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ARM Stealthily Rising As a Low-End Contender 285

snydeq writes "InfoWorld's Neil McAllister examines how the ongoing rise of netbooks, decline of desktops, and the smartphone explosion are reconfiguring the processor market, putting Intel's Atom processor on a clear collision course with ARM. And here, on the low end of computing, Intel may have finally met its match. Thanks to a unique licensing model, ARM will ship an estimated 90 chips per second this year, and the catalog of OSes and apps available for ARM has been growing for decades, including several complete Linux distributions such as Google's Android OS and Chrome OS when it ships. 'One thing ARM doesn't have, however, is Windows,' McAllister writes, something that could ultimately stymie ARM's plans to compete on the low end of the netbook market. And yet Intel's bet on Windows and its x86 compatibility appeal among developers could backfire, McAllister writes. In the end, it's all about performance. Thus far, Intel has yet to demonstrate a model with power characteristics comparable to those of the current generation of ARM chips, which are fast proving their ability to handle high-performance applications."
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ARM Stealthily Rising As a Low-End Contender

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  • Competition (Score:5, Funny)

    by mhajicek ( 1582795 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:02PM (#29902575)
    Still, competitors claim it's mostly 'armless.
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:04PM (#29902595) Homepage

    To tie in with an earlier article on the front page: the Tesla Roadster's battery pack management system is ARM-based. It's built around a Philips-LPC2294 with 32 megs of ram and a 1GB U3 Cruzer Micro USB flash drive, running Linux kernel

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mollog ( 841386 )
      The article says that a port of Windows could be important to the future of ARM, and that Microsoft has no plans to do such a port. (Does anybody remember when Windows NT was supposed to be ported to DEC alpha, HP PA-RISC, and IBM PowerPC?). But why, exactly, does a consumer want Windows? For Excel? Word?

      Seems like Linux will fill the bill with a browser, maybe a PostScript app and a media player. Text editing isn't such an elaborate thing these days. And only a few people even know what to do with Excel
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Korin43 ( 881732 )
        The three biggest reasons I can think of for using Windows are:
        • Drivers - Presumably anyone selling a netbook with Linux on it would go to the trouble of writing drivers
        • Games - As if you could play games on a netbook..
        • Photshop - Same as above
      • by Abreu ( 173023 )

        So, what we need is a netbook with ARM, running Linux, to serve as a model for future application development.

        Indeed. I have an Atom-based Netbook

        Wish I could buy an ARM-based one

        But none are available (at least none in my country)

      • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:57PM (#29904429) Journal

        The article says that a port of Windows could be important to the future of ARM, and that Microsoft has no plans to do such a port. (Does anybody remember when Windows NT was supposed to be ported to DEC alpha, HP PA-RISC, and IBM PowerPC?).

        Thing is, there may not be such public plans today, but don't think it would take all that long should MS change its mind. NT was designed from ground up to be portable; heck, its early builds ran on Alpha before they did on x86. And it wasn't "supposed" to be ported to MIPS and Alpha and PowerPC - it was ported to all those platforms, and successfully ran there, though that configuration was never popular, and so support was dropped in W2K.

        In fact, a version of NT running on PowerPC still exists today - it's the nameless OS inside Xbox 360...

        Software for a hypothetical Windows ARM port is a more interesting topic. Of course, you can be sure that most Microsoft software - most importantly, IE and Office - would be ported right away. For other stuff, it may not be as hard as it seems - it's not the 90s anymore, and you don't see many people hand-coding asm for performance, or using dirty architecture-specific tricks. Windows went through multi-architecture support pains when x64 and Itanium were introduced - and it was a lot of headache back then, because of all the bad code that assumed sizeof(void*)==sizeof(int) etc - so now the tools are there to handle a transition (C++ compiler will give warnings for nonportable constructs, for example), code for most products that are still being developed had been cleaned up, etc. It's still not quite just a recompile away, but it's close enough.

        Which means that pretty much every application that is actively developed for Windows today, you'd probably see ported to ARM in short time should there be demand: Flash, Quicken, new game releases...

        • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @11:10PM (#29906083) Journal

          While what you say is a valid point indeed, if Intel sees MS supporting ARM; it will immediately (and with much better success) come up with a much less power hungry Linux and make a separate processor for that. All the lock-ins such as ACPI etc which MS and Intel worked hand in glove will come crashing suddenly, when Intel's blood is running cold.

      • Between versions 3.5 and 5.0 (Windows 2000), NT was actually ported to several other architectures, including PowerPC and Alpha. None of them were particularly successful commercially, and from what I heard, the Alpha port was killed by in-fighting between Microsoft, DEC, and (IIRC) Compaq. The only non-x86-derived (and on RISC architecture) port of NT currently maintained is Itanium (ia64).

        There's no architectural reason why NT couldn't be ported to ARM, and I actually think it would be a good move to replace the WinCE kernel with a ported branch of the NT kernel optimized for smartphones. They could even keep backward compatibility with WinMo by using a WinMo subsystem (similar to the way that NT is compatible with both Win32 and POSIX by way of subsystem - the kernel doesn't directly handle Win32 or POSIX syscalls, they instead both get translated to NT syscalls which are designed to accommodate just about any API). This would also let Microsoft remain relevant on ARM-based netbooks, provided they port the Win32 subsystem (yes, applicaitons would need to be re-compiled, but for many apps that's all it would take).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mattsson ( 105422 )

        Seems like Linux will fill the bill with a browser, maybe a PostScript app and a media player. Text editing isn't such an elaborate thing these days. And only a few people even know what to do with Excel.

        And most peoples "MS Office needs" can be met with Open Office. That people "require" MS Office has mostly to do with laziness (too much work learning a new program) and myths (you must have MS Office, otherwise you're not compatible).
        The funny thing is, going from MS Office 2003 to MS Office 2007 has a steeper learning curve than going MS Office 2003 to Open Office and has more or less the same compatibility issues.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

      running Linux kernel

      Oh, THAT kernel version! Yes, I know exactly what it means.

      I mean, seriously folks. I've been using Linux regularly since '98, on servers since 2000, and almost exclusively for personal use since around 2001. WTF does that kernel version even mean?

  • by should_be_linear ( 779431 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:10PM (#29902647)
    I am yet to see any. If they only at least produced one for each article declaring ARM ubiquitous winner at low-end netbooks....
    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      This is from the "vaporware = product" crowd that get excited just because something has been announced or might be available in Akihabra.

      It may or may not be real in 6 months.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:15PM (#29902705)

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:21PM (#29902781) Journal
      There are a few things; but mostly obscure or dubiously suitable. The Touchbook (not toughbook) still has a touch of beta about it; but you can actually order one. The Sharp PC-Z1 has a bad case of obscure and japanese; but otherwise exists. You can also get a number of super cheap ARM based netbooks from various random Chinese outfits. Trouble is, most of those are basically the WinCE PDAs of a couple of years back, stuck into a netbook shell. Truly dire specs are the order of the day.

      I'm frankly a bit surprised. You can get beagleboards and shivaplugs, with pretty credible ARM based specs, for not all that much even in small quantities, and ARM based smartphones are all over the place, so the field seems surprisingly thin on the netbook side.
    • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

      You can roll your own with with a beagle board or gumstix plus a lot of hard hacking. Unfortunately the economies of scale mean you won't save any money, you would end up spending something like $500 to $700 plus a few weekends of research and work to put something together that would have about half the power of a standard netbook (possibly with the exception of hardware accelerated video thanks to the secondary features of the OMAP 3530 system on a chip).

      The next year or so should see more powerful ARM ch

      • by tchuladdiass ( 174342 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:43PM (#29904297) Homepage

        I've been thinking about this. What I've got planned so far:
        Beagle board -- $150
        800x480 - 1024x??? 7" - 10" LCD -- ???
        Battery pack with charger -- $20 to $40
        Small USB keyboard -- $20 to $80
        Trapper Keeper to use as a housing -- $10

        I'm not sure where to get an appropriate LCD. I'd like to find one that can use 5 volt and DVI input, otherwise I'd have to run a ribbon cable and bypass the DVI controller on the Beagle Board. They shouldn't cost too much, as I see 800x480 Photo Frames going for $80. I've also seen several "cell phone extenders" that output 5v and have an a/c charger. There's also the rechargeable USB hub from CyberPower. For a keyboard I could either use one that is meant for a data center 19" rack, or get one of the many other mini keyboards that are available. And finally if I house everything in a zippered 8x11 binder then I'd have a built-in carrying case.

