ARM seen challenging Intel's notebook chip dominance by 2013

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
ARM, the company whose reference designs are used in the chips that power Apple's iPhone and iPad, is expected by industry insiders to carve out a significant presence in the traditional notebook computer market by 2013.



While ARM's raw processor performance is not expected to catch up with PC chipmaker Intel in the next two or three years, ARM CPUs are seen becoming powerful enough to power more traditional computers, rather than primarily smartphones and tablets. Citing sources in the notebook PC market, DigiTimes reported Friday that industry insiders expect that Intel will face its "biggest crisis yet" from ARM in 2013.



Anticipation of success from ARM in the notebook PC market stems partially from the fact that Microsoft's next-generation operating system, Windows 8, will offer compatibility with processors based on ARM's reference designs. Windows-based notebook makers, hoping to counter the success Apple has had with its Mac lineup, reportedly hope that competition between Intel and ARM will help the industry and could drive chip prices lower.



"The sources pointed out that Intel is currently focusing on improving the power consumption of its processors, while ARM is enhancing its performance," the report said. "Since ARM is cooperating with Microsoft, and Intel with Google, multiple choices of platform will mean a single platform will no longer dominate the market, and competition will also force the upstream giants to provide a wider range of options to their downstream partners."



Starting with the first-generation iPad in 2010, Apple began crafting their own custom-designed ARM-based systems-on-a-chip with both CPU and graphics processing included. Earlier this year, one rumor claimed that Apple was internally testing a new MacBook Air model powered by the same A5 processor as the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, and that Apple was impressed with the results.







ARM CPUs are popular in devices like smartphones and tablets because they offer lower power consumption than traditional chips, like the Intel processors that power most PCs as well as Apple's entire Mac lineup. Apple originally attempted to develop the iPad based on Intel's low-power Atom chips, but eventually went with ARM designs. Apple also warned Intel that it would end its partnership with the chipmaker for Mac CPUs if it did not improve power consumption, a threat that Intel executives admitted was a "real wake-up call" for the company.



If ARM does enter the notebook PC business, its most likely entrance point would be thin-and-light laptops that sacrifice power for portability, like Apple's popular MacBook Air lineup. Intel has attempted to counter the MacBook Air with its own "Ultrabook" reference design for ultraportable laptops, but that strategy, while still in its infancy, has struggled thus far.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 91
    It won't be until the A8 and equivalents that ARM will be able to compete in that manner.



    At least, I can't imagine it being any earlier.
  • Reply 2 of 91
    aizmovaizmov Posts: 988member
    I think it is still too soon to say. x86 will have its place and won't be displaced any time soon.
  • Reply 3 of 91
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,027member
    With the 8 core Mali chip coming out, SGX graphics cores being scalable up to 12, and the Cortex A15's to come, I can see it competing with low end Atom processors. Still far away from even ULV processors, but I can see ARM getting their foot in the PC space with Windows 8 being ARM compatible.
  • Reply 4 of 91
    Interesting...



    ARM's OPEN system may beat Intel's CLOSED system.



    Between Apple's eco-system to include it's supply-chain and ARM's reference designs which they sell to manufactures, these two are turning the WINTEL model into a real disavantage.



    The only thing in the WINTEL model that was really open with Microsoft controlling the OS and Intel controlling the CPU, was the commoditized PC - the least profitable link in the chain.
  • Reply 5 of 91
    I see them challenging AMD before they take much of Intel's market.
  • Reply 6 of 91
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by studentx View Post


    ARM's OPEN system may beat Intel's CLOSED system.



    Wow people got so bias with open/closed system. ARM is not open it is licensed
  • Reply 7 of 91
    morkymorky Posts: 172member
    I bet this happens. Many home users have modest processing requirements, which ARM can handle fine. The only thing is app compatibility. I think we will soon see the return of Universal Binaries, only this time the will be x86/ARM, and it will be a permanent arrangement, not a transition. ARM will probably never approach Intel in raw performance, and those machines will continue to be needed by many.
  • Reply 8 of 91
    ARM efficiency is their biggest punch against Intel.



