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Intel's Paul Otellini reported record earnings and in a conference call denied that ARM posed a threat to Intel's notebook CPU business, despite the fact that ARM would offer customers greater battery life on identical performance.  (Source: VentureBeat)

At the same time Intel is confident it can make headway in the tablets market with likely inferior products that have yet to be delivered to market.  (Source: Hi-Tech Russia)
Is Intel overconfident about ARM? Maybe, but it doesn't think so

Intel Corp. Chief Executive Paul Otellini was pleased to report strong earnings [report], with Intel making a fourth quarter net income of $3.4B USD (up 15 percent from last quarter) on revenue of $11.5B USD (up 3 percent from last quarter).  Intel's quarterly gross margin reached a record 67.5 percent, and the company reported an operating income of $4.3B USD.

For the year, Intel reported an incredible 67 percent rise in net income, which soared to $11.7B USD on net revenue of $43.6B USD (up 24 percent on a year-to-year basis).  The gross margin raised 10 percent for the year, and the operating income jumped 79 percent to reach $15.9.

Those strong results were overshadowed somewhat by Microsoft's announcement that it would offer full Windows support for the ARM architecture.  ARM is a superior architecture to Intel's championed x86 architecture in several ways.  It has more registers, so it eschews Intel's costly register renaming.  And it has fewer instructions, leading to more power efficient execution.  Thus an ARM laptop CPU could accomplish the same tasks while using less battery life.

Still, Intel's CEO Otellini claims his company isn't worried.  In a earnings conference call [audio, transcript] he comments on Microsoft's decision, stating:

In fact, in big Windows it had support for Alpha, PowerPC, MIPS and at one point ARM on the Vista program that they dropped. So this is nothing really new from that perspective. The plus for Intel is that, as they unify their operating systems, we now have the ability for the first time, one to have design from scratch, touch enabled operating system for tablets that runs on Intel that we don’t have today.

Secondly, we have the ability to put our lowest power Intel processors running Windows 8 or next generation Windows into phones, because of the same OS stack and I look at that as an upside opportunity for us. On the downside there is a potential given that Office runs on this products for – there is some creep up coming into, let’s say PC space. I am skeptical of that for two reasons. One, that space has a different set of power performance requirements where Intel is exceptionally good. Secondly, users of those machines expect legacy support in terms of software and peripherals that has to all be enabled from scratch for those devices.

Intel seems to be blaming Microsoft for its tablet delays.  However, Microsoft has showed off working Windows touch-tablets, where as Intel has yet to deliver tablet-geared chips (Atom-based "Oak Trail" and "Moorsetown").

Intel also expects the issue of legacy support to prevent ARM from making a larger splash in the Windows marketplace.

Intel is clearly feeling the heat from ARM.  That is ironic, given that it used to produce ARM CPUs, but chose to divest itself of those holdings. Intel acquired its ARM offerings in the 90s from its purchase of Digital Equipment Company (DEC).  At the time it took responsibility for the design and production the company's ARM-based "StrongARM" processors for mobile devices. In 2000 it transitioned to a newly named line of ARM CPUs called XScale. 

But in 2006 it sold its XScale mobile processor unit to Marvell. An XScale processor is found in the Blackberry Torch, among other devices.  To this day Intel and Marvell still co-own some XScale (ARM based) processor lines -- but only network processors, embedded processors and their ilk.  Intel firmly passed away its rights to mobile ARM designs.

There is no question that ARM represents a more power efficient architecture.  Of course that matters little in the desktop space.  In the server space it's mildly important, but GPU computing currently offers a far greater threat than ARM.  

Where the real trouble starts is in the laptop and tablet space.  ARM already rules the world of tablets, and Intel is unlikely to deliver a true competitor in terms of battery life in this space (hence its many delays). 

For laptops, Intel may currently reign supreme with its Atom-based chips and Core i-Series processors, but it faces a significant threat.  If Microsoft makes good on its promise of full in-Windows hardware support for ARM-based platforms, the story becomes the same as tablets -- ARM will be able to beat Intel's offerings on power, while offering similar performance.  The performance gap will largely be nullified by coming ARM chips, such as chips based on the eight-core A15 architecture revision

At the end of the day two things are sure.  First, Intel is doing great in the present tense.  It is recording record profits post-recession and enjoys a healthy lead in global CPU shipments.  

Second, though, is that ARM is serious threat to Intel's bottom line and growth opportunities.  ARM is unlikely to "kill" Intel's CPU business anytime soon (as we outlined, there are few advantages of ARM for desktops), but it may cut its sales.  



