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ARM: Intel Has An Uphill Climb Ahead

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.

  • milktea
    "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
    Reply
  • milktea
    Let's have a count.
    Who thinks x86 is most likely going downhill in the future??
    Reply
  • atikkur
    my phone is still nokia 1600,, my pc is quite uptodate, SB yeaaah. why arm for pc?
    Reply
  • reggieray
    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.
    Reply
  • reggieray
    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.
    Reply
  • reggieray
    Tom's has one of the highest Ghostery findings on the web, (advertisement tracking) 13 on this page alone.
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    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).
    Reply
  • deltatux
    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.
    Reply
  • captaincharisma
    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
    Reply
  • captaincharisma
    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
    Reply