    Of course ARM performance is nowhere near Intel processor, the i7 is roughly 10x more powerful but an Intel Core i7 in a MacBook need 30 times more power than the A5.



    Performance per watts ARM is unbeatable right now.
  • Reply 9 of 91
    "Win8 compatible" needs to be in quotes.



    Because being able to run an OS with essentially no actual compatible software isn't exactly going to leverage the installed base.



    The same applies to Apple if they were to release an ARM laptop. What exactly would you run on it for software?



    Neither company will be transitioning to ARM, so how would it really make sense to have a predominately x86 ecosystem with a few portables running ARM, with ostensibly a "compatible" OS that actually is NOT compatible with the software base.



    That is just a mess of confusion. I can see Microsoft doing it, but not Apple.



    Before anyone trots out Apples transitions, remember that those were complete transitions of the product line. That is a very clear strategy. Not simply having mixed CPU architecture releases in the market confusing everything, and the transitions included CPU emulation software, which ARM will be incapable of running adequately.
  • Reply 10 of 91
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by studentx View Post


    ARM's OPEN system may beat Intel's CLOSED system.



    ARM is to CPUs as nVidia's graphics card designs are to GPUs.



    That is to say, not open, just licensed.
  • Reply 11 of 91
    jnjnjnjnjnjn Posts: 588member
    PowerVR version 6 is possibly already included in the A6 processor.

    This GPU is 10 times faster than the already incredible GPU of the A5 processor and comparable to the performance of the PlayStation 3.

    This blows away the intel CPU GPU combination of the MacBookAir and will be more than enough to give exceptionally good performance for the next generation of Airs.

    The point is that Mac OS X (*) relies heavily on GPU performance for most tasks and can offload even more to the GPU (via openCL) if needed. Of course a blazing 4 or 8 core A15 processor with a fifth to a tenth of the power consumption of a comparable Intel processor won't hurt.



    J.



    (*) and iOS
  • Reply 12 of 91
    Performance wise, sure, I imagine they'll be a strong competitor to Intel soon. The problem is that pesky x86 instruction set. Apple pulled a magic rabbit out of the proverbial hat with their transition to x86 by way of Rosetta. They could do it again should they choose to move to ARM for MacOSX. I don't think they will...



    It's all about the apps. iOS apps are not the same as MacOSX apps regardless of similar tools. Even if Apple were to do this, I don't think you'd find any love whatsoever in the massive Windows market. There is no Rosetta for Windows.



    Does anyone really think hundreds of thousands of developers are going to rewrite all their Windows apps to run on ARM or maintain additional code bases to run on both ARM and x86? I think not. They already have to maintain multiple code bases for different platforms (the devs that aren't Windows only) and they're not going to exponentially increase that effort.



    This will also be the achilles heel for Windows 8. Corporate America is still having problems getting it's IT infrastructure off of the IE6 crack. Does anyone think they'd buy new versions of all their apps to support ARM even if the developers wrote them? Yea, I don't think so either.
  • Reply 13 of 91
    macrulezmacrulez Posts: 2,455member
    deleted
  • Reply 14 of 91
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mytdave View Post


    Performance wise, sure, I imagine they'll be a strong competitor to Intel soon. The problem is that pesky x86 instruction set. Apple pulled a magic rabbit out of the proverbial hat with their transition to x86 by way of Rosetta. They could do it again should they choose to move to ARM for MacOSX. I don't think they will...



    I don't think they CAN. They were able to make Rosetta work because the Intel chips were at least as powerful as PPC. The loss in performance caused by translation was overcome by the fact that most people were replacing older systems. ARM starts out significantly less expensive than x86. Adding on the performance penalty from Rosetta and you'd have a major problem.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Snowdog65 View Post


    "Win8 compatible" needs to be in quotes.



    Because being able to run an OS with essentially no actual compatible software isn't exactly going to leverage the installed base.



    The same applies to Apple if they were to release an ARM laptop. What exactly would you run on it for software?



    Neither company will be transitioning to ARM, so how would it really make sense to have a predominately x86 ecosystem with a few portables running ARM, with ostensibly a "compatible" OS that actually is NOT compatible with the software base.