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Two reasons not to be worried about Intel and x86
By Pirks on 1/14/2011 10:17:46 AM , Rating: 3
1) Apple dropped RISC in favor of x86 so RISC is not as effective as its proponents say
2) By the time eight core A15 is out on 40nm Intel's new eight core architecture will be out on 22nm, spanking A15 yet again




By sviola on 1/14/2011 10:29:34 AM , Rating: 1
Well, the first point of yours does not bring anything regarding x86 future. By the time Apple moved it's plataform to x86, RISC might have had worse performance compared to x86, but that is not true of the future. Also, the costs of the PowerPC was way higher for Apple than using Intel chips, so this might have had a bigger impact than the cpu architecture traits and perks.

The second one maybe right, as Intel won't sit idle with their performance levels while ARM improves theirs. Also, by the time A15 comes out and is in the same performance level of x86, the latter will probably have closed the power envelope difference.


By tank171 on 1/14/2011 6:51:25 PM , Rating: 2
It doesn't. It runs on an ARM architecture. The previous poster was talking about the PowerPC architecture that apple previously used in their computers before switching to Intel. Virtually all modern smartphones and tablets run on a variation of ARM.


By vol7ron on 1/15/2011 9:47:20 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Virtually all modern smartphones and tablets run on a variation of ARM.


What's virtual about it? Also, definitives should never be used. Most modern smartphones and tablets run on ARM or a variation thereof.


By dark matter on 1/15/2011 11:50:56 AM , Rating: 2
oooh, definitives should never be used? What, ever??

even when all modern smartphones use ARM.

Gee, that sure is desperation...


By DanNeely on 1/14/2011 10:39:29 AM , Rating: 3
Apple's biggest problems with PowerPC were cost and supply related. PPC chips were produced in significantly lower numbers which meant a higher per chip R&D cost. This was much more of a problem for Apple's $1-2k computers than for IBM's $$huge high end servers and mainframes.

Apple also had supply problems with getting enough chips at times. While these were partially self inflicted (Apple consistently lowballed estimates of how many chips they'd need resulting in IBM not having sufficient capacity) they caused chronic problems for the company. The x86 market is orders of magnitudes larger, and Intel (or AMD) can easily handle 10 or 20% jumps in demand from a company of Apples size becuase they're a much smaller fraction of the total market. For PPC Apple was at least the number 2 consumer of standard CPUs; while game consoles rivaled them in total demand the chips they used are customized and not mutually compatible. Because selling extra CPUs after they're no longer state of the art can still be done at a profit Intel/AMD don't have to worry about trying to tune their production capacity as tightly to expected short term demand. If IBM made significantly more PPC chips than Apple used they'd have a much bigger problem since they're nowhere near as easy to unload at a slight discount.


By kattanna on 1/14/2011 10:53:45 AM , Rating: 2
spot on!

and with their much lower total volume, there simply wasnt as much money for said R&D for both chip design and manufacturing processes.

as such, they were being left behind and there wasnt much motorola could do about it. at the time G5 chips were having issues with getting to and working in the 1Ghz range, while intel was in the 2Ghz+ range. and if though they were somewhat comparable in performance, they were losing out badly on the marketing front. which as we all know means a lot to a business.


By nafhan on 1/14/2011 11:25:43 AM , Rating: 2
The other big problem was power consumption and therefore lack of a suitable mobile part. The switch was made around the time Intel started selling the first Core processors. I was actually under the impression that this was the main reason for the switch...


By DanNeely on 1/14/2011 1:48:36 PM , Rating: 2
I hadn't considered it, but that was probably a factor too. High end servers don't put much priority on energy efficiency so any R&D costs on that end would end up almost entirely on Apple's shoulders.


By PrezWeezy on 1/14/2011 2:19:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
High end servers don't put much priority on energy efficiency


Not true. When you start talking about hundreds of CPU's the power efficiency starts to become a real issue. Not only do you have to pay for that power usage, which can be very expensive, you also have to keep the room cool, which can also be very expensive. Then when the power goes out you have to have a generator and battery solution which can supply those CPU's so you don't have down time. All of that costs thousands of dollars, so power efficiency matters more to them than it even does in the mobile and desktop space.


By nafhan on 1/14/2011 4:27:39 PM , Rating: 2
He's actually sort of right. Server CPU efficiency, especially back then, is generally more oriented towards efficiency at high utilization. PC CPU's need to be efficient across the spectrum, and especially at low utilization where they spend a majority of their time.


