Can ARM displace Intel's Atom as the netbook king?
According to analysts, netbooks powered by ARM processors will take over market share majority from Intel sometime in 2012.
Since Asus introduced the first Eee PCs at Computex in 2007, netbooks have taken the personal computer market by storm. At the heart of many of those netbooks is an Atom CPU from processor giant Intel. While its majority market share has yet to face any serious contenders, some believe that the Atom's dominance won't last forever.
According to Dr. Robert Castellano, an analyst with The Information Network, ARM's Cortex-A9 multicore processor could be a serious challenger to the Atom. Specifically, Castellano believes a 2012 Cortex-A9 netbook with a Linux-based operating system could sell at a price point that no Intel/Windows netbook could match. The Cortex-A9 is currently available, but Castellano says 2012 is the magic number because of his predicted price points for the Cortex-A9 and Atom in that year. Castellano also accounts for cloud computing in his numbers, saying cloud technology in 2012 would essentially eliminate the need for (most) local storage in netbooks.
While competition against Intel in the netbook category is sure to ramp up, not everyone agrees with Castellano's assessments. Mario Morales, an analyst with IDC, says he still sees Intel on top of the netbook market several years down the line. "You don't want to burn Intel," said Morales to EETimes. "If I am an AsusTek, I need to get processors for my other product lines from them."
ARM may not be the kryptonite to Intel's Atom, but several companies are poised to take market share from the Santa Clara company. VIA has carved out a nice piece of the market for itself already, while Nvidia's Tegra platform will eventually make its way into netbooks. Furthermore, we have yet to see any serious netbook activity from AMD, Intel's biggest rival. If we ever see a true netbook offering from AMD, it could pose a massive threat to Intel's market share in the netbook sector.