    However, software availability is overrated. If Microsoft were to port Windows Office to ARM, that (plus IE and a few other lesser apps) would be all that many low end laptop users need. I don't see them running Adobe Creative Suite on this type of machine.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Snowdog65 View Post


    That is just a mess of confusion. I can see Microsoft doing it, but not Apple.



    Before anyone trots out Apples transitions, remember that those were complete transitions of the product line. That is a very clear strategy. Not simply having mixed CPU architecture releases in the market confusing everything, and the transitions included CPU emulation software, which ARM will be incapable of running adequately.



    I agree, I don't think it's LIKELY for Apple to do it, but I don't see it as impossible. For example, I could see an 'iPad Pro' which has a 11-13" screen, keyboard, and iOS. Preload it with Pages, Numbers, and a few other things and it would meet a lot of people's computing needs.
  • Reply 15 of 91
    macrulezmacrulez Posts: 2,455member
    deleted
  • Reply 16 of 91
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    I don't think they CAN. They were able to make Rosetta work because the Intel chips were at least as powerful as PPC. The loss in performance caused by translation was overcome by the fact that most people were replacing older systems. ARM starts out significantly less expensive than x86. Adding on the performance penalty from Rosetta and you'd have a major problem. <snip>



    You are probably right that they could not turn around and run the existing Rosetta on ARM tomorrow. However, ARM performance is increasing, and one would presume that if they did do it again, it wouldn't be your grandfather's Rosetta - I would presume they'd tweak Rosetta to run in conjunction with LLVM and Klang.
  • Reply 17 of 91
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MacRulez View Post


    Long live ARM! Long live Intel!



    Indeed. ARM will finally give Intel the competition it has so greatly needed for so long.



    "But AMD!"



    AMD is the bargain bin of CPUs. ATI's great, but AMD is… well.



    Anyway, Haswell's supposed to kick what we know about power draw squarely in the genitals, and I, for one, hope that increased pressure from ARM will speed along Haswell's release.



    And hey, they might even start work on Skylake/Skymont early because of ARM. Hopefully. I want them to hit the physical limit for traditional transistors before my hair goes completely white…



    I know a guy at Intel. (You'll never believe me because I can't prove this, but whatever.) He says that Intel's greatest concern is ARM, even taking into account their own post-Haswell roadmap.
  • Reply 18 of 91
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    However, software availability is overrated. If Microsoft were to port Windows Office to ARM, that (plus IE and a few other lesser apps) would be all that many low end laptop users need.



    That covers 80 or 90 percent of the software the average person needs; however, that still leaves 1 or 2 apps missing which is likely to be a deal breaker. Unfortunately, those final 1 or 2 apps will vary considerable between different people so you actually need to port a lot of apps to cover 100% of the average users needs.
  • Reply 19 of 91
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Orlando View Post


    That covers 80 or 90 percent of the software the average person needs; however, that still leaves 1 or 2 apps missing which is likely to be a deal breaker. Unfortunately, those final 1 or 2 apps will vary considerable between different people so you actually need to port a lot of apps to cover 100% of the average users needs.



    Only if you expect this device to be sold to everyone.



    As I said, there are many millions of people who don't need anything more than an email client, web browser, and MS Office. A low end portable device that ran those things could have potentially a large market.



    You are correct that you'd need more than that to sell to EVERYONE, but since that would be a foolish thing to try to do with a cheap, low end device, I don't see how it's relevant.
  • Reply 20 of 91
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mytdave View Post


    You are probably right that they could not turn around and run the existing Rosetta on ARM tomorrow. However, ARM performance is increasing, and one would presume that if they did do it again, it wouldn't be your grandfather's Rosetta - I would presume they'd tweak Rosetta to run in conjunction with LLVM and Klang.



    x86 performance is also increasing.



    I don't think anyone sees ARM catching up to Intel any time soon, so ARM will be at a performance disadvantage for many years. That means that you'd be running Rosetta on a machine which is slower to start with - which is a formula for disaster. Rosetta really only makes sense if the machine is at least as fast as the one it's emulating.
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