloatware, talk to the OEMs such as Dell, HP and such who continually take pay-offs to include crap software that's not needed by the majority of the people or is just plain crap (I'm looking at you Norton, McAffe etc).


    Agreed!
  • 2 Hide
    rantoc , May 20, 2011 10:05 PM
    If Intel manage to get their power envelope down to arm levels they will likely take over the phone industry as well since even the basic x86 Atom out-paces the current Arm offerings per clock especially in flops. Amd awoke the giant in the past performance market with the excellent Athlon family and guess what happened... Core2 and now Sandy Bridge.

    Now its Arm who awoke them in another market, lets see how that ends up! With the new techs/shrink their rolling out i would not count out Intel even for a sec and contrary to some here, i do like competition - It brings out better products at better prices for the consumers!
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 20, 2011 10:19 PM
    rantoc: Nobody cares about performance per clock with these chips. The lowest power Atom chip only runs at 300mhz, and it's still 300% more power hungry than the average ARM chip. If a 300mhz Atom core is about on par with a 600mhz ARM CPU that consumes less than a watt, then it's not even a close race.
  • 1 Hide
    rantoc , May 20, 2011 10:30 PM
    use_your_h3adrantoc: Nobody cares about performance per clock with these chips.


    Read the first 9 words again, maybe the cache memory ran out?
  • 0 Hide
    billj214 , May 20, 2011 10:40 PM
    The ARM industry is afraid of Intel with it's superior manufacturing process and mass of patents which have the capability of making a superior processor for just about any application.
    I would put my bets on Intel's mobile processor based on the Sandy Bridge architecture to dominate and who knows how tri-gates will help the power consumption but if I had to bet, it will revolutionize the mobile market!
  • 0 Hide
    nforce4max , May 20, 2011 10:43 PM
    They can easily make gains in the tablet sector if they would just get their act together. As for smart phones one better define their terms and goals of what they consider success as Intel can't be in every sector and do well. It is better to be fat and happy by doing well in a few rather than being in every sector and do very poorly. Intel has the x86 market any way and x86 isn't going to go away any time so why should it be so concerned whe arm cpu in general could barely compete with a p4 in terms of raw performance.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 20, 2011 11:15 PM
    rantoc: It doesn't matter what the first 9 words is, because of 2 things:

    1. Intel cannot magically overcome the laws of physics with a bloated and inefficient architecture, and
    2. "as well since even the basic x86 Atom out-paces the current Arm offerings per clock"

    You see, the greater IPC is at the expense of inferior performance-per-watt, CISC vs. RISC and all... Unless you just "believe" in Intel... How'd that revolutionary Terascale chip work out for you?
  • 1 Hide
    memadmax , May 21, 2011 12:02 AM
    Pride go'ith before the fall =D
  • 0 Hide
    sykozis , May 21, 2011 12:16 AM
    milkteaLet's have a count.Who thinks x86 is most likely going downhill in the future??

    It's not "x86 vs ARM"....it's another round of CISC vs RISC....and I'm assuming we all know who won the last battle of such.

    deltatuxSince the mobile market has no reliance on Microsoft ... I say x86 is pretty much stuck to the conventional PC market and Intel's just wasting money like they did with Itanium.Though, I do question how ARM on the desktop will play out due to the over-reliance on Microsoft.

    This may be ARM's first venture into the desktop market, but not the first for RISC based processors. I believe Intel's last win over RISC based processors was more due to acceptance and support than RISC based processors actually being inferior to any extent.

    jimmysmittyI don't. Sorry but switching to ARM for everything would be near impossible. Its the same reason Intel's Itanium IA64 arch didn't take over and instead we have x86-64. The change is too hard for the majority of consumers.As for the x86 mobile sector, I don't see it as anything more than a win for consumers. Having more choices never hurts and Intel has shown that Atom is decent for the small app based markets.I only hope they spur ARM to make major innovations. I actually want to see a 22nm 3D Tri Gate based CPU in a smartphone that has stacked RAM. That would be awesome.Not sure how this applies or what truth there is. Intel has never added any bloatware and like AMD continues to try and make CPUs faster. Windows is hardly bloated as even 7 only uses less than 1GB of RAM. Of course Windows is still well behind CPU power.A current system with a Sandy Bridge CPU or Phenom II is more than powerful enough for Windows 7 and will probably be more powerful than whats needed for Windows 8.If you want to complain about bloatware, talk to the OEMs such as Dell, HP and such who continually take pay-offs to include crap software that's not needed by the majority of the people or is just plain crap (I'm looking at you Norton, McAffe etc).

    Switching users from Intel's CISC based x86 architecture set to ARM's RISC architecture will be slow...and painful for consumers. Unless ARM can manage to get support from software companies, they stand no chance. IF they manage to get software support, consumers will have to buy RISC compatible versions of the software they already own x86 compatible versions of.
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