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Analyst: Intel to break ARM

January 10, 2011 // Mark LaPedus

Analyst:  Intel to break ARM

ARM Holdings plc and Intel Corp. are on a collision course. ARM's technology has dominated the mobile processor business. Meanwhile, Intel has a near monopoly on the traditional PC and server markets. Now, ARM and its partners—Marvell, Nvidia and others-want a piece of the traditional, x86-based computer segments. And Intel is looking to make inroads in the mobile, tablet PC and related segments dominated by ARM.

The winner? Intel, according to one analyst. But clearly, the chip giant faces some major challenges, as it did not have the ''best of CESs (Consumer Electronic Show), which is remarkable given that the company may very well have launched the most powerful CPU family in decades:  Sandy Bridge,'' said Hans Mosesmann, an analyst with Raymond James & Associates Inc., in a report.

As expected, rival microprocessor firms Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) used the occasion of the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show to officially launch new multicore chips that combine microprocessing and graphics processing capabilities on a single die. 
''The issue of course for Intel is that CES 2011 is all about Android, tablets, and smartphones, which the Street tends to not associate with Intel. Oh, and that punch-in-the-gut commentary by Microsoft that its next generation Windows O/S will support ARM processors in addition to x86,'' he said.

Microsoft Corp. said that the next version of its Windows operating system will support ARM-based chips, confirming months of speculation that the software giant would broaden support for Windows beyond x86 platforms. 

''First, there is no way around this. The fact that consumers can buy a Windows-based notebook a couple years down the road based on an Intel or AMD x86, or a TI or Nvidia ARM SoC is just not good news on its own despite our view that x86 will easily outperform an ARM core,'' he said.

''On this note, the bottom line is can Intel penetrate the tablet/smartphone market enough to offset ARM encroachment in its mainstream notebook domain? Our view is yes in the mid-term as the company has a good head start: Android tablets/smartphones based on x86 in 2011 will easily sport double-digit performance advantages over ARM solutions running Android inasmuch as that is the metric of choice,'' he said.

''Also, look for Intel to have a cost advantage veres ARM SoCs (System on a Chip) given the company's 1-2 node process advantage,'' he added. ''Longer term, Intel has its challenges and 2011 will go a long way in helping to answer if Intel is up to the task.''

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