ARM will get up to 20% of notebook space by 2015 says CEO
Warren East believes ARM licensees can win up to one-fifth of the mobile PC space, while Intel can only hope for 10% of smartphones
Published: 21 May, 2012
As Intel and ARM come face-to-face in the battleground between PCs and handsets, the latter's CEO Warren East is engaged in fighting talk. The ARM platform will capture a bigger share of the notebook space than Intel can seize in smartphones, he indicated.
In an interview with Dow Jones, East said he expects ARM-based processors to gain between 10% and 20% of the notebook PC space by 2014-2015. Meanwhile, he projects that Intel will have won between 5% and 10% of the smartphone segment in the same timeframe.
Of course, by 2015 there will be considerable overlap between the two categories, as seen in the rise of 'phablets' like the Galaxy Note, so both sides may be able to claim victory based on semantics. However, the two architectures will increasingly move into one another's core territories, as ARM licensees boost the performance of their chips and add 64-bit support to target PCs and even servers; while Intel has addressed many power consumption issues and is pushing Atom into handsets for the first time.
But East was damning with faint praise about the first commercial Atom-based smartphone, the Xolo X900, which he called a "perfectly adequate smartphone". But he pointed out that there is a score of chip vendors going after the mobile space, and no one firm will dominate. "It's going to be quite hard for Intel to be much more than just one of several players," he said."But they'll be a perfectly credible player."
And a year ago, few were even confident that Intel would be one of those several, in the cellphone space, after years of failed attempts. The chip giant has made considerable progress with its Medfield Atom-based phone chipset, netting deals with Lenovo and Motorola, though it has not offered such specific targets as ARM. CEO Paul Otellini said recently that the market would consolidate, leaving only two or three major mobile chip providers in a few years' time, and that Intel would be one of those.
Of course, the real test will come with Windows 8, the first fully blown Microsoft OS to span both Intel x86 and ARM platforms. The ARM version, Windows RT, will not support legacy applications, which Intel claims will be a key advantage, and East admitted in the interview that ARM vendors will not address all Windows use cases. They will be more focused on tablets and emerging thin client form factors like cloudbooks. "If you look at a lot of consumer PCs, people just want to run an internet browser, an email package, some Office applications and Adobe Photoshop or something like that, and not much else," he said. "Therefore, we can put ARM processors into the heart of PCs to target a lot of the use requirements."
For these slimline gadgets, ARM partners will offer far cheaper processors than Intel's, he claimed. Smartphone chips average about $20 rather than $80 to $200 for Intel's heavier duty Core line of PC offerings. Smartphone chipmakers will be attracted by the slight premium seen in PCs and tablets, where East expects to processors to cost $25 to $30 for Windows RT. "Selling a chip for $25 instead of $20 is a massive, massive improvement in profitability for the smartphone chip provider," he commented. However, Intel pledged to be "very price competitive with the ARM licensees" with Atom, while also reaching higher up the performance tree with Core.