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Microsoft seems to be getting fed up with Intel's inability to deliver notebook hardware.

It's offical! An "upcoming version" of Windows will support ARM, a rival architecture to Intel's x86.

Qualcomm, NVIDIA, and Texas Instruments were the key ARM CPU makers who received a nod in Microsoft's presentation.

Microsoft's future hardware showcase included three ARM designs and only one Intel Atom-based design -- perhaps a signal of the changing of the guard.
Microsoft makes ARM support official; Intel surely is regretting parting with its ARM unit

Is this the siren song for the x86 architecture and its great bastion, Intel?  It's hard to say for sure, but Microsoft's official announcement that it was supporting a more efficient rival architecture -- ARM -- certainly was met with little joy in Santa Clara.

At the show Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showed off a series of development systems running a "next generation version of Windows", which supported ARM.  Microsoft layered Windows 7's graphical user interface on top of new OS to show just how smoothly an ARM powered Windows system could run.

In total Microsoft showed off three different ARM development systems, with a system-on-a-chip design from Qualcomm (SnapDragon), Texas Instruments (OMAP), and NVIDIA (Tegra 2).  Mr. Ballmer did not officially announce when we might expect to see these Windows ARM systems, but it might be sooner than you think.

Microsoft has grown increasingly impatient with long-time partner Intel, who manufacturers somewhere between 80 to 90 percent of the world's computer CPUs.  Intel was being badly beaten in the fight for smartphone and tablet dominance -- or more aptly it never showed up, because it knew it was a fight that it couldn't win.

Microsoft had already long since gone with ARM processors in the ultra-power dependent smartphone industry.  But in the tablet sector it sat by and watched in pain as Apple and Google unloaded ARM based designs by the millions.  There were no Windows 7 tablets because Intel was unable to provide it hardware.

Unwilling to see its hopes anchored to what may be a sinking ship, Microsoft made the tough decision to jump onboard the ARM train, a serious vote of no-confidence for x86.  The message seemed clear -- Intel's promises of Atom-based Windows 7 tablets were welcome, but Microsoft sure wasn't waiting around for their release.

As ARM suppliers gains momentum they are hungrily eyeing the netbook, notebook, and PC markets.  Already we're seeing dual-core ARM CPUs show up in smartphones, and there's talk of eight-core ARM CPUs clocked as high as 2 GHz being delivered within a generation or two.  So is Intel's CPU (and to a lesser extent those of AMD) destined for a slow ride into the sunset, replaced by NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Samsung chips? 

It's harder to say.  ARM's great hope is that it can parlay its sizable lead in power efficiency over x86 into market dominance.  ARM features a reduced-instruction set, versus Intel's cluttered instruction catalog.  And it has more integers registers, which eliminates the expensive process of renaming registers.  The net result of both of these architectural differences is that ARM can perform the same computation using less power.

And yet Intel could still pull out a victory.  As circuits have shrunk, leakage of current from the capacitors inside transistors has become a major issue.  In today's generation of ARM and x86 CPUs, leakage can account for as much as 40 percent of the power consumption of a chip.  As leakage becomes more important, process technologies may become more important, while subtle architectural advantages become more trivial.

Thus if Intel can hold on, it may stand a shot, thanks to its tireless advances in the field of process technology, which include "high-K dielectrics" -- special capacitor materials that combat leakage.  

On the other hand, developing processes is an expensive business, and if ARM begins a successful campaign into the personal computing market, it may starve Intel of the capital it needs to survive.

One thing is for sure -- for now consumers have compelling cause to buy ARM OS tablets, netbooks, and notebooks, a cause Microsoft has recognized and addressed.  Intel can only hope to weather the storm.



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RE: AMD
By Samus on 1/6/2011 3:06:21 AM , Rating: -1
Because ARM or not, AMD's x86 business will seize to exist for entirely different reasons in the coming years.

AMD accounts for under 10% of total x86 CPU shipments worldwide. Atom, Centrino, Core i3/5/7 and Xeon have completely slammed AMD in price and performance. AMD hasn't had anything competitive at the high end since Intel abandoned Netburst, and the low end doesn't make them enough capital to survive in the business.

AMD will become a videocard manufacture and a semiconductor foundry in short time, which is fine, because although competition is good, it hasn't been worth buying AMD processors in a half decade. It'd take a huge screwup from Intel, worse than another Pentium 4, to get AMD back in the game.

It's all very sad really, because when AMD was making better chips than Intel from 2000-2005, they couldn't get the market penitration they needed to make money to further fund R&D they needed to stay there. Intel know what they were doing paying Dell off to not carry AMD chips and strong-arming the industry.

To pour salt on the wounds they were already tearing into AMD during this time, their cross license for x86 technology just helped Intel get back on the performance roadmap even faster by copying AMD's designs (AMDx64, integrated memory controller, 3D Now!+ registers (almost identical to SSE3) etc. They legally copied this from AMD because AMD had to let them in order to keep an x86 compatibility license.

It's also amazing how much Intel learned from Transmetta to make the Atom. Software powergating, shifting in-order execution stages, integer manipulated floating point ops, voltage ramping...just to name a few. Probably explains why Atom is so unexiting performance wise, but does use very little power like the Crusoe.

