ARM processor runs applications in some Intel-based PCs, claims executive
February 10, 2009 //
Some PC makers are using an Intel processor to provide compatibility with the Windows operating system but finding ways to let an ARM processor run key applications for the sake of its power efficiency and the resulting longer battery life for the computer, according to ARM CEO, Warren East.
LONDON As the terminology has shifted around ultramobile PCs, mobile internet devices (MIDs) and netbooks, some may have made the assumption that any given PC would be powered by either an Intel processor or one designed by ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England) and implemented by one of its semiconductor licenses.
In turns out that assumption is too simplistic. Some PC makers are using an Intel processor to run the Windows operating system but finding ways to let an ARM processor run some key applications for the sake of its power efficiency and the resulting longer battery life for the computer.
Warren East, president and CEO of ARM, told analysts at a meeting held to discuss the company's financial results that his company's collaborative work with software vendors to port specific applications to ARM's processor cores was yielding results in both mobile internet devices and in PCs.
"[There are] interesting hybrid products where PCs are adopting our technology alongside Intel technology for functions such as the Internet and for email, because that gives you a much longer battery life as a user," said East. East gave the Dell Latitude ON E4200 laptop computer as an example of the Intel-ARM hybrid twin-processor approach. East said the computer uses an ARM processor for email and Internet access when running the Linux operating system, but qualified this by saying "according to industry reports."
The Dell Latitude ON E4200 specification sheet boasts of "all-day mobile computing" saying that it is dependent on the "configuration" of the computer but does not mention an ARM processor implementation. The processor is described as an Intel Core2 Duo ultra low voltage processor running at 1.40-GHz and with 3-Mbytes of level-2 cache memory.
East said ARM has been working with software infrastructure companies such as Adobe, Microsoft, Canonical and Mozilla to port their software products to ARM processors. East said this was starting to pay off in mobile internet devices as well as in hybrid twin-processor PCs. East cited the Pegatron netbook as a design win. "That's an ODM product based on the Cortex-A8. It's a reasonably high performance Cortex-A8 at around about 1-GHz, but it's a Linux-based netbook and you can get all-day use out of this sort of thing," East told the analysts. "We see that product category as an exciting one for growth during 2009 and beyond."
With regard to Intel-ARM hybrid PCs East told EE Times that as wireless connectivity has become fundamental to PC operation computer companies were buying application processors originally developed for the mobile phone industry. "In reality they will be taking an off-the-shelf applications processor and putting it on the base board." East said it then made sense to run some applications on the applications processor. "It's a way of extending battery life. It's not that we've adopted a particular strategy," East said.
In a Q&A session at the end of the presentation of the financial results one analyst questioned why, amidst the moves towards the computing and netbook markets ARM had not received a port of Windows operating systems such as XP and Vista.
"In an ideal world, would the ARM offering be more competitive if Big Windows was available on ARM today? Yes it would! It isn't, not because of any technical reason and not really because of any commercial reason from an ARM perspective. But really you have to talk to Microsoft about when they want to support ARM architectures. It's not up to us," answered East. "We're seeing a lot of activity in the Linux space so I don't think it's a serious brake on our progress into that new application area, right now," he concluded.
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