LONDON – Warren East, CEO of processor technology licensor ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England), is unimpressed by the announcements made by chip giant Intel about the low-power Medfield system-chip and its design wins, according to a Reuters report.
"It's inevitable Intel will get a few smartphone design wins – we regard Intel as a serious competitor. Are they ever going to be the leaders in power efficiency? No, of course not. But they have a lot more to offer," Reuters quoted East as saying in an interview conducted at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
East said that Intel's design wins were the result of forcing designs that were not originally intended as mobile phone designs into a power and performance that was "roughly good enough for mobile phones," according to the report.
Intel (Santa Clara, Calif.) used the Las Vegas CES event to launch its Medfield smartphone and tablet computer platform. The 32-nm Penwell system-chip at its heart is more power efficient than previous Intel offerings and consumes less than 800-mW when working flat out, Intel said. Intel also announced a design win with Lenovo and a partnership with Motorola Mobility Inc.
Medfield is set to appear in the K800 Android smartphone for the China market in the first half of 2012 and in Motorola Android products, possibly including both a smartphone and a tablet computer in 2H12.
Qualcomm Inc. (San Diego, Calif.), a telecommunications technology and fabless chip company, is one of the ARM licensees and was also prominent at CES. Qualcomm's leading processors for smartphones and tablet computers are a family known as Snapdragon S4 for which Qualcomm claims to have 70 non-phone design wins from about 20 companies, most of which are likely to be Android systems.
East said that ARM was happy to wait for Windows 8 operating system running on ARM-powered tablet computers. "Google's Android is flavor of the month, flavor of the year, and we certainly want to be part of the Google success. But there is a space for Microsoft, and we very much want to be a part of that success too," the report quoted East as saying.
Actually intel have tried to introduce non-x86 RISC architecture in 1990s; i860 and i960 family. They are truly innovative at the time (860 was first VILW, 960 was first superscaler in the market). 960 achieved some success in embedded application (860 was not a great success), but eventually overtaken by cheaper and higher-performance competitors (MIPS, PPC and ARM). After all, brand new architecture was not juicy for intel, compare to legacy x86, where they had definitive advantage in stable market. Well, those are things of past. It may be the time to intel to consider if they should stick with shrinking PC market or to make gamble on brand-new-architecture one more time.
It appears that people have fogotten that ARM and other "embedded" processor vendors are all the desktop/PC losers against Intel.
Intel didn't go to embedded market because PC market was very profitabl. Now it is the face-off time.
Can anyone be specific about what Intel is offering in terms of architectural innovation? ARM used the approach of elegant simplification right from the start, and to my knowledge haven't diverted from that very much. It is a virtuous circle, although one might expect diminishing returns at some point.
Intel have innovated their processes and silicon design, but their architectures seem to need all the help they can get from the boys in the basement. I never understood why they couldn't make a go of RISC, they spun out their ARM licensing experiment to Marvell I believe.
Maybe corporate Intel can't get over the 'not invented here' hurdle, or maybe Intel's architecture department doesn't contain any software gurus? I think they should look at what they do well (silicon), and what they do clumsily (architecture) and get focussed, either with some proper partnerships or invest in a proper architectural skunkworks (like Acorn Computers did when they created ARM).
Mind you, Intel's peripheral (chipset) architecture teams are pretty good. They have had to be, innovating while carrying all that legacy stuff.
A few things to consider, first when competition exists ... the market creates more innovation. Intel has fab technology to push products into a regime that is leaving most ODM companies behind. So if we all wish to enjoy those cutting edge products into the future, I would be cheering for Intel to keep the spirit alive. Otherwise we will all be stuck with our mobile devices running apps on slow coventional CPU products.
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