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The processor vendors supplying chips for ultra-mobile devices (UMDs) are playing a pivotal role in how this market is shaping up. x86-based processors are well entrenched in the PC world and ARM-based processors are well entrenched in the handset world. It is well known that the war is coming, but it remains to be seen who will benefit from it.

Since UMDs sit right between the PCs and handsets in terms of power, size, and function, x86-based and ARM-based processors will compete in the UMD space and are already fighting it out, starting with marketing wars.

“x86-based processor vendors are in a very good position in the near term as far as product wins and market share are concerned. However, as mobile internet devices (MIDs) start to surpass netbooks in shipment volumes, ARM-based solutions will be in a better position,” said ABI Research analyst Philip Solis.

Processors based on the x86 architecture hold a key advantage in that they are compatible with all x86-based applications – the same PC applications most people use today.

Since they evolved in a more portable and mobile device world, ARM-based processors have always excelled at low power consumption. For devices such as MIDs that may be used very heavily all day or may need to last for days without recharging, ARM-based processors hold the advantage.

The x86 vendors will have to make significant advancements in terms of power consumption while executing instructions in order to put up a better fight across the whole UMD space, while ARM is working with software vendors to ensure that as they develop processor architectures and instruction sets, the latest versions of software are compatible.

“The future shape of this market will be determined by engineering success on the x86 side versus business success on the ARM side,” Mr. Solis concluded.

Tags: x86, Intel

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