Ronnie05's Blog

Intel versus ARM: Microprocessor wars

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Mobile Computing by Manas Ganguly on January 17, 2011

“The beginning of the end for Intel”,”The year that a small UK chip designer began to eclipse the largest chipmaker in the world”!

Continued from earlier posts. Read Post I, Post II


Undoubtedly, all these estimates about Intel are grossly wrong in the present context. But whats not wrong, is that Intel is increasingly falling out of favour with the next gen computing: Smartphones and Tablets. It can’t be denied that ARM-based chips will pose a growing challenge for Intel and as Bob Morris director of mobile computing at ARM put it: “All the logos are all the same size which I thought was pretty cool,”. All the Logos were the ARM logos and he was talking about the tablet show at CES. ARM monopolizes the tablet category. And now its has Microsoft rooting for it. ARM shares saw a healthy 7% jump with the Microsoft announcement.

Intel is always better when it’s challenged, so we’ll get better products as a result. Intel may soon have its own Atom microprocessor for smartphones. This is sufficiently delayed after Intel had announced Atom for smartphones last May. We’ll probably see a Nokia Intel-based handset running MeeGo at Mobile World Congress next month.

But Intel has handed much of a head start to ARM already-

It is is not architecture any more, it’s a business model. Whats working for ARM is the support it already has:Qualcomm, Samsung, Texas Instruments, Nvidia, Apple and now Microsoft.ARM’s benefit is that, while it designs the architecture, it uses a licensable model.

That means that manufacturers, such as Nvidia with the Tegra or Qualcomm with the Snapdragon, can make their own design adjustments before manufacture. Snapdragon, for example, features Qualcomm proprietary GPU technology.
They can also pick the best ARM processor to go in their products and that freedom of design and manufacture is something Intel won’t offer.

Apple is a unique case as it now has its own chip design firm – it bought PA Semi who designed the ARM-based Apple A4 chip. Barring a simply earth-shattering seismic shift, Apple won’t be using Atom inside the iPhone 10 or iPad 5.

So then, even if Intel matches ARM feature to feature soon, it will have a task competing against all these different companies, because they’re going to be one of many… its an eco-system these are early days for the Tablet eco-system and Intel has a task in order to get on top of things.

Not many are betting in favour of Intel, but its too early to count them out.

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