By HoosierEngineer5 on 1/14/2011 6:09:01 PM , Rating: 2
It amazes me that Intel has managed to drag this architecture along, kicking and screaming, for better than a quarter century. But, I suppose if you throw that much money at a single problem, you might even be able to get pigs to fly.

In fact, it seems to me that the biggest problem Intel is fighting is power dissipation (some cores run faster if others are disabled). Going to a more efficient architecture may help to reduce the problem.

One issue with the PowerPC is the 'kitchen sink' syndrome. There are so many peripherals and configurations that it is very expensive to develop with.


By Taft12 on 1/14/2011 9:02:41 PM , Rating: 2
Intel had A LOT of help from Microsoft dragging the architecture along for the past couple decades.


By encia on 1/18/2011 5:21:56 AM , Rating: 2
Microsoft joined ACE to replace X86 based PC.


By Flunk on 1/14/2011 10:45:37 AM , Rating: 2
He means technically superior, which it undoubtedly is if you understand the specifications of the architectures. It doesn't matter what performs better or what people choose to use. We're talking design here.

You clearly don't understand this because you seem to be arguing without actually knowing how either architecture works.


By kattanna on 1/14/2011 11:04:40 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
2) By the time eight core A15 is out on 40nm Intel's new eight core architecture will be out on 22nm, spanking A15 yet again


and for the market ARM is going to, hand held devices like phones and tablets and netbooks, that level or performance isnt the issue, power usage is.

ARM on your desktop or mine, thats not its target market, as that runs into the big ugly, existing apps. apps would have to be recompiled to run on the new CPU, though they could try to take a page out of the old alpha book and try to use runtime translation, but thats prone to issues.

also, intel isnt worried about ARM taking over its cash cow, and thats businesses. in the business world compatibility is key. they are not going to want to be buying systems that might be nothing but issues for them.

now ARM + windows 8 on tablets and phones, could be VERY big. especially if they had it all sync'ing up with your office/home desktop running windows with ease.


By superPC on 1/14/2011 11:17:31 AM , Rating: 3
intel atom uses 45nm process while tegra 2 uses 40nm process. atom has 47 million transistor with 6.5 watt TDP while ARM A9 in tegra has about 30 million transistor that consumes 0.5 watt ( http://www.anandtech.com/Show/Index/2911?cPage=3&a... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_Cortex-A9_MPCore http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Atom ). for low power devices ARM has the advantage for now.

but now windows also run on x86 SOC which means it can run on moorestown - http://www.anandtech.com/show/3752/moorestown-wont... - (and numerous other intel CE processor based on atom). if moorestown is as power efficient as future ARM processor and with comparable performance, they'll both able to run full windows 8 and it's up to all of us to pick what processor to use. but i think intel is right. ARM has more to fear from intel. intel have the performance and manufacturing process advantage for now and in the forseeable future. and it's more likely for us to see intel inside phone than ARM inside desktop when windows 8 comes around IMHO.

windows 8 sure brings lots of great possibilities though. such as a phone like motorola atrix ( http://www.anandtech.com/show/4092/motorolas-atrix... ) but with a full version of windows 8 inside. can't wait to buy that kind of phone.


RE: Two reasons not to be worried about Intel and x86
By Da W on 1/14/2011 2:01:42 PM , Rating: 2
Somehow you're one of the few thinking that way. The stock market sure ain't. It's weird how every analyst has an erection speaking of Nvidia since CES but is forecasting microsoft doom at the same time saying windows.next running on ARM is crap and that PCs are going to be replaced by google tablets and the IPAD...

i trust geeks here know better.


RE: Two reasons not to be worried about Intel and x86
By Pirks on 1/14/2011 2:16:32 PM , Rating: 4
the same geeks that were laughing at iphone when it got released in 2007? you sure these clowns really know better? ;)


By Taft12 on 1/14/2011 9:07:42 PM , Rating: 3
They laughed even harder at the iPod and iPad (no USB port? TRASH!!!)

They also trumpeted the technical superiority of OS/2 and WebOS. There's a hell of a lot more to it than having the best product.


By superPC on 1/14/2011 6:15:10 PM , Rating: 2
thinking what way exactly? didn't you read my whole post? i said ARM is better at low power device while intel has superior manufacturing process and performance. i also said ARM has more to fear from intel because with the next windows running on SOC means moorestown (in phones) can run windows 8 and compete with windows 8 on ARM in phones, while there's little chance when windows 8 comes out ARM already has a desktop product.


By encia on 1/18/2011 5:20:01 AM , Rating: 2
Intel Pineview's TDP includes it's IGP btw.


