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Intel Corp. is facing one of the most important strategic inflection points and is about to enter one of the most crucial battles in its history. But is the company ready? Inte believes it is.

It has been a rather busy year for Intel, which has finally managed to release commercially viable x86 processors for smartphones and who is about to enjoy the launch of Windows 8 operating system, which will open the tablet market’s doors to Intel’s chips. However, in the world of new Windows, Intel will have to compete against long-time rival ARM face-to-face. But Intel does not seem to be too worried about it.

Intel’s x86 microprocessors and application processors based on ARM architecture have co-existed for decades on different markets inside completely different devices and just ten years ago Intel itself manufactured Xscale processors on ARM architecture for personal digital assistants and other ultra-portable electronics. The x86 architecture has always been tailored for compatibility and performance, whereas ARM concentrated on creating the most power efficient designs, which it licensed to others to use inside variety of products. But something changed several years ago: Intel dropped Xscale and started to develop ultra low-power x86 micro-architecture, whereas ARM started to pay more attention on raw performance. The clash between the two was inevitable.

But even after Intel released several generations of x86 Atom microprocessors and system-on-chips, while ARM introduced high-performance Cortex-A cores, there was no direct competition between x86 and ARM architectures as the two ran different operating systems on different devices. With the launch of new Windows, everything is going to change as ARM is now supported by Microsoft as well as x86.

Starting this Friday, there will be Windows 8 tablets with Intel or AMD chips inside and Windows RT tablets with SoCs on ARM architecture. Slates with Windows 8/x86 will run virtually all the applications ever developed with Windows and x86 as well as Metro apps, whereas slates featuring Windows RT/ARM will only be compatible with Metro apps and specially designed software. Although the latter will be less expensive and will offer better battery life compared to x86 rivals, Intel claims that compatibility matters a lot.

“Intel-based Windows 8 machines will run all the software and Web sites written for past versions of Windows. That will not be as true on the RT [devices]. I am not sure that iTunes runs. I am not sure that Quicken runs,” said Paul Otellini, chief executive officer of Intel, in an interview with AllThingsD web-site.

As the new Windows evolves, more and more applications will be ARM-compatible and it is inevitable that Intel will be competing for performance, responsiveness, battery life and price against ARM partners, such as Applied Micro, Marvell, Nvidia, Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm and many others. In fact, Intel will compete not only for tablets, but also for notebooks and even servers.

The world’s largest chipmaker seems confident in the outcome. Chief executive of the company compares ARM partners to companies like Transmeta (which designed ULP x86-compatible chips, but eventually went bankrupt) or Via Technologies (which offered low-power low-cost chips, but also failed to gain market share) and reckons that Intel's CPUs are the best and are getting better quicker than everything else.

“I happen to be around long enough to remember those guys. People come and go, and we have never had an exclusive, if you will. And, overall, the best chip has won,” stressed Mr. Otellini.

Tags: Intel, x86, ARM, Applied Micro, Marvell, Nvidia, Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm, Transmeta, Via Technologies

Discussion

Comments currently: 15
Discussion started: 10/25/12 06:42:05 PM
Latest comment: 10/29/12 03:37:49 AM
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1. 
Intel is getting overconfident in its own abilities they better watch out ARM is coming to get them.
2 3 [Posted by: 123  | Date: 10/25/12 06:42:05 PM]
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Isn't the silicon based technology coming quickly to its dead end?

That's just marketing bull I think. I think that Intel is very well aware of that.

And ARM isn't just somebody who comes and goes. ARM is around for a long time now.

And another difference is that ARM are making their own technology backed up by 100 other companies unlike Transmeta and Via, who were copying x86. And of course the wouldn't beat Intel at its own game.
2 1 [Posted by: Zingam  | Date: 10/25/12 11:50:18 PM]
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Intel's praising that ARM will southward as Transmeta did. Or have crappy market share as VIA.

