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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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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

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner

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