Ronnie05's Blog

Intel and ARM compete fiercely for dominance of Tablet and Embedded devices platforms

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Mobile Computing by Manas Ganguly on November 25, 2010

As convergence fuses desktop and mobile computing together, Intel with its desktop monopoly and ARM with its Mobile computing expertise are engaged in a battle to claim the crown in the converged product: Tablets and Embedded devices.

Intel has started mass production of its Oak Trail platform which combines the Atom Z670 microprocessor and SM35 chipset. This is being readied for the Meego OS (in conjunction with Nokia) and could be customized to Windows as well. On a larger scale the Oak Trail would be targeting the Tablets. The battle for dominance in microprocessors has sharper lines drawn. Intel dominates the server and the desktop spaces, whereas ARM dominates the Mobile phone computing. While Intel tries to make incursions into AMD territory of Mobile computing and vice-versa, the next big platform to be designing microprocessors for will undoubtedly be Tablets.

The idea of ARM-based servers is pretty simple: they may be lower-performing cores, but they use less power; and in an era where one of the big defining characteristics is limiting power to the server room, multiple ARM cores might deliver more processing for a set amount of power. Where ARM also gains in the servers market is a bit of help from start-ups who are innovating on the ARM platform. An example is Smooth-Stone/Calxeda which has innovated and produced an ARM SOC (System-on-a-chip), will deliver a 10-fold improvement in server efficiency, on the system level. While this delivers an edge to ARM in terms of big data application servers, the mass markets will still be the typical corporate servers and ARM will take a lot of doing to unsettle Intel – AMD here.It took Intel and AMD at least 10 years to build the x86 platform to dominate the server space, and it would probably take just as long for someone to unseat them. It will also take years to build up the ecosystem that exists around x86-servers from both Intel and AMD.

Even as Intel-AMD enjoy a near monopoly in desktop and servers, Intel’s next ambition was to take on Mobile platforms, which is ARMs stranglehold. 2011 would see Intel announcing the Medfield version of its Atom microprocessor. The Medfield is a 32nm SoC design which means reduced power consumption, and that in turn would make it more appropriate for small mobile devices.Even if the chip has the performance and power to compete, it will take a long time to build up an ecosystem. Almost all the operating systems and applications aimed at phones today are written for ARM-based platforms which seems to be one reason Intel has talked about its software, particularly its MeeGo operating system, so much.

Thus the real competition for the crown of Microprocessors takes place in embedded devices and in tablet PCs which is what both Intel and ARM are targeting so aggressively. Continued here.

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