by Anton Shilov
11/30/2012 | 04:04 AM
Although Advanced Micro Devices recently announced plans to design various system-on-chips based on ARM architecture, the company believes that the x86 instruction set will remain very important for the industry for decades to come. Quite possibly, the claim was made to debunk rumours about AMD’s plans to halt development of high-performance x86 chips in a bid to concentrate on low-power products.
“There are no doubts that x86 is going to be a huge portion of our business. I think that it is going to be an important segment of our business for 5 – 10+ years. The x86 is going to be here long after I am retired. […] There will be x86 applications just like there are mainframe applications today, 25 – 30 years later. That is not going to fundamentally change,” said Rory Read, chief executive of AMD, at Credit Suisse Technology Conference earlier this week.
Throughout its history, the x86 architecture has fought many battles, some of which determined the future of the whole computing industry. The x86 managed to become the de facto microprocessor standard for servers, which replaced mainframes and essentially killed proprietary processor architectures. The vast majority of x86 wins were conditioned by their high performance amid relatively low costs.
But today, x86 is facing a tough competition from ARM architecture, which is more energy efficient and which lets chip designers to make extremely low-cost chips that consume over a fraction of power the x86-based solutions do. As it appears, in many ways very high performance is not needed, but power consumption is crucial. Therefore, ARM-based microprocessors are gaining revenue share away from x86 nowadays.
It is quite obvious that the need for high performance will remain: there are complex programs that process huge amounts of data, there are sophisticated video games, there is video editing software and there are many other applications that take advantage of high-end chips, which rely on x86 instruction set. In fact, the gap between performance of ARM and x86 chips will remain rather huge for years to come.
AMD understands that very well, which is why its chief executive, who openly said that he did not want to compete against Intel Corp. for maximum performance, believes that x86 is here to stay. Perhaps, the claim also means that AMD will continue to develop high-end x86 solutions, even though it is tremendously hard for AMD to remain more or less competitive in that market segment.