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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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They can do it.
By Smilin on 1/21/2011 12:12:58 PM , Rating: 2
Intel has made some big drops in power consumption in the past and we tend to think of them as only making heavy chips because that's what everyone buys. Heck just take one of their quad cores and lop 3 cores off of it, run it at 1.5ghz speeds with undervoltage and you're halfway there without really lifting a finger.

(not saying this alone would do the trick but you get an idea).

Furthermore we're talking about the future, not the present.
In the future intel will be releasing whatever they release but think about ARM for a moment:

They have to figure out how to increase processing while maintaining that low power consumption. They have little experience in multi-core design beyond coprocessors. Intel and AMD have been fighting this fight for a couple generations now and they're getting really good at it (especially w/ memory controllers). ARM also has yet to make a leap to a full 64bit instruction set. Intel/AMD(in particular) found a wildly successful path to accomplish this. ARM also doesn't do microcode for crap. This is going to be an issue as their designs become more complicated. One moderate errata and it's going to be mass-recall instead of an update.

ARM makes an awesome low power processor but they made huge tradeoffs to accomplish this. Those tradeoffs are going to bite them hard in the future.




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