SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- ARM this week sketched out a vision of
moving methodically into servers and deeper into embedded, expanding
its reach from a dominant position in mobile systems.
There's an architecture, a vision, a market need and an evolving
ecosystem. A lot of great generals throughout history had similar ambitions
but overreached and outran their supply lines. What's different today?
History is littered with powerful companies that dominated a market
and pushed their technology into new areas, thinking their brand,
technology or manufacturing would carry the day. Companies often overreach, mistakenly thinking applications will
embrace the technology rather than the other way around. A decade ago, Intel was poised to crash the networking communications party.
Didn't work. Different considerations, different sales cycle than
the PC industry. More competition too. In addition
to hubris, companies simply can lose focus or suffer from
in-fighting and tech turf battles.
I'd wager that ARM's expansion into embedded and
push into servers won't blow up in its face. Embedded design
considerations aren't too far afield from mobile phones and tablets,
and ARM already has a presence in many embedded systems.
Servers are a different animal altogether, but the reason ARM probably
won't experience an Intel moment is structural. ARM is a step
removed from the sturm und drang of a given market in that it
defines a relevant architecture and lets partners run with the ball
(and assume the risk).
It has no capital equipment skin in the game, and it
studiously builds an infrastructure community (standards, software,
peripherals) to raise the odds of success. Management and
engineering seem conservative but not overly cautious.
For its drive into servers, it's enlisted a more-than-willing
partner in AMD, already has success with Calxeda and is actively
managing the design conversation through things, like HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture) Foundation and
TrustZone. This isn't to say Intel isn't great at seeding a market
and building community; it is. But Intel's manufacturing exposure is what makes
any expansion a higher-risk endeavor.