Perhaps IBM pulls through at least in part because it has the pockets -- and the foresight -- to think ahead -- way ahead. As the NYTimes recently noted, "I.B.M. was granted more patents in 2012 than any other company, **the 20th consecutive year in the top spot**". Personally, I have the pleasure of writing about IBM on a regular basis -- at least the folks I'm in contact with -- those working on their chips and basic science stuff -- are insanely smart and innovative. And as a company, they always seem to have an ace in the hole. They understand Big Data as few do. Last stand? To borrow from Mr. Twain, I think that falls into the domain of great exaggeration.... IBM is, was and always will be an amazing company.
it is too late for IBM to do an ARM now. Too much of a head start, may work if bare isa is licensed free. Besides new Isa's like UCB's riscv are a better and cleaner option, besides being free. In fact for our open source processor, we did a ppc implementation but later switched over to riscv. Patents are not an issue in India but if we wanted our processor to be adopted worldwide, they can be a problem.
In fact a whole bunch of universities are collaborating to get these open source processors out. That could potentially eclipse ARM.
The adjunct story to that is the Chisel hardware development language from UCB. It is based on Scala and is again completely free. Use off scala opens up the programmer base to a wider audience compared to say System Verilog. In fact the US govt is also keen to see this language succeed. So now all you need is a PC and a bent for processor design and you can churn out your own custom cpu. A basic fpga board will do for a sub 500 MHz processor. Our lab results show 200 MHz is trivially achievable. The point is that commercial grade cpu code will now be open source, so most folks just need to tweak it, not write a CPU from scratch. We also plan to open source IP like PCIe,DDR3/4, RapidIO, 10ge. Hopefully someone will do a gpu.
See riscv.org . UCB plans to finalise the ISA in Sept.
When I got to the part where you say "In the coldest cut of all, Amazon recently won a deal to supply computer services to the CIA..." I thought to myself "If I went back in time 20 years, what would IBM have said to me if I'd told them a 'book-seller' woudl one day be out-selling them on the computer front?"
Then I thought "It's a funny old world, and no mistake"
The trend is embedded processors from Freescale, LSI sand others are generally in the process of migrating from PowerPC to ARM, certainly in networking anjd comms for basestation chips. I am less sure about automotive-specific chips.
I am guess they might be slower to change given slower design cycles in automotive.
Rick, i get your point about the non-existent Power architecture in new generations of game consoles...but what about Power architecture embedded in base stations and power trains for automotive? Are they being successful, or are they too getting replaced by ARM?