Intel can go to hell. I understand the need for x86 compatibility, but anybody who really needs to run some old program can just have it software emulated, and all new programs should just be written in ARM. x86 is complete crap by todays standards. It's been "being revised" for almost 30 years. It's as old as I am.


RE: AMD
By Mjello on 1/6/2011 5:10:57 AM , Rating: 4
It seems to me you havn't done any cost/performance calculations at all...


RE: AMD
By SPOOFE on 1/6/2011 1:05:01 PM , Rating: 3
Cost/performance isn't just a metric taken from the point of view of the consumer; if the company can only "stay competitive" by cutting into their own bottom line, that's not indicative of a healthy company. What good is market penetration if you can't capitalize on it?


RE: AMD
By Fritzr on 1/8/2011 6:32:38 AM , Rating: 2
A company that is unable to transition to a new product is sooner or later a dead company.

Coach builders who were able to successfully cannibalize their horse coach market by selling motor cars were the ones who stayed in business.


RE: AMD
By mellomonk on 1/6/2011 5:42:51 AM , Rating: 3
I wouldn't count AMD out so quickly. They have some interesting parts on their roadmap. The Zacate chips look like they will really give the Atom a run for it's money. Next gen desktop architecture looks interesting. Current 6 core Phenoms great buys if you can use the cores. Folks have been writing AMD off for as long as I can remember. Not quite dead yet.


RE: AMD
By SPOOFE on 1/6/2011 1:05:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The Zacate chips look like they will really give the Atom a run for it's money.

Sure, but at this point, are they really competing with Atom, or ARM?


RE: AMD
By encia on 1/10/2011 9:10:34 PM , Rating: 2
RE: AMD
By William Gaatjes on 1/6/2011 5:48:49 AM , Rating: 2
If the agreements between Intel and AMD permits it, expect AMD to come up with ARM chips as well. Either under the AMD brand or the AMD foundry will be making a lot of ARM soc maybe combined with gpu designs from AMD for third parties. The only thing that might help x86 is the increase of registers because of AMD64, but even then ARM is designed from the ground up and does not has to carry around a lot of legacy. However, everything will change if Intel and AMD have the chance to drop all old legacy instructions and create 16 register x86 cpu without the legacy instructions. And i think Intel and AMD will go that way because of the integration of the GPU. The GPU will be able to do certain mathematical tasks better then the FPU or SSE AVX on the CPU. Expect AVX and SSE to be migrated into the GPU. The biggest problem is the x86 instruction set. If INtel and AMD will be able to reduce it, expect ARM to work very hard. Because then the difference between ARM architecture and the x86 architecture will be minimal.


RE: AMD
By Da W on 1/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: AMD
By tastyratz on 1/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: AMD
By Da W on 1/6/2011 11:14:57 AM , Rating: 3
x64 is an extention of x86 to maintain backward compatibility and NOT an entirely new instruction set written from scratch. That was Itanium and we all know where it went.

I reiterate my LOL.


RE: AMD
By encia on 1/6/2011 7:19:09 AM , Rating: 2
http://i328.photobucket.com/albums/l327/encia/AMD_...

Notice how small is AMD Bobcat's X86 decoders.


RE: AMD
By Samus on 1/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: AMD
By Samus on 1/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: AMD
By Shadowmaster625 on 1/6/2011 10:51:31 AM , Rating: 2
You obviously dont know what you're talking about. Yes intel has finally caught up to where ati and nvidia were 5 years ago with sandy bridge, but keep in mind there is a serious power consumption cost there. Not to mention the chips are hella expensive. Atom is not. Whatever gpu they put in atom is highly likely to be junk because intel can barely do graphics, let alone low power graphics. That has not changed with sandy bridge.


RE: AMD
By Wiggy Mcshades on 1/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: AMD
By encia on 1/7/2011 2:09:39 PM , Rating: 1
AMD Enhanced BobCat 28nm says Hi


RE: AMD
By encia on 1/7/2011 2:23:39 PM , Rating: 1
On TSMC issue, AMD's 28nm GoFlo says hi.


RE: AMD
By Cheesew1z69 on 1/6/2011 8:56:05 AM , Rating: 1
You have no clue what is going happen....


RE: AMD
By EnoYls on 1/6/2011 9:31:14 AM , Rating: 1
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means...


RE: AMD
By Taft12 on 1/6/2011 11:00:54 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
it stinks of AMD fan boi and moron in here ... i'll bet $10,000 dollars cash AMD seizes to


This irony is too delicious for words. Lets just say I think we've isolated where the stink is coming from.


RE: AMD
By RedemptionAD on 1/6/2011 11:51:27 AM , Rating: 1
I am personally looking to purchase AMD and fund their turn around. I am the ability to do so and will see to it you are proven wrong, now where's my $10000?


RE: AMD
By JHBoricua on 1/6/2011 2:14:11 PM , Rating: 1
AMD no longer manufactures CPUs. They sold all of their Fabs. Can I get my money now?


