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
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, 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.