        Of course for $300 I could get the Touch book without a keyboard, add my own mini keyboard & carry it in the same zippered binder.

  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:13PM (#29902679)

    The fastest processor is not always the best for all applications. Certainly most desktops these days have more than enough power for those that browse the web. So why not save the cost of the big overpowered processor (and the big overpowered OS) where possible.

    And in embedded designs the fastest processor is almost always an overdesign. All those kiosks for cash machines, ticket sales and cash registers do not need the latest fast processors. The do fine with a slower processors.

    There is certainly a big market for an OS that does not tax the processor and is able to provide the minimal OS functionality dedicate application devices need.

    • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:16PM (#29902719)

      I have a feeling the processor itself is not all that expensive in most "browse the web" computers. If ARM or some other processor is to make inroads it will have to be in the power department. A more efficient processor means a cheaper, lighter laptops with smaller batteries.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        A more efficient processor means the same laptop, with massively better longevity

        Well, that's what I'm looking for anyway...
        • A more efficient processor means the same laptop, with massively better longevity

          That too :)

        • by mccrew ( 62494 )

          Actually, it's the screen that is the biggest drain on the battery. A more efficient processor will help with battery longevity, I'm just skeptical about the use of the word "massively."

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by KillerBob ( 217953 )

            You're right that the screen is the biggest drain on power... on my laptop, it accounts for about 40-50% of the juice that the system uses. Most of that comes from the backlight... in fact, battery life goes up by almost an hour by turning the backlight down to respectable levels. The system in question gets very good battery life, though... it's a 15.4" display @ 1680x1050, with a GeForce 8600M GT 256MB. 4GB of RAM, T5450 processor, 120GB 7200rpm hard drive, running Windows 7 (RTM version, from MSDN). I wa

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        Going by the cost of replacement components for a laptop, buying a replacement LCD screen from some companies is more expensive than buying a new laptop with equivalent capabilities.

      • by BikeHelmet ( 1437881 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:17PM (#29904611) Journal

        Don't forget that processor cost isn't just the price of the CPU.

        ARM-based SoCs integrate many peripheral controllers right into the SoC. What might require a $30 atom and $100 board for x86 could require a $45 ARM SoC and $30 board, plus consumes 1/5th the power and is 1/4th the size. That's a big impact for power and space efficient devices.

        Intel has been trying to do the same thing for their new Atoms - but driver support isn't there yet, and power consumption is still many magnitudes higher. (500mw, vs ~8 watts?)

    • Oh I disagree. I want the fastest processor I can get...with a 1W thermal envelope.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gedrin ( 1423917 )
      I'd agree with this. Processors only have to be fast enough that human beings don't notice the time it takes for the processor to do its work.
  • by hansamurai ( 907719 ) <> on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:14PM (#29902701) Homepage Journal

    'One thing ARM doesn't have, however, is Windows,' McAllister writes, something that could ultimately stymie ARM's plans to compete on the low end of the netbook market.

    In my opinion, it's the opposite. One thing Windows doesn't have is ARM support (besides Windows CE). Manufacturers are already seeing the advantage of ARM, and the lack of Windows support isn't a deal breaker in every segment. I have a SheevaPlug which is an ARM device, and while most major Linux distributions have support for the architecture, Microsoft just has the one, and it isn't even a consideration for most users of the device.

  • 'One thing ARM doesn't have, however, is Windows,'

    Who wants windows running on low-end computers anyway? You'd be waiting minutes for your web-pages to load.

    Ubuntu has the arm stuff working now, so I want a laptop to install it on. It would keep me from lugging around a big notebook.