By nafhan on 1/14/2011 11:39:07 AM , Rating: 3
Apple and other PC manufacturers don't care much about RISC vs. x86. They care about implementation (i.e. where can we get the best chip for our needs?).
Currently, Apple seems to feel that the RISC based chips are best for power optimized environments, and x86 implementations are superior for high performance. Apple choosing x86 for the desktop proves nothing about the instruction set itself.


RE: Two reasons not to be worried about Intel and x86
By Pirks on 1/14/11, Rating: 0
By raddude9 on 1/14/2011 12:23:07 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Apple choosing x86 for the desktop


yes, Apple did choose x86 for the desktop, try googling "iMac".


By Pirks on 1/14/2011 12:38:12 PM , Rating: 2
yes, Apple did choose x86 for the ultralight and thin (tablet-like) mobile computers, try googling "MacBook Air 11"


RE: Two reasons not to be worried about Intel and x86
By Pirks on 1/14/2011 12:17:49 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Apple choosing x86 for the desktop
Could you stop smoking crack please? x86 powered MacBook Air 11" is AS FAR AS IT CAN GET from a desktop.


By nafhan on 1/14/2011 1:49:56 PM , Rating: 2
I think you know what I meant, and you're arguing for the sake of argument. Otherwise, you wouldn't be quoting 6 words, bringing up the MacBook Air as if that's Apple's only PC, and making the same comment again once the first one got rated down.
x86 = high performance
RISC = low power usage


RE: Two reasons not to be worried about Intel and x86
By Pirks on 1/14/2011 2:00:27 PM , Rating: 2
MacBook Air == high performance and low power usage in one x86 machine, got it?


By nafhan on 1/14/2011 4:52:04 PM , Rating: 2
We're still discussing x86 vs. ARM, right? If we restricted comparisons strictly to PC's and PC CPU's, you'd be right (depending on the metric). That's not what we're doing, though. The C2D in the Air isn't terrible on power usage, it's just terrible relative to CPU's like the A4.

Anyway, it's largely an academic argument since there are many things other than power usage vs. performance to consider when choosing a computer. :) Have a good weekend.


By Pirks on 1/14/2011 7:04:16 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
The C2D in the Air isn't terrible on power usage, it's just terrible relative to CPU's like the A4
A4 performance is just as terrible compared to the C2D in the Air


By Shining Arcanine on 1/14/2011 4:57:19 PM , Rating: 2
At the moment, Intel's processors use a RISC core. If x86 were so good, nothing about their processors would be RISC. The only reason that they make x86 processors is so that they can make money off the lock-in effect that past processors have created for them, to the detriment of energy efficiency and performance.

In conclusion, RISC has higher performance and lower power consumption than x86. The only strength x86 has is that it provides a vendor lock-in that makes it impossible for new companies to compete with Intel by producing compatible processors.


By encia on 1/18/2011 5:30:22 AM , Rating: 2
From the past and the present, there are several X86 CPU vendors e.g. National Semiconductor, IDT, RISE, Transmeta, IBM, NEC, NexGen, ZF Micro, RDC Semiconducters, D&MP Electronics, AMD and 'etc'.


By Gungel on 1/15/2011 8:29:44 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
2) By the time eight core A15 is out on 40nm Intel's new eight core architecture will be out on 22nm, spanking A15 yet again

Globalfoundries already announced that they are working with ARM on releasing 28nm Cortex A9 SoC's later this year and future SoC's on 20nm process in 2013.


RE: Two reasons not to be worried about Intel and x86
By Pirks on 1/17/2011 12:43:45 PM , Rating: 2
ya the same clowns that promised fusion like 2 years ago, keep trusting 'em, whatever :)))

Intel delivers while AMD/GF feed us with rosy promises, this is how things were, are and will be


RE: Two reasons not to be worried about Intel and x86
By encia on 1/18/2011 5:33:53 AM , Rating: 2
RE: Two reasons not to be worried about Intel and x86
By Pirks on 1/18/2011 10:55:09 AM , Rating: 2
encia together with AMD showers us with flashy marketing slides promising bright future with recurring "just wait a few more years please" while Intel delivers the real thing

life as usual :D


RE: Two reasons not to be worried about Intel and x86
By encia on 1/18/2011 5:49:34 PM , Rating: 2
Refer to http://www.amazon.com/Acer-AO522-BZ897-10-1-Inch-N...

AMD APU based Acer Aspire One AO522-BZ897 10.1-Inch HD Netbook.


By Pirks on 1/19/2011 10:34:08 AM , Rating: 2
"This item has not yet been released"

AMD lackey fail :)))


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