ARM-Based Netbooks May Be Underpowered – Developers

Netbooks with ARM Inside May Lack Important Functionality

by Anton Shilov
04/13/2009 | 11:41 PM

There are a lot of ongoing discussions regarding the huge potential of ARM micro-architecture chips on the market of netbooks as well as the end of Intel/x86 and  Microsoft Windows domination. However, consumers buying netbooks powered by ARM chips and Linux should know: they will have to tackle with poor video support as well as limited software base, claim developers of such machines.


Microprocessors based on ARM micro-architecture are not supported by Adobe Flash that is used to enable Internet-based video as well as many web-sites, which significantly decreases abilities to access certain content or information by end-users. Moreover, there are no standards for Linux applications that are used on mobile devices. Finally, as consumers are starting to demand higher quality videos, higher resolution screens, multitasking and so on, performance provided by ARM chips may be insufficient.

“Adobe Flash is heavily used across the Web, and people are working hard on bringing it to ARM, but it is one of the big problems for these systems,” said Gregor Berkowitz, president of Moto Development Group, a contract design company working with three clients on ARM/Linux netbooks, in an interview with EETimes web-site.

In fact, Adobe and ARM are working on Flash optimized for ARM, however it is unclear when it is set to become available. But there are more problems: many now make video available in H.264 format and when it comes to higher resolution videos – which consumers might expect to watch on netbooks with up to 12” screen – performance of ARM chips may not be enough.

“The baseline expectation for video is 30 frames/second, and at that rate every ARM device has different resolutions it can support on different size displays. As screens get bigger, we're pushing the top end of the ARM performance,” said Mr Berkowitz.

While many system-on-chip products for netbooks and mobile Internet devices, such as Freescale Snapdragon or Nvidia Tegra feature hardware-accelerated video playback, performance of ARM processors may still be low for certain tasks and even Flash-based video.

Theoretically, cloud computing may solve performance issues on almost all devices. The best example of cloud computing today is Web-based office productivity applications. However, when it comes to more demanding tasks for mainstream consumers, cloud computing may only become available in several years.