Print 14 comment(s) - last by Taft12.. on Jan 10 at 1:48 PM

Microsoft ARM support CES presentation  (Source: DailyTech)
Windows support for ARM architecture will help Microsoft grab market in smartphones and tabelts

One of the big announcements from Steve Ballmer’s keynote was that Microsoft would be making a version of Windows that would run on ARM processors. This is a big deal for Microsoft, which has traditionally worked very closely with Intel/AMD with x86-based processors. 

The x86 architecture is seen as inferior to ARM in some markets like the important and quickly growing tablet and smartphone market where long battery life is an important requirement. With Microsoft stating Wednesday at CES that it would bring the Windows OS to market for ARM chips; it is an acknowledgement that Microsoft plans to grab for a bigger slice of the tablet and smartphone market with its software.

Today ARM's Tudor Brown told Reuters that support for ARM processors in Windows would help the software giant get a big foothold in smartphones and tablets.

Brown told Reuters, "With Microsoft, for some time it's been more a question of when, not whether, and finally it's now. We've been coaching and cajoling Microsoft for some time."

ARMs architecture is licensed to major players in the tablet and smartphone market like Marvell and Qualcomm, which are the companies behind some of the most popular processors in the smartphone market.

Brown added, "Microsoft needs ARM to have any chance of playing in that [tablet and smartphone] space." 

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By Flunk on 1/7/2011 11:58:24 AM , Rating: 2
"The x86 architecture is seen as inferior to ARM in some markets"

The x86 architecture is inferior to ARM on many levels, not just power consumption.

The main issues is that the instruction set is very complex and requires large blocks of hardware to handle instruction decoding. Every recent x86 processor operates using RISC instructions internally (more similar to the ARM architecture) and translates all x86 instructions before processing them. The only reason we use it at all is backwards compatibility.

RE: understatement
By therealnickdanger on 1/7/2011 12:19:33 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think that's the only reason. To date I haven't seen any supercomputers, high-end workstations, or even regular computers using ARM CPUs. Could it also be that ARM just has never been as powerful?

ARM is clearly sufficient for phones/tablets, but can it match Sandy Bridge in performance or even per watt? There's no doubt that we are entering a new era of ARM devices, devices which should be powerful enough to entertain the masses, but what about the high-end?

RE: understatement
By therealnickdanger on 1/7/2011 12:22:24 PM , Rating: 2
My last sentence was going to read:

"Will we see 100-core ARM laptops or 1,000-core workstations soon?"

RE: understatement
By dagamer34 on 1/7/2011 2:02:51 PM , Rating: 2
That's because designs take 4 years from announcement to actual shipping products. Cortex A15 will start filling that gap in the future, but it was announced last year and won't be in products until 2013.

RE: understatement
By MGSsancho on 1/7/2011 7:27:50 PM , Rating: 1
all the Blue Gene Super comps run RISC CPUs and ARM falls under that category.

and for super computers currently running RISC

currently there is still a RISC based system in the top ten
granted the other ones are usually x86 systems with GPUs but to date there is no shipping system that has ARM silicon specifically in any part of the system. On that part you are correct.

ARM is very efficient per watt and for die space. Currently ARM and x86 are made for totally different things. ARM is plenty powerful to power apps made for it, even modern desktops can struggle running complex webpages unless you have a fast system you you accelerate flash. my three year old desktop runs flash faster than my sisters September 17" MBP so she has to use my system for farm-ville. by the time we have shipping quadcore ARM CPUs im sure we will have better flash acceleration then perhaps you will be right in ARM and x*^ will be comparable or general desktop computing

RE: understatement
By omnicronx on 1/7/2011 1:41:13 PM , Rating: 3
Thanks captain obvious, the smaller instruction set is the main reason why ARM chips are so efficient, but that the same time is the main reason why they are very slow in comparison.

Having a smaller instruction set hardly makes ARM better than X86.. It just makes them better for low power situations.

X86 is still in the area of 5-6x the performance gap at the same clock frequency as ARM chips.. So it clearly still has the performance advantage in this arena..

Both have their advantages and disadvantages (for example binary file sizes are always larger on RISC based cores) , but I would hardly say that x86 is inferior to ARM.

RE: understatement
By Solandri on 1/7/2011 2:08:04 PM , Rating: 3
X86 is still in the area of 5-6x the performance gap at the same clock frequency as ARM chips.. So it clearly still has the performance advantage in this arena..

The thing is, we've long passed the point where performance was the driving factor in most people's computer purchases. The enthusiasts still want the 4 GHz room heaters, but almost all regular people just use their computers to browse the web, write letters/emails, and manage photos. Their needs can easily be met by a low-end x86 or high-end ARM, and they're increasingly shifting away from desktops to laptops/netbooks. So the power usage at idle (for longer battery life) is becoming the more important stat.

RE: understatement
By omnicronx on 1/7/2011 2:56:41 PM , Rating: 2
I can't say I disagree, although as ARM chips raise in clockspeed, X86 chips may find themselves more comparable when clocked lower.

i.e a 2ghz ARM variant may perform on par and have the similar power usage to a lower clocked x86 variant. If that were to happen, performance per clock starts to mean something again ;)

RE: understatement
By Taft12 on 1/7/11, Rating: 0
RE: understatement
By omnicronx on 1/7/2011 1:51:23 PM , Rating: 2
Making matters worse, you've just contradicted yourself. As you pointed out, many x86 processors are 'using the RISC instruction set internally' or to put it in a better way, recent x86 CISC chips have absorbed many of the advantages of RISC based chips while in tern implementing the complex x86 instructions in microcode.

(ex: I know some chip makers are slapping an x86 CISC frontend over a RISC like core)

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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