RE: AMD
By encia on 1/6/2011 3:03:21 PM , Rating: 2
AMD still has the controlling stake at GoFlo. Can I get my money now?


RE: AMD
By JHBoricua on 1/7/2011 3:21:21 PM , Rating: 2
Which is completely irrelevant. The fact still remains that the entity known as AMD no longer MANUFACTURES CPUs.


RE: AMD
By encia on 1/10/2011 8:54:56 PM , Rating: 2
Your statement completely irrelevant since ARM is also fabless company.


RE: AMD
By Flunk on 1/6/2011 9:21:47 AM , Rating: 2
AMD already sells a couple of ARM based SoCs for embedded applications.


RE: AMD
By Wiggy Mcshades on 1/6/2011 11:16:00 AM , Rating: 1
SSE and AVX couldn't be put onto the gpu, they are extended Instructions for an x86 pipeline. You would mutilate a gpu's performance by trying to implement them. As a gpu existed it already does was SSE and AVX offer from a conceptual standpoint. The reason SSE is used as apposed to the gpu is the difference in the overhead required. The CPU is likely to get more improved AVX like extensions allowing it to do what a basic gpu does, not the other way around. the CPU is the one that will stay and the gpu is what is going to be consumed. Even if AMD is touting this as the erra of "APU"s there is no amount of marketing that can change the fact that OpenCL has way too much overhead to be worthwhile on a low end gpu and that not alot of situations exist in which extensive parallel processing or vectorization are possible


RE: AMD
By encia on 1/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: AMD
By nafhan on 1/6/2011 10:07:20 AM , Rating: 2
Transistor density when comparing different CPU architectures is not very meaningful. You really need to look at die area (which, generally, relates directly to chip cost) vs. power usage and performance.
The reason for this is that transistors for one function can take up more or less room than transistors for another function.
Anyway, it hardly matters for the purpose of your comparison as the Tegra 2 is in a completely different power usage ball game than the Ontario chips.


RE: AMD
By encia on 1/7/2011 2:12:10 PM , Rating: 2
AMD Radeon HD 5800, 6.287 million transisiors per mm^2

AMD Radeon HD 6800, 6.67 million transisiors per mm^2

NVIDIA Geforce GTX460, 5.31 million transisiors per mm^2

AMD easily beat NVIDIA in transisiors per mm^2.


RE: AMD
By DarkPhoenix on 1/6/2011 12:45:40 PM , Rating: 2
You don't really know what you're talking about do you ?

Do you know that Tegra 2 is a SoC (System on a Chip), while AMD's APUs are not ?
Why are you comparing two absolutely different types of chips, with two absolutely different types of architecture ?

Also, is this the only thing that AMD fanatics care about these days ? When they go buy a graphics card or a CPU, they ask "hey what's the chip size of that CPU/GPU in mm2 ?" ? That's fail material right there...

Have a look at Intel and NVIDIA's finances and latest 10K, then compare them with AMD's. You'll see who's being beat...


RE: AMD
By Da W on 1/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: AMD
By DarkPhoenix on 1/7/2011 12:45:19 PM , Rating: 2
I would say you're the sensitive one about that subject, since I barely even mentioned AMD's future.

However, when talking about finances, you don't seem to know much. Intel has boat loads of cash. NVIDIA isn't exactly loaded as Intel, but has 2 billion in the bank, no debt and the Q4 2010 numbers were good, considering the problems they had in 2010, especially the Fermi delay.
2011 is looking extremely good for them, not only in the mobile graphics space, but also in the mobile gadgets with Tegra 2, that is being quite popular these days.
AMD on the other hand, still has a large debt (even if they used Intel's settlement of 1.5 billion, they still have 2-3 billion in debt) and had just a few (actually I only remember one) positive quarters in about 3 years...

Will Bulldozer change anything in this regard ? Maybe, but it really needs to beat Intel's CPUs. Otherwise it will be the same as Phenom, where AMD needed to sell quad-cores at the same price of Intel's dual cores, just to stay competitive. And that means more quarters in the red.

As for NVIDIA's CPU, it's highly irrelevant at this point, but the Microsoft announcement surely isn't a coincidence and will no doubt help the idea of a high-performance ARM CPU.


RE: AMD
By encia on 1/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: AMD
By encia on 1/6/2011 3:01:14 PM , Rating: 1
AMD Radeon HD 5800(2.1 billion transisiors, 334mm^2) and 6800(1.7 billion transisiors, 255mm^2)'s die size is still smaller than NVIDIA's Geforce GTX460 (1.95billion transisiors 367mm^2).

AMD beats NVIDIA in transisiors per mm^2 and performance.


RE: AMD
By encia on 1/6/2011 3:06:05 PM , Rating: 1
From http://www.anandtech.com/show/2911/2

NVIDIA Tegra 2 has die size of 49mm^2 and ARM Cortex A9 occupy around 10% of the total die area i.e. 4.9mm^2. AMD Bobcat (Out of Order, TSMC 40 nm) has 4.6mm^2, which is already at striking distance of ARM Cortex A9 (Out of Order, TSMC 40 nm).


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