    It's interesting they don't talk about the palm pre with armel-linux.

    I've rooted my pre and I can run stuff like ssh or telnet from it, but it would be cool to have something with a larger screen and a keyboard.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:16PM (#29902717)

    " 'One thing ARM doesn't have, however, is Windows,' McAllister writes"

    I'm sold.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:17PM (#29902733)

    February: Shifting Apps To ARM Chips Could Save Laptop Batteries []

    September: ARM Attacks Intel's Netbook Stranglehold []

    3 days ago: ARM Launches Cortex-A5 Processor, To Take On Atom []

    Doesn't mean it won't happen, of course, but still unclear if it will, either...

    • by JSBiff ( 87824 )

      Slashdot articles are essentially just links to 'real' articles by other authors/publishers. So, if there are a number of Slashdot articles about a topic, wouldn't that tend to indicate that someone (possibly multiple someones) in "The Industry" are writing about this? Granted, there's always the possibility of Cherry Picking - that is, if the /. Eds. *are* biased, they can 'overrepresent' the articles, but honestly, 4 articles in a year doesn't strike me exactly as cherry picking - just covering what vario

  • by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:18PM (#29902745)

    Windows CE and Windows Mobile both support ARM.

    There might not be "full-featured Windows" on ARM, but saying there's no Windows at all on ARM is just ignorance.

    • Windows CE and Windows Mobile both support ARM.

      There might not be "full-featured Windows" on ARM, but saying there's no Windows at all on ARM is just ignorance.

      They're probably subscribing to the argument that if it does not support Win32 then it does not "run Windows programs" and is therefore "not Windows." While this is technically incorrect, it is true from a practical sense for most people.

    • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:52PM (#29903809) Homepage

      It cannot run the same applications as windows, therefore it's not windows...

      It is partially source compatible, but not enough to make any but the simplest of apps a direct compile... Linux/arm on the other hand, makes it possible to simply recompile the vast majority of applications so that they work (i have a sheevaplug running gentoo and i have done exactly that).

      People buy windows because it runs the applications they have or are familiar with, the versions of windows which run on arm don't provide this.. Linux has a greater chance of running apps users will find familiar, since there are ports of things like firefox to arm.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:01PM (#29903891)

      Windows CE and Windows Mobile both support ARM.

      There might not be "full-featured Windows" on ARM, but saying there's no Windows at all on ARM is just ignorance.

      Except that with Linux, BSD, and even OS X, the code that runs on x86 is the same code that runs on ARM (and PowerPC).

      With "Windows", the code that runs on x86 is not the same as runs on the embedded stuff: there's no "scaled down" version like the Unix-based systems. It's a completely separate OS. The only multi-platform stuff that Microsoft has is Windows for Itanium.

      Just because the Microsoft marketing folks call it "Windows" CE or Mobile does not make it the same as the desktop / server OS. With the Unix-y systems, it is the code and OS (though perhaps cut down to the bare essentials). And that's what we're talking about here: taking the same code and simply doing a recompile. It's not going to happen with Vista or W7, but it can happen with other OSes (heck, even OpenSolaris is being ported as-is to ARM and PowerPC).

  • Stealthily?! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by QX-Mat ( 460729 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:18PM (#29902751)

    Oh please!

    It's not a stealth thing at all. The low power SoC market has always been ARMs. It's AMD (Geode... and then Intel's Atom) who decided to bring x86 to the low power market. If anything the article should focus on the troubles ARM is likely to face in the near future: unless RISC can continue to compete for price (aggressively), I doubt that adding more pipelines will make the general purpose platform developers happy - RISC bottlenecks will always be bottlenecks; x86 can simply gun for greater clock speed.

    IMO Transmeta had it right: very long instruction words (which ultimately do 'everything'). Unfortunately it came 10 years too soon and no-one was ready because we didn't know "what" we wanted from a clock (or half clock etc if you're talking ARM...).

    VLIW will be back soon enough, but I worry that it wont be the right place for ARM.

