Will Intel have to make ARM processors again?

Posted by – May 4, 2010
Category: Opinions

ARM’s advantage is not only a question of performance per milliwatt and price, it’s also mostly about it being a processor technology licenced by several processor makers. More makers of processors means lower prices, means more features. When manufacturers who are making the next Laptop, Tablet, Phone, Set-top-box, E-reader devices have more choices for the components that they can use, it helps bring prices down, it helps bring a more diverse set of hardware designs and features to the market.

As consumers and as fans of technology and progress, we should welcome more choice, more competition to the market.

While I can’t know Intel’s next generation performance and price, my guess though is that while they can probably bring something with their billions of dollars in R&D, it’ll likely still not be able to match the work done by the dozens of huge ARM processor makers all combined. As ARM is just a core set of processor IP, a lot of work is done on top of that by Texas Instruments, Marvell, Freescale, Qualcomm, Samsung, ST Ericsson, Nvidia, VIA, Broadcom, even AMD-spin-off Global Foundries is investing Billions in differentiating their way of doing ARM Cortex A9 multi-core using High-K Gate, 28nm process and more.

The performance we need is simply one that displays a web browser instantly on all screen sizes. So really, while we would like cloud computing performance to increase, the performance of our internet access devices only need to reach a certain magic level where all websites and web apps can be displayed instantly. From then on, processor improvements that bring savings on power consumption and price will be much more valuable than further increases in performance.

Sure Intel has lots of money and engineers in R&D, but one must question their motive; I think Intel wants to stay in control of the bulk of the PC/Laptop product categories than it really cares about value for consumers and about much improving access to computing for the more than 4 billion people who still don’t have access to the Internet.