Wednesday, July 04, 2012

#CHIPS: "Intel versus ARM: Goliath Still Looming Over David"

ARM has made so many microprocessor converts that some analysts are getting the religion too, but Intel is still mammoth in comparison. For instance, ARM reported about $700 million in sales last year which is pocket change for Intel. In addition, ARM's most powerful CPU is not even an match for Intel's low-end Atom. What ARM has done, on the other hand, is unify a field of diverse embedded processors behind a single instruction set, which will be good news for designers trying to shorten their time-to-market and bill-of-materials what with all the chip makers offering ARM cores on their microprocessors and micro-controllers today: R. Colin Johnson

ARM's latest logo betrays its world domination aspirations, albeit with an IP business model that has a long ways to go to rival Intel.

Here is what EETimes says about ARM versus Intel: What with AMD, Apple, Dell, Dialog, Freescale, Fujitsu, HP, LSI, Microsoft, Motorola, MStar, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Samsung, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments all licensing ARM cores for everything from smartphones to tablets to basestations to servers, one might be led to believe the boast of ARM CEO Warren East that designers are choosing ARM because it is a no brainer.

The truth is that even though ARM is gaining market share in low-power embedded applications the company still has a long way to go to challenge the perennial microprocessor kings; that software compatibility hurts ARM as much as it helps; and that there are many vertical markets which will remain inaccessible to ARM cores merely because they are standardized.

Intel in particular has a 20-year head start over ARM, resulting in a maturity, sophistication and veneration that will be hard to displace by a 12-year-old. Intel's ecosystem of support chips, subsystems and software is unparalleled in the industry and addresses many more real-world issues than the low-power and small die size that makes ARM a no-brainer for many new designs. From the mobile space where Atom offers x86 compatibility that even ARM's most sophisticated cores cannot match, to the server space where Intel's Xeon already solves the most vexing issues facing datacenters today, Intel versus ARM remains a brain-teaser. For instance, the fast-growing cloud computing space uses virtualization to offer mobile device users access to applications running on servers for which Intel has a top-to-bottom solution – VTx – which securely links x86-based mobile devices with Xeon-based cloud computers. ARM, on the other hand, is still pursuing virtualization extensions that could offer similar integration of mobile devices into cloud computing realms...
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