ARM: Intel Is Finally Good Enough for Smartphones, but ARM Is Better

ARM Sees Intel Medfield as “Serious Competitor”

by Anton Shilov
01/12/2012 | 03:05 PM

Chief executive officer of ARM Holdings, a leading developer of mobile microprocessor technologies, said that Intel Corp.’s latest Medfield system-on-chip is “good enough” for smartphones and the company considers Intel a “serious competitor”. But ARM claims that Intel will never be a leader of the mobile chip market since power consumption of its chips is just too high.


“It is inevitable Intel will get a few smartphone design wins – we regard Intel as a serious competitor. Are they ever going to be the leaders in power efficiency? No, of course not. But they have a lot more to offer,” said Warren East, chief executive officer of ARM, in an interview with Reuters.

ARM continues to offer both energy-efficient and cost-efficient designs for a broad amount of mobile devices, from simplistic feature phones to powerful media tablets. At present ARM architecture is licensed by 275 chipmakers. Intel’s one Medfield chip will not change the trend, moreover, since it still consumes more power than ARM-based system-on-chips, it will not find broad adoption due to battery life constraints it brings.

"They (Intel) have taken some designs that were never meant for mobile phones and they have literally wrenched those designs and put them into a power-performance space which is roughly good enough for mobile phones. […] People want to do more things with their phones, but battery size remains constant. It is like having a car with a fixed-size fuel tank and you want to drive 100 more miles. You've got to make the engine more efficient. That is what we do for a living,” added Mr. East.

Intel has a number of ways to substantially reduce power consumption of its microprocessors over time. Firstly, the company is adding special low-power states to its chips along with other logical methods to reduce consumption of energy. Secondly, Intel is rapidly transiting from one process technology to another and that automatically cuts power requirements. Thirdly, Intel is designing novel ultra low-power circuits under its Near-Threshold Voltage Processor project to use them in future central processing units (CPUs). Finally, other technologies can also be used to cut down power consumption.