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Processor design company ARM is looking forward not only mobile Internet devices (MIDs), but also for netbooks with its next-generation microprocessor cores. If the new ARM chips provide sufficient performance level for Internet browsing, email usage and basic tasks amid low power and long battery life, then the new chips will be able to easily compete against Intel Corp.’s Atom processors

At present smartphones and other gadgets are usually powered by microprocessors based on ARM11 micro-architecture, which enables basic functionality, but still does not provide a lot of performance. ARM pins a lot of hopes on next-generation micro-architecture and designs: Cortex A8 and Cortex A9. The Cortex A8 will power handsets next year and it promises to be considerably more powerful compared to ARM11, whereas Cortex A9 is a multi-core version of the A8, which is due in 2010.

Obviously, Cortex A9 would be a rather interesting option for personal computers that do not require extreme performance, but would benefit from efficient multitasking, but even with Cortex A8 ARM expects to win certain netbook designs.

“In the future, we’re going to be in Netbooks. Expect announcements in the next few months,” said Rob Coombs, director of mobile solutions at ARM, in an interview with ZDNet UK.

Mr. Coombs added that certain processor developers were “playing around with gigahertz speeds” using Cortex-A8 architecture.

Usage of ARM microprocessors inside netbooks will put the company in direct competition with Intel Corp.’s x86 chips on Intel’s own field: the market of personal computers. Intel once tried to offer ARM-based microprocessors, but eventually decided to sell off its Xscale business to Marvell and concentrate on low-power x86. In fact, the company decided to push its future-generation Atom chips into smartphones, the market where ARM dominates.

Both ARM and x86 micro-architectures are supported by extensive libraries of software, hence, the battle between the two processor design approaches will be about performance, power consumption, price and easy implementation and time-to-market.

Tags: Cortex, Intel

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