    (nb: I am an ARM fanboy, having 'matured' in an ARM sponsored undergrad lab. it upsets me as much as anyone that ARM haven't tried to reinvent the wheel using the cash from their recent market dominance)


    • It's not a stealth thing at all. The low power SoC market has always been ARMs. It's AMD (Geode... and then Intel's Atom) who decided to bring x86 to the low power market.

      Yeah, but they're still not really low power and neither are their boards. They're not competing with Arm yet, in that sense.

      I'll say they might be in trouble when I see first see a decent cell phone running intel.

    • Intel once thought VLIW was the future also, thusly making the Itanium IA64 architecture.. and I'm sure you'd know how that turned out for them.

      For VLIW to be properly used compilers would have to significantly improved for the scheduling of out of order instructions at compile time.

      that being said I still need to pick up an IA64 system, it's one of the last remaining on my to get list (have superhitachi, 68k, arm, ppc, sparc, mips, etc etc)

    • It's only stealthy to someone who has not been paying attention and/or did not know that embedded processors outsell desktop and server processors by more than 10 to 1.
  • Is this the End of Intel AND Microsoft?

    Intel doesn't care what OS runs on their chip. I think their Linux distro is Moblin? As long as they have orders, they don't care what the consumer uses.

    Microsoft doesn't care because this is still a niche and they can string along the OEM's with XP forever. When it starts blowing up into a category all its own, I think they'll do something to encourage OEM's to use Intel chips and keep XP out there. Microsoft relies on the fact Linux still doesn't have anything ov

    • Intel doesn't care what OS runs on their chip. I think their Linux distro is Moblin? As long as they have orders, they don't care what the consumer uses.

      Yeah, that part about Intel betting on Windows is just bogus nowadays. Intel is one of the 4 largest contributors to the linux kernel, has moblin as their own mobile "base" distro and mostly provides good linux support for their hardware.

      Of course their investment in Windows is even larger (makes sense when you look at the market shares) but saying that Int

  • Low power FTW (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sporkinum ( 655143 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:19PM (#29902755)

    I just purchased a Wikireader, which uses a low power Epson S1C33E07 60 mhz RISC processor, not unlike an ARM. It will run for 90 hours on 2 aaa batteries. And that includes a 240 * 208 capacitive touch screen.

    • Yes but all it does is surf wikipedia from an SD card.

      It's a neat device, but hardly a netbook call me when it can play a movie, view slashdot, check my email, view slashdot, update a few trouble tickets for work, view slashdot, submit an order to Jimmy Johns for lunch, view slashdot, run an SSH client, view slashdot AND load wikipedia.

  • As far as the application is concerned, the only difference between Windows CE and Windows NT is the APIs exposed. The calling sequence is the same, the library structure is the same, the IDE is the same, the Pocket PC emulator on Windows works by recompiling the same source to x86 instead of ARM code and linking to a different set of libraries.

    Given the variety of APIs exposed to applications running under Linux on ARM (two different Java runtimes, as well as the native UNIX APIs and X11), the differences to the application between Windows CE on my iPaq and Windows on my desktop are less than the difference between Android and Familiar.

    • Wait, the only difference between Windows CE and Windows NT is the APIs exposed, and the instruction set? That's true between Mac System 7 and Linux.

      I think what you meant was that the APIs are very similar, or perhaps that CE is a subset of NT. Most of an OS (as far as an application is concerned) is the API.

  • by Cro Magnon ( 467622 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:28PM (#29902869) Homepage Journal

    Everyone knows it costs an ARM and a LEG.

  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:29PM (#29902875)
    It's possible that the desktop dominance of Windows will keep Arm out of the small computer market. But a lot will depend on developments with Oleds and e-ink. Currently the display is the power hog of all-in-one computers, which means that changing the cpu energy consumption makes relatively little difference. But once Oled and e-ink displays reduce the power consumption needed for the display, the cpu becomes more significant. As screen sizes on convergent devices fall - I personally suspect that the 5.5 to 7 inch diagonal screen will come to dominate in truly portable devices - the resulting limit on battery size will be the difference between an all-day device and one that cannot get through a working day. This is where the new generation of Linux distributions like Maemo and Android running on Arm will deliver a visible benefit, and the end user - who doesn't really care whether he has to run "word" or "floop" so long as the document opens correctly and edits - will be more interested in whether he can go from 7 a.m. to 7p.m without a charge.