Well, Intel you can hope. But this ain't gonna happen. Because ARM doesn't use any proprietary x86 licenses so Intel could suit them as they did to VIA and basically cripple them at what they do best - chipsets. By losing their chipset market VIA lost huge incomes and also free advertising in PC segment. Now we can only saw is some FW/USB2.0 host controller or HD audio chip on the motherboards. And that is rarely. And no drivers are needed for those beside one provided by OS (generic drivers).
1 0 [Posted by: OmegaHuman  | Date: 10/26/12 03:29:04 PM]
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2. 
I believe that the X86 type of chip Intel and AMD only account for about 44% of CPU sales now. They rely nearly totally on one Software supplier to generate their sales and with Microsoft now moving away from their processors it will become a case of legacy applications, (even Steam etc are talking about the need for a cross platform O/S need) Intel and or AMD. ARM were the granddaddy of all designers and Intel tried their hardest to kill them off in the 1980's and failed. The Arm chips run a number of O/S's and are not tied to one co for their sales.
3 1 [Posted by: tedstoy  | Date: 10/26/12 02:54:40 AM]
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Depends on your definition of CPU. If you include embedded applications I doubt x86 would have even been that high 5 years ago, let alone now with the explosion of smart phones/tablets.
2 0 [Posted by: daneren2005  | Date: 10/26/12 01:36:10 PM]
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3. 
Intels blabby spokesmen (that's some weird meds btw) again reiterate the words some accountant put them on paper for him.

Intel again is praying for people which will be once again stupid enough to jump to Windows 8 platform as Intel is the one of that companies, and only t-rex, that doesnt know how to write proper drivers for anything OS other than Windouz 7/Vista .... They're probably doing this so they wont mess their tied kartel with Microsoft and praising for all that people they went brain retarded from early 1980's using finest M$ products (time when early versions of Win OS for imbecile show all its fine features). Now these same people should adopt Win 8.

And even BG (aka Bill Gey) now blabbing how there should be a crossover designs of future notebooks featuring fancy touchscreen. Touchscreen feature is always appreciated but same BG wouldn't ever point that out until he finally release product that can compete with Android which is there for 3+ years as to various other OS that runs on tablet/smartphones While the market of tablets/phones skyrocketing Windows felt threatened as their desktop PC market was rapidly collapsing.

Geez. I hope that rotten apple products wouldn't adopt x86-64 architecture in near future in attempt to save cost of chip R&D after market share their overpriced hype products rapidly decline.
After all Apples A4/A5 chips are the one based on Hummingird design not the other way and Apple bought off Intrinsity just for sake that they could say they own chip produced during Samsung and Intrinsity cooperation. And now suing Samsung for IP Apple own but its co-invented by Samsung. Weeee, right way to go Apple.
5 0 [Posted by: OmegaHuman  | Date: 10/26/12 03:26:27 PM]
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4. 
ARM can not ever achieve performance of x86-64 (Intel or AMD).Intel and AMD move towards less power consumption with the new generation of the CPU-s.It seem that Otelin have right.ARM will be a loser.Probably ARM will stay only on basic phone market.
1 3 [Posted by: Blackcode  | Date: 10/27/12 01:01:26 AM]
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Arm is 3,7-4,4 x more performance per wat compared to Atoms.
In last generation processors got performance gains off:
Intel ivy 6-10%
Amd piledriver 11-20%
Arm A15 35-44%
MIPS proaptive 62-77%.

So think again!
2 1 [Posted by: Zola  | Date: 10/28/12 12:58:48 AM]
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We've been here before in the desktop processor space

Think back to the early/mid 90s - Intel had the statically scheduled dual-issue Pentium, while the RISC camp were doing their initial out-of-order designs (POWER/RIOS, R10k, PA-8000, etc). At the time the x86 "complex decode overhead" looked insurmountable, and the "experts" predicted RISC dominance

Then a funny thing happened - As transistors became cheap and microarchitectures became larger and more complex, the x86 overhead vanished relative to everything else required to implement a competitive CPU. The Pentium Pro and its successors basically annihilated the RISC camp in all but niche markets.

