During Intel's fourth-quarter earnings conference call Thursday, CEO Paul Otellini revealed company plans to compete with the rapidly growing ARM chip ecosystem knocking at the backdoor. Currently ARM is leading the tablet sector with giant leaps, with Apple's offering its own flavor of ARM in the iPad, and Motorola, RIM and Samsung basing their tablet designs around the power-efficient ARM processors.
Of course, there's also rival Nvidia and its just-announced "Project Denver" consisting of a Nvidia CPU--running the ARM instruction set--that's fully integrated with a Nvidia GPU. This will bring ARM up into the PC sector, making it available for desktops, data center servers and even supercomputers.
"ARM’s modern architecture, open business model, and vibrant eco-system have led to its pervasiveness in cell phones, tablets, and other embedded devices," said Nvidia's Bill Dally in a recent blog. "Denver is the catalyst that will enable these same factors to propel ARM to become pervasive in higher-end systems."
So what's a CPU giant to do in order to show the new kid in town who's boss? Attack from three fronts, starting with the Atom processor. "In 2011, you will also see Atom in a wide array of tablets running three different operating systems: Windows, Android, and MeeGo," Otellini said during the call.
An analyst asked how Android development partners would differentiate between Atom and ARM-based tablets. Otellini responded by saying that Atom-based tablets can run multiple operating systems "which I think is a unique value proposition with Intel."
The second prong of its attack on ARM is Intel's "manufacturing prowess" as described by Otellini. "As we have done for decades in the traditional computing markets, we will apply the world's most advanced silicon transistor technology to these new segments to deliver the lowest power, highest performance, lowest-cost products on the planet," he said.