    I'm writing this on a netbook running Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10 and it just works (TM). It would work just as well on an Arm processor.

    In the real world, I'm sure that Microsoft will be able to roll out Windows Mobile on Arm one microsecond after Dell tell them that their new 7 inch communications centre and ebook reader will have to run an OS supplied by Canonical.

    • I meant "roll out the latest Windows Mobile on Arm..."
    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      I would say WAY more people care about if their apps will run then care about if they can work for 12 hours on battery. Seriously, I've never been away from a plug more than about 4 hours except when in the backwoods camping. Even on transatlantic flights I can get a power plug to keep my laptop running.
      • And as all other people, who bitch about their apps, you need a laptop. I bought my netbook with the same attitude - "I need to run special software".
        After 6 months I can say, that I do not run anything other than Firefox, Thunderbird, IM clients and occasionally some document editing and ssh sessions. Nothing, and I mean nothing is irreplaceable when moving from windows. My sister, who is your stock anti-nerd, will run same stuff as me, except for SSH.
  • by hemp ( 36945 )

    ARM lacks OS/X in addition to Windows.

    • Re:OS/X? (Score:5, Informative)

      by kamochan ( 883582 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:39PM (#29902991)

      Apple's iGadgets are ARM-based and run a variant of OS/X. Of course, ARM also has WinCE, so that kind of balances the karma.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Apple's iGadgets are ARM-based and run a variant of OS/X [sic]. Of course, ARM also has WinCE, so that kind of balances the karma.

        It's not a variant. It is the same code that runs on an iMac or MacBook, just trimmed back (e.g., no FireWire or SATA drivers).

        The Windows CE has barely any relation to Windows Vista or 7. It's two different code bases, whereas with OS X it's the same code base.

        This doesn't really make much of a difference to the end user in most cases, but keeping one code base bug free and thoroughly tested is generally less of a hassle than keep more than one code base the same.

    • by jdgeorge ( 18767 )

      ARM lacks OS/X in addition to Windows.

      Perhaps, but the iPhone [] and iPod Touch [] use ARM. Lacking OS/X isn't likely to damage the prospects for ARM. At all.

  • Nobody gives a hoot about how " high performance applications " do on netbooks.

  • by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:51PM (#29903129)
    Even if there was a Windows port, if you cannot run the vast set of Windows applications a port is useless. You would be better off running a Linux distro since it effortlessly comes with most categories of apps people need, because said apps are open source and usually can be recompiled fairly easily. If most Windows applications were targeted at .NET by now I could see a point, but they are not.
  • I would love a full-size laptop (13" screen or better) with an ARM chip. Long battery life, full size keyboard and display. It'd be great.

    The only things I can find with ARM chips these days are tiny netbooks. The largest I've found is only 10".

    Anyone know any "big" ARM laptops?

    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      Where did you find the 10" one?
      Only ones i've seen were smaller than this, and typically had very lowend previous gen arm chips and tiny non upgradeable amounts of memory.. Something around the spec of a sheevaplug, but in a laptop with multiple battery options (light 3-4 hour, heavier 1- hour) would be nice.

  • Neither Microsoft nor Intel had it. The perfect monopoly was always the duo. Both of them. Hence it was called Wintel by many in the industry. And AFAIR Intel was really up there with Microsoft when it came to playing hardball with the competition.

  • The Intel has a monopoly on high-end CPUs right now while AMD is pretty much alone in delivering band-for-the-buck budget CPUs. Now ARM is trying to take on the really cheap budget segment? That is bad news for AMD, far worse news for them than it is for the Intel empire.
  • No mention of Acorn? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by QJimbo ( 779370 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:39PM (#29904245)

    Surprising nobody's mentioned Acorn Computers, the British company that actually gave us ARM. At the time Acorn simply used ARM to compete with Intel chips, in 1995 when the StrongARM Risc PC came out it was 233MHz, where as the latest Intel Pentium was 200Mhz or so. The advantages of the RISC architecture were also clearly present, with a higher MIPS rate. But of course the Windows beast could not be slain, and ARM went into portable devices, and became the most successful legacy of the Acorn era.

