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For now, PC vendors reaching for ARM over Intel Atom



A report from Digitimes notes that, despite aggressive promotion from Intel, PC vendors aren’t going to sit on their hands waiting for Intel’s Oak Trail system to arrive. At least until then, they’ll be focusing on ARM and Android.

Availability of ARM CPUs, lack of availability of the more efficient Oak Trail platform for Intel Atom, and immediate demand for tablet computers are driving the move as much as any technological reason. Also cited were the higher price, power consumption and heat dissipation of Atom compared to ARM. Operating system was mentioned, but it’s more of a symptom of the move rather than a cause. Since Windows won’t run on ARM, it’s negatively affected by the situation, but MeeGo and Android, which run (or will run) on both platforms, are expected to be among the tablet offerings, present and future.

Tablets running Intel Atom and Windows are still in the pipeline, so vendors can both “maintain their relationships with Intel and Microsoft, and also to gauge market demand,” but the volumes will be small. This is in line with Steve Ballmer’s comments about things changing when Intel’s Oak Trail is released. As Mary Jo Foley explained, with Oak Trail due early 2011, we likely won’t see a real boom in Windows 7 tablets for almost another year, leaving ARM as the processing system of choice until then.



  1. Lucian Armasu

    08/03/2010 at 12:47 pm

    Even if Intel releases chip that is good enough for tablets, they won’t be able to keep up with ARM chips, because optimizing Atom will get harder and harder.

    The ARM platform is only in its early days in smartphones and will have plenty of room to improve, while Atom may be already close to its limits in terms of optimization.

    If Intel really wanted to continue with x86, they should’ve made a more efficient chip than Atom, from scratch:

  2. The Niles

    08/04/2010 at 2:33 am

    First of all Intel equipped tablets have already been released (the Archos 9 for example). We don’t have to wait until 2011 to get one. In fact I bought an intel tablet in 2005 was very pleased with its performance. It was an ASUS R2H and it helped me take notes in classes, allowed me to read and annotate papers and kept me entertained when I was done working.

    More importantly however is the question that wasn’t asked here and is barely asked anywhere else. What do you want your tablet to do? ARM is a great solution but it lags behind in many respects to X86 not the least of which has to so with software rather than hardware.

    Android smartphones and indeed all smartphones to date are a great step forward in the use and usefulness of mobile computing. Adding access to the internet in its true form and not a shallow derivative such as for example i-Mode that was already available five years ago. Still, having experienced all I can do with my Andriod smartphone I’m also left with the bitter aftertaste of all the things I can’t accomplish. I can’t use the internet as I would normally use it and have gotten used to using it on my laptop and UMPCs. A full hurdle free internet experience it is not. I was able to easily take notes on my R2H and I wouldn’t be on Andriod even if it had a 7″ screen, because there is neither the hardware to do it not the software that is capable of it.

    So lets talk battery life. ARM is the superiour choice here no doubt about it but there is more of a story to tell. My very first mobile phone had an ARM chip and I had to charge it once every few weeks. This is partly due to my limited use but has more to do with extremely low power requirements of the ARM architecture inside. My second phone was a lot more capable, could take pictures, had a higher resolution colour display, had Java games and applications, a much faster processor and went without charging for about a week. My current phone as said has Andriod (1.5, still waiting for the promised upgrade to 2.1) and sees its charger every two days or so. ARM has gotten a lot more powerful over the years but also a lot less battery friendly. The trade of is obviously worth it but the fact remains that the more power ARM receives the more power-hungry it gets. If ARM is to provide the same internet experience as a desktop computer can its power usage will have to come up again.

    Tablets are a personal choice. Currently while everyone needs a mobile phone and at least a desktop computer to be able to participate in society a tablet is a convenient extra and as such can and as to fit the profile of the person buying it. For me that is not an ARM based device. In the future, well it depends on how not only hardware evolves but more importantly how the software around it evolves.

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