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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 encia on 1/6/2011 7:11:39 AM , Rating: 0
From http://www.anandtech.com/show/2911/2

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

AMD Ontario,400 million transisiors/74mm^2 = 5.4 million transisiors per mm^2

NVIDIA Tegra 2, 260 million transisiors/49mm^2 = 5.3 million transisiors per mm^2

AMD beats NVIDIA in transisiors per mm^2.

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AMD Ontario vs Intel "Pineview" Atom
http://i328.photobucket.com/albums/l327/encia/AMD_...

AMD beats Intel in transisiors per mm^2. AMD Bobcat core is less than half of Intel "Pineview" X86 core.
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Benchmarks between ARM Cortex A9 vs Intel Atom from http://greenm3.typepad.com/.a/6a00e54f92c99e883401... and they about are about the same in performance.

We already know AMD Bobcat beats Intel "Pineview" Atom.


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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