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Intel claims that its next generation of mobile CPU products will be able to beat ARM in power efficiency. The company claims to be unconcerned that Microsoft will be allowing ARM chips on Windows netbooks, notebooks, and tablets.  (Source: Intel)
Who, us worried? Naww...

Microsoft’s announcement that the next version of Windows would support ARM chipmakers' CPUs was a bombshell and shocking news to x86 chipmaker Intel.  Many took the news as a sign that Microsoft felt Intel, the world leader in PC CPU shipments, was offering too little, too late in power improvements compared to the power-savvy ARM architecture.

In newly released comments, an Intel spokesperson denies that Microsoft took such a stand and insists that not only is Intel at no risk, but that it will actually be able to beat ARM at power efficiency.

Intel's spokesperson delivered these comments to the SF Gate. States the spokesperson, "With over 30 years of compatibility, we will easily scale down to a lower power Windows to match our Atom processor family, or any x86-based Intel chip."

The company's executive leadership made similar claims during its recent earnings call.

The spokesperson also pointed to a recent interview Intel executive vice president Dadi Perlmutter did with Ars Technica. The Intel executive claimed that it would take Microsoft so long to get the next version of Windows ready that by then his company would have released designs that could compete with ARM in power.

The spokesperson adds, "Windows will always run best on Intel.  Porting Windows to a new architecture, where chips are generally incompatible with each other and require sizable investment in millions of other software code, applications and middleware will be complex and costly."

Costly, perhaps, but many think it is necessary despite Intel's claims.  Intel has yet to release an x86-based tablet system-on-a-chip (CPU+GPU) that's anywhere close to the power efficiency of the ARM-based chips present in virtually every tablet on sale today.  And while Intel Atom-based tablets will be coming this year, it's not expected to get its smartphone CPUs to market this year.

While Intel's prospects in the tablet market look slim, the biggest danger to it is actually in the budget laptop/netbook sector.  ARM-based designs could offer much longer battery life than designs using Intel chips, such as Sandy Bridge or Atom.  The ARM architecture is inherently slightly more efficient as it eliminates register expensive renaming and has a slimmer instruction set.  While not all reduced instruction set computer CPUs -- RISC CPUs -- have been as successful (e.g. the PowerPC architecture), ARM represents the closest to perfect RISC architecture the market has seen to date.

Despite those architectural advantages, Intel could be right about future efficiency if it continues to aggressively pursue die shrinks.  As processor shrink, they become more energy efficient, but leakage current accounts for more and more of the power budget.  So if Intel can out-shrink ARM chipmakers or use better leakage controlling technologies in its chips, that could make more of a difference to net power consumption than the core architecture, in the long run.

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It's about compatibility stupid!
By corduroygt on 1/21/2011 9:28:01 AM , Rating: 2
The strength of the x86 is not in its architecture but in software library. Pretty much every computer app is compiled on x86 since it's running on Windows, OS X (for the last few years), and Linux. When it comes to mobile devices, all of the major mobile OS's today are written to run on ARM. I'd like to see how Intel can change this, seems to be a monumental task.

RE: It's about compatibility stupid!
By Da W on 1/21/2011 9:40:31 AM , Rating: 2
By having desktop software running on a mobile device.
Most apps on mobile devices are small pieces of crap that can be coded in 2 days. It can be ported to x86.

RE: It's about compatibility stupid!
By Flunk on 1/21/2011 9:44:55 AM , Rating: 3
You're clearly not a programmer.

RE: It's about compatibility stupid!
By Akrovah on 1/21/2011 11:59:55 AM , Rating: 2
While to make it a blanket statement that all mobile aps could be ported to x86 in 2 days is riddiculous for obvious reasons, he is also not entirely wrong. Android uses a great deal of Java for its apps, which means it could be feasable to re-write it for a desktop os fairly easy. And Windows Phone 7 uses Silverlight and XNA, both using the .net framework, which is included by default in modern versions of Windows and the coding modifications to change a program from a Widnows Phone 7 target platform to a Windows target platform (or even Xbox 360) is ludicrisly easy.

RE: It's about compatibility stupid!
By omnicronx on 1/21/2011 1:26:39 PM , Rating: 2
Technically... You could most likely compile iOS apps directly to x86, same with Windows Phone and most c++ games on any platform.. (Theres just the fact there is no x86 version of these OS's to run them on)

But that hardly means that porting takes 'two days', which I assure you it does not..

By Akrovah on 1/21/2011 2:28:26 PM , Rating: 2
In the traditional sense of the word, you are right, as porting at the very least would require re-writing the OS interface stuff. But when you are talking about managed code, as used by both Windows Phone and Android (maybe iOS, never looked at development on that) as long as the VM has been written for the plaform and architecture then it doesn't matter what platofrm your program was compiled on.

As an example I had a simple tanks sitting on a hill shooting each other game written in XNA and running under Windows. It took me all of 5 or 6 hours to port it over to Windows Phone because it also uses XNA. I only had to re-write the UI code to use a touch screen instead of a keyboard.

I haven't tried much development for Android, but as I understand it it heavily uses Java, which does have a VM for several x86 based OSes. Again, the Android specific stuff would need to be changed, but the bulk fo the logic written in Java can easily be moved from one platform

RE: It's about compatibility stupid!
By bug77 on 1/21/2011 9:44:14 AM , Rating: 2
Well, Intel in involved in MeeGo. Which is basically Linux which has a history of running on both x86 and ARM. So they may try to use that. Plus, Intel is huge. It can throw a huge pile of cash to the problem.

By fteoath64 on 1/21/2011 10:09:53 AM , Rating: 1
In Meego, they hooked in a "big fish" called Nokia. And likely to drag Nokia into the ground if the Finns are not careful. Just look at the landscape out there. ARM is very well entrenched in the eco-system for mobile and tablets. And Android is the leading OS. There are so many variants of ARM A9 out there which will whipped any ATOM for "performance per watt" which Intel still cannot do. It will take them another 2 years, they do not really have, regardless of how rich there are , they ain't got the goods to play in this space. Sorry, like AMD, Intel has just stunned and neglected ATOM for too long. ANd AMD's APU will eat up the netbook market and parts of the higher-end tablets (Win7 ones) for 2011.
ARM A9 variants will certainly rule the tablet space for 2011 and high-end phones for that matter.
To be blunt, Nokia married a rich-groom-who talks-heaps-does-very-little. It will wake up in Q3-2011 for a witch-hunt.

RE: It's about compatibility stupid!
By gvaley on 1/21/2011 3:03:52 PM , Rating: 2
When it comes to mobile devices, all of the major mobile OS's today are written to run on ARM.

Not true. Android readily runs on x86 and the applications don't need to be ported as they are written in Java and run on a virtual machine. MeeGo is another example that was mentioned by another reader. Apple are sure to jump on the Intel bandwagon if Intel can deliver a good enough product.

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