Each week there are announcements coming from all corners of the globe of new mobile devices using ARM technology. This in itself is nothing new as ARM has been at the heart of this market for two decades. But behind these announcements is something far more exciting. It has the capacity to change the future. It will impact us all. It is the momentum of change.
From 1990 to 2006, a span of just over 15 years saw the progression of devices using the ARM7, ARM9 & ARM11 family of chips. Each was more power-efficient than the last and offered a moderate increase in performance. Since the introduction of the Cortex-A8 in 2005, the rapid adoption of ARM’s high performance processors has increased rapidly.
The Cortex-A8 series was used in devices up until 2011; the Cortex-A9, ARM’s first true multi-core processor has just been released in 2011, and already some companies are reportedly planning on launching devices using ARM’s latest and greatest Cortex-A15 processor in late 2012. This is a phenomenal rate of change.
Intel continues to bang its chest with its ‘We’ll match ARM on power and beat them on performance’ mantra, but is this possible with the rate at which ARM processors are improving? Samsung, the huge South Korean Electronics Company has suggested that they plan to release devices using ARM cores that reach 2GHz next year. We know Nvidia are planning a range of enhancements to their Tegra range of processors that easily surpass the current Intel Core Duo processor found in many notebooks. We know Texas Instruments are working on the OMAP5 that also uses the Cortex-A15 processor. And we know that Qualcomm and Marvell are working on their own ARM designed cores too.
The rate of change is astounding. Our only concern, is if ARM can continue to design and release cores that meet the needs of its clients on time? Thankfully the Cortex-A15 can be used with up to 8 cores, so hopefully this will give ARM some breathing space before they have to release their next blockbuster CPU design.
Already there is talk about quad core ARM processors getting ready for launch in Q3 this year. This is great news for the consumer. Never before, not even at the peak of the Personal Computer market was there such rapid evolution of technology. Without the ARM business model none of this would be possible. It is the competitive nature of the ARM ecosystem that allows for this to happen. Intel knows what it must do to compete.
In what looks like a rather self-inflating statement by Nomura Equity Research, one of their top analysts has apparently written an open letter to Intel’s CEO, Paul Otellini, asking him to consider adopting the ARM architecture and using it as the basis for future generations of high-performance and low-power processors.
This is something that Intel is highly unlikely to do under the leadership of Otellini, but the idea that Intel may adopt ARM is nothing new. In fact, if we are correct about ARM successfully breaking into Intel’s high margin business, then they may have no option but to accept that x86 is not sustainable.
The article is well worth a read and highlights how many in the stock market now view the once mighty and powerful Intel. Unless they can establish a reasonable share of the tablet market within the next 12 months, we would expect some raised voices asking for Otellini to move aside. It’s not just about short-term profits; this is about long-term survival.
In addition, Intel will be reporting this first quarter’s result after the bell today, on Tuesday April 19th. We are very keen to find out how the total volume of Atom shipments this quarter compared to the same quarter in the previous year. We have less than 24hours wait. Any thoughts?
We are aware that many of our readers take an keen interest in ARM’s share price and performance as well, so we thought we would remind you all that ARM Holdings Q1 2011 results will be released on 27 Apr 2011 at 7:00 a.m. BST. With a share price approaching 600p on the UK stockmarket, the expectation for the company to substantially increase revenue and profits could not be higher.
As per tradition, the results are also broadcast live via an audio webcast online at www.arm.com/ir which starts at 8:30 BST. We will keep you posted of any interesting news eminating from Warren East (CEO) and Tim Score (CFO) on the day.
Intel has been at the core of computing since the 1970’s and has grown from a small outfit that designed processors that power simple calculators to the brains of super-computers across the world. The majority of analysts, if asked to name the world’s most technological company, are likely to name Intel as their number one choice. They are without a doubt the quintessential Technology Company. So why do we and a growing number of companies believe Intel is in trouble? In this article we hope to shine a light on Intel, the upcoming battle for mobile computing and the only company that has a chance to beat them at their own game – ARM.
Intel has a very simple strategy for survival. Keep pushing the boundaries of technology faster than everyone else. For years they pushed the x86 architecture to incredible clockspeeds that many thought was impossible. And every step of the way the ensured backwards compatibility with the processor that came before it. Every other processor architecture that had to compete against Intel’s designs have failed to survive. The 68000 series, PowerPC, SPARCs and DEC Alpha are now as good as forgotten in mainstream computing.
The sheer aggressiveness of Intel’s technology has simply proven too great to compete against. Their financial muscle allows them to address almost any issue from standing in the way of domination. Even legal boundaries has proven no obstacle for Intel with a $1.5B USD fine given to them last year after they was found guilty of ‘underhand tactics’.
Intel has without doubt pushed the Personal Computing world through many decades of advancements and has managed this with the help of their long-time partner, Microsoft. The intrinsic link between Intels’ x86 architecture and Microsoft’s ubiquitous Windows Operating System has created an unstoppable force.
So if Intel and Microsoft have been successful for so long, what disrupted this? The simple answer is the Internet. It changed everything, we just didn’t realise it at the time. Up until the this point computers were for geeks and programmers, but with the arrival of killer apps such as Email and online shopping, the Internet became an important lifestyle accessory. People got used to keeping in contact with friends and family, they got used to buying things and they loved to play music on their computers.