We're at the same point now in the mobile space. Up until this point the customers' needs have been satisfied by very simple, ultra-low-power microarchitectures like A9. The current Atom-based solutions lose the power/performance competition against those simple designs, but two things will change going forward:

1. As customer performance demands increase, we are seeing more complex, aggressively OoO (out-of-order) designs like Krait and A15. We already know from the P6 experience that x86 becomes very competitive once the competition moves to that turf. The ARM/MIPS performance gains that you cite are actually *very bad* news for them, because it means that customer requirements are driving them towards more complex, higher-performance microarchitectures, and that's precisely where Intel becomes competitive.

2. Intel will get serious about mobile and start fabbing their mobile SoCs on their leading-edge processes. When you compare Medfield to the current ARM entrants, bear in mind that you're comparing Intel's 3-year-old 32 nm process to TSMCs <1-year-old 28 nm process. If Intel had done their mobile SoCs on 22 nm tri-gate then the comparison would look rather different even with today's architectures.

I have professional acquaintances who work for Qualcomm, ARM, etc. They are under no illusions, and they are *very* scared of Intel right now. They know that Intel can't compete with the power/performance of, say, an A9 or Scorpion, but they also know that customers won't accept those levels of performance any more and so they're being forced off of their "home turf". They also know that Intel has a ~half-node process advantage over their fab partners, and that will allow Intel to "hide" some of the x86 overhead.
0 1 [Posted by: patrickjchase  | Date: 10/28/12 09:45:30 AM]
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Wrong MIPS can compete in low power high performance and ARM can to some extent as well. Actually ARM and Intel will be about equal in 2014 however ARM will have low cost as an HUGE Advantage. Also because of Intel overconfidence THEY ARE TOO LATE TO GO MOBILE. ARM AND MIPS WILL CRUSH INTEL.
0 1 [Posted by: 123  | Date: 10/28/12 11:21:02 AM]
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With windows nt Microsoft devastated MIPS!
The future off computing is many many core's & mips have design for up to 2048 core's back from those days! And Intel can't compete there!
Every x86 that you bay all redy has at list 2 RISC cores!
0 0 [Posted by: Zola  | Date: 10/29/12 03:37:49 AM]
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One other remark: The performance gains that you show above don't mean anything, because Intel was trying to accomplish different things than ARM/MIPS.

Ivy Bridge was a cost/power reduction of an existing architecture (Sandy Bridge). As such, Intel was not trying to improve performance except at the margin. They succeeded very well at what they set out to do: Ivy Bridge uses significantly less power and has a smaller/cheaper die compared to Sandy Bridge.

In contrast, ARM and MIPS were both trying to increase performance, and were willing to accept the same or higher power and cost as previous designs. They succeeded - Performance increased, but they didn't improve and in some cases took a step back in power/cost.

Both camps are doing exactly what the market demands of them by the way - Intel is starting with very high performance in SB/IB, and needs to get cost out to make their "fast" architectures cheap and low-power enough for mobile so that they can ditch Bonnell Atom.

In contrast ARM/MIPS have adequate cost/power today, but are being pushed to higher speeds by customer requirements. They therefore need to move to architectures that look more like Intel's SB/IB, and that's exactly what they're doing even if it means giving up some of their cost/power advantage.

This is going to be fun to watch...
0 1 [Posted by: patrickjchase  | Date: 10/28/12 10:22:30 AM]
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Yes it is going to a lot of fun to watch. But Intel is the scared one here because they won't have ANYTHING competitive Until Broadwell comes out.
0 1 [Posted by: 123  | Date: 10/28/12 11:23:49 AM]
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5. 
ARM gains a little help from win8 but how about Linux like UBUNTU i used Linux for several years and currently getting most of my computing needs done by Linux and the free office apps. my win7 box is there mostly for directx games. besides directx gaming UBUNTU is where i spent most of my computing time. just hope ARM realize Linux is just another BIG fact or in staying competitive in CPU market.
2 0 [Posted by: idonotknow  | Date: 10/28/12 04:23:46 AM]
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Red hat is coming to arm!
0 0 [Posted by: Zola  | Date: 10/29/12 03:19:49 AM]
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