LONDON Netbooks, MIDs and ultra-mobile PCs based on ARM processors will outship those based on the x86 processor architecture for the first time in 2013, according to ABI Research. This will represent a remarkable turnaround from the situation in 2009 where, according to ABI, 90 percent of what it calls ultra-mobile Devices (UMDs) were x86-based.
Other observers have put Intel's 2009 hegemony in the mobile computer space as high as 94 percent.
"2010 will be pivotal for building momentum behind non-x86 solutions, and gaining adoption in both distribution channels and by end-user populations worldwide," according to senior analyst Jeff Orr, in a statement issued by ABI.
The netbook segment of the UMD market is now moving into its second generation, and a growing number of netbooks based on ARM platforms are now appearing in the market. Additionally, ARM-based products are coming out in a growing variety of different form-factors including tablets.
ABI did not give figures for the number of annual shipments it sees for the UMD market. In 2010 it sees the market split about 75:25 in favor of Intel. Intel will still lead 60:40 in 2012 but that situation will have flipped in favor of ARM in 2013 and ARM will be the dominant supplier 60:40 in 2014, according to ABI. ABI does not see any other processor architectures breaking into the UMD market place.
The proliferation of netbooks and other mobile devices sporting ARM-based processors will only exacerbate data demand. "Operators are working out their strategies for capacity expansion based on today's best expectations of future demand from data-centric devices. The main issues revolve around backhaul, followed by increased 3G and 4G BTS deployments," Orr said.
ABI is not the first market researcher to predict ARM's rise. Robert Castellano of the Information Network sees ARM's leadership coming in 2012, when he predicted Intel will ship in 43.2 million netbooks while ARM processors will control 52.9 million smaller smart-books giving ARM 55 percent of the market and Intel 45 percent.
Related links and articles:
Comment: ARM, Xilinx and the future of programmable platforms
ARM success could trigger takeover bid, says analyst
Embedded processing guide