    Acorn is still around today in the form of Castle, Advantage Six and others, but it lives only really through enthusiast support. With ARM changing their focus to low power consumption (the reason they were able to step into the portable market in the first place), speed became less of an issue. The fastest ARM processors today are only 806mhz (in the form of the XScale), and so building an Acorn today that was realistically comparable to a modern PC is simply impossible.

    I'm just here hoping somebody ports Risc OS Open to x86, Apple managed it after all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

      and so building an Acorn today that was realistically comparable to a modern PC is simply impossible.

      Oh boy are you wrong. :)
      With ARM's price and power ratio, one could slap 16 to 32 ARMs together, resulting in a more powerful, and still less energy consuming and cheaper "multicore" chip than the best one from Intel. :)
      I wait for mainboards with stackable ARM sockets. So that you can just put them on top of each other, with a thin heat-pipe layer in-between, leading to a cooler on the back wall of the case.

      Would look impressively cool (big win with the loud-voiced modders), and I'd be the first one to buy

  • ARM == Hype (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Erich ( 151 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:53PM (#29904377) Homepage Journal

    Yes, ARM marketing (notoriously overoptimistic) says they will have a 2GHz A9 in 28nm, relatively high performance process.

    But A9, in terms of efficiency, is not substantially better than where Atom will be. That shouldn't be surprising. They're both scalar architectures. They both have a little less than 15 useful registers. They both have similarly deep pipelines. They both rely on branch prediction for performance. Neither company has magic, it's not surprising that they're similar on the curve of performance / efficiency.

    Put another way, your instruction encoding doesn't really buy you all that much.

    Now ARM has some lower-end cores (ARM9, ARM11, Sparrow/CoretexA5) that are much more energy efficient than Atom. But they're also much lower performance.

    But this is how ARM's marketing plays it out: we have super-efficient cores (ARM9)! We have higher-performance cores (Theoretically, A9)! You think that ARM cores are somehow both high performance and much more efficient than Atom will be in the same technology... but this will probably turn out to be false.

    Put another way... are MIPS or PowerPC cores dramatically more efficient than x86 at similar performance levels? No. They have most of the same architecture benefits that ARM does... more, in many ways, because they have about double the number of useful registers. But they're on basically the same efficiency/performance curve as everyone else.

    You could probably do an x86 implementation that was similar to ARM11/A5... no floating point, no SSE, just the basic 386 instruction set. Give it a short pipeline and turn down the frequency, and it will probably compete relatively well on energy efficiency with those low-end ARMs.

    The thing I DON'T understand... why does ARM marketing get an article on slashdot every week or so?

  • by PhunkySchtuff ( 208108 ) <> on Thursday October 29, 2009 @06:18AM (#29908119) Homepage

    I've been a fan of the ARM for years, ever since I encountered them in high school in Acorn Archimedes computers. The instruction set was so elegant compared to the i486 and Motorola 68k series chips that it was up against at the time. Flat memory model, none of this segment:offset stuff on the intel platform and a really well-thought-out streamlined set of core instructions.

    I've recently got my hands on an ARM platform, and compared to what I was playing with in school, this thing is light-years ahead. 600HMz ARM, 256MB RAM, 256MB NAND Flash, GPU with ~10M polys/sec, SD Card Interface, High-speed USB 2.0 etc etc. It's all on a board that's 3" square, draws something like 1.75W at full tilt (it is powered from one of it's USB ports) and costs $150USD. No moving parts, not even a fan. 100% solid state.

    I'm currently running Ubuntu on it, but there are other systems like Angstrom and QNX that will happily boot on it as well. Boot the OS off SD card, swap them out to switch operating environments and it's all good. [] []

    I've got no affiliation with Texas Instruments or anything like that, I'm just a happy customer who is amazed at the power of this platform, it's low cost, low power usage and flexibility opens the doors to doing so many things with it...

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