The internet became a must-have accessory; it was just a shame that to use it you had to buy an expensive, bulky, power-hungry computer to sit on your desk at home. If only the internet was available 24×7. At the time mobile phones were exactly that – mobile phones. They made calls, and they could send a receive SMS messages. It was the success of the mobile phone market that saw new entrants push the technology faster and faster until it was possible to access the internet on your phone. This is something that Intel had not envisaged. Internet browsing in the palm of your hand.
At this point it is easy to see what was to come – faster and faster mobile phones. The marketeers got involved and called them Smartphones, and now in 2011 some are now dubbed Superphones. The power of desktop computer that you carry all day, every day in your pocket. Intel was sidelined. They had no answer to this, and still don’t.
What went wrong for Intel? Well, their strategy is about pushing the boundaries of technology to create faster and more complex processors. This is at odds with the mobile phone industry who need power-efficiency as well as improvements to performance. Over 15 years of development in the Mobile space ARM managed to create a niche market for itself.
ARM never veered from its mission to create power-efficient processors for the digital world. Over the 15 years, ARM helped create an army of loyal customers who rely on their technology, whereas Intel had a following of companies that rely on their continued financial hand-outs to survive in an increasingly slim-margin market.
Intel has seen the light, albeit a red-flashing one, and focused a great deal of its resources into designing their own ARM beater, the Atom. We don’t like the Atom, and never have. It was a mistake for Intel to launch a processor that was neither an ARM beater, nor a performance power-house. It has resulted in ARM being able to compete favourably against an Intel x86 processor. Intel lowered the barrier to entry for ARM. The gates to Intel’s high-margin market was now there to be taken.
ARM processors being able to compete with Intel powered devices in terms of performance is now a reality, but it wasn’t until Microsoft finally announced the next generation of Windows would work on ARM and x86 that things got very interesting.
The reason Microsoft made this decision wasn’t because they don’t think Intel will survive, it’s because of the number of ARM processors that get shipped every year. With over 4 Billion shipping every year and increasing fast, you only need a small fraction of those to run Windows to make it appealing. And the number of OEMs begging Microsoft to release Windows on ARM certainly helped too.
Intel say they are not worried by this. They say they see it as an opportunity to move into ARM’s territory, which we agree is possible and will happen, but not on the scale that they need to make the Atom successful. Intel know this, but they don’t yet have a solution. The announcement that Anand Chandrasekher, head of Ultramobility computing left the company speaks volumes to many. This isn’t just attention grabbing headlines, this is game changing news in the making.
Intel is now in a position where they must make a decision: What strategy do we need to survive? It isn’t about making the fastest chips, and it isn’t about making the most power-efficient chips either. It’s now, how can we differentiate our processors from our competitors and sell them cheaply? We don’t see anything coming from Intel to answer that question.
The ARM ecosystem continues to grow stronger every month. From micro-controllers to high-performance processors, ARM has a solution. From $30 processors to single cents processors, ARM has a solution. From microkernels to fully fledged desktop Operating Systems, ARM has a solution.
The share price is expensive if you look purely at its profit/earninigs ratio, but that’s a red-herring. We believe ARM has the future that will make Intel pale in comparison. ARM may never be worth $100 Billion dollars, but with control of the architecture of the digital world, that’s got to be worth something, right?
It has been incredibly hectic for us over the past few weeks and as result we have been unable to write articles that we could be proud of. But as the dust settles, we hope to start keeping you abreast of ARM news.
In our first article, we will discuss Intel, its rise to power and its inevitable fall from grace.
It’s been a while since our last article and for that we apologise. We will upload a new article soon on ramifications of Windows on ARM, but in the meantime we ask all of you to read an article published on Reuters regarding Nvidia. It is actually a transcript of a meeting between the CEO of Nvidia, Jen-Hsun Huang and a group of reporters. It is very interesting and gives an insight into why he believes ARM is the future of Personal Computing. One other interesting point that Huang made was that Nvidia was helping ARM develop their 64-bit backwards compatible processor. Something we don’t believe that has been shared to the general public before.
The article is over 8 pages long and well worth a read.
Mobile World Congress 2011, in Barcelona has just begun, and it certainly has a lot to live up to the Consumer Electronics Show last month. But we are quietly confident that enough interesting news about ARM technology will be announced to make it worthwhile. After Friday’s announcement that Nokia intends to adopt Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 Operating System for smartphones anything is possible.
The one big piece of news to come from the show so far is Samsung’s determination to compete in the tablet market with their second tablet. Unlike the Galaxy Tab, the new tablet has a much larger 10.1” screen and incorporates Android 3.0 alongside the gold-standard in tablet SoC design – the Tegra 250 from Nvidia.
The show has only just begun so we expect to hear a lot more from all the major players in the mobile world. For us, we would love to see and hear of some developments using the Cortex-A5 processor. Is there anything you are hoping will be announced at the show?
As ever, ARMdevices.net will be posting from the show and intends to upload a lot of videos. Although we’re not a fan of their interviewing technique, the videos are interesting nonetheless. We’ll try and keep you abreast of some of the key announcements. In the meantime, lets all have a guess to how many Intel powered smartphones will be on show!