Intel, ARM set for next stage of laptop battle
Intel presents plans at IDF, while ARM chips are featured by vendors at Microsoft BUILD
IDG News Service - Intel and challenger ARM are set for a PC showdown this week as competition heats up to redefine the laptop and reverse the sagging fortunes of the PC market.
Intel this week at its Intel Developer Forum will provide further details on the rollout of ultrabooks, which have been described as thin and light PCs with tablet-like features. The chip maker is also expected to talk up Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 OS at the show, which will be held Tuesday through Thursday in San Francisco .
Meanwhile, Nvidia and Texas Instruments will be present at Microsoft's BUILD conference -- held in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday through Friday -- to drum up support for Windows 8 on their chips, which carry ARM processors. Nvidia and TI have said they would put the ARM-based chips in laptops in an attempt to take PC market share away from Intel.
Intel is pushing ultrabooks to rejuvenate interest in PCs, whose shipments have slowed due in part to growing interest in tablets. ARM-based chip makers believe the power-efficient processors can be extended to laptops running Windows 8. Microsoft has extended Windows 8 support beyond x86 to ARM processors, and an Nvidia spokesman said that the upcoming OS will work on tablets and PCs with its upcoming quad-core Kal El chip, which is due to reach devices later this year.
"ARM in PCs faces a similar challenge to x86 in handsets. It's technically feasible but it will be a long and challenging road," said Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat.
Intel has faster chips and a long history with PCs that give it an early edge, but ARM chips, allowing longer battery life, could pose a challenge in Windows 8, analysts said. ARM, which licenses chip designs, has been hesitant to enter the PC market, with its thin margins and lack of returns, but Nvidia, TI and Qualcomm are chasing the market nonetheless.
However, while ARM may rule in tablets, it faces many challenges in PCs.
ARM is worrisome to the x86 camp, but not life-threatening, said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. The battle could rage in the low-end laptop space, but ARM falls short in higher-end laptops that offer greater performance and larger screen size.
"[ARM] is fine for doing iOS-style versions of applications, but not the bread and butter of the PC market, large screen real estate, lots of apps at once, video games in high resolution with good game play, monster spreadsheets, not to mention servers and high-performance computing," Kay said.
ARM processors also currently lack 64-bit support and could have trouble supporting legacy hardware such as printers or cameras, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. There are stable x86 Windows drivers for old hardware, and device makers may not write new ARM drivers for older products.
"I'm still skeptical on Windows 8 on ARM in desktop and clamshell products," Brookwood said.
Despite hurting PC shipments, ARM processors and tablets are not effective in creating content. With its revamped user interface, Windows 8 could make both PCs and tablets into creation and consumption devices, which could hurt ARM.
If future designs hold true to Intel's vision, ultrabooks could provide a happy medium between PCs and tablets, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. PCs have been consistently redefined over the past few decades with desktops and then laptops, and ultrabooks could be the next iteration.
Intel plans to make ultrabooks a prominent theme at IDF and will present a three-stage rollout plan for the laptops. Intel has set ultrabooks to run on Core processors, be under 20 millimeters (0.8 inches) thick and use solid-state drive storage. Over the next two years, Intel aims to roll out more advanced ultrabook designs with features such as touchscreens that can flip and slide, all-day batteries and instant boot capabilities. Intel has invested $300 million in companies that develop new technologies for ultrabooks.
Some vendors like Lenovo, Asus and Toshiba have already announced ultrabooks with the thin, sleek look of Apple's MacBook Air. Beyond ultrabooks, Intel is also pushing specialized x86 tablet chips in an attempt to dismantle ARM's tablet dominance, and at IDF will talk about its upcoming Medfield chip for tablets, though it was originally envisioned as a smartphone chip.
- Hands on: Apple's Mac Pro is the fastest Mac ever
- Open source challenges a proprietary Internet of Things
- Intel kills SSD overclocking, unleashes its fastest-ever consumer drive
- Mobile platforms with 8GB memory may be on the way
- New smartphone OS flags will fly at Mobile World Congress
- Why Apple needs a $700 MacBook Air
- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Told you so! Microsoft backs off on Metro
- Intel to scrap McAfee name, give away mobile security tools
- Mac sales estimates for Q4 are all over the map
- OEMs, Intel making big mistake with two-headed, dual-OS devices
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- 4 Customers who never have to refresh their PCs again This paper illustrates a common theme: the combination of desktop virtualization and thin client computing helps organizations deliver an up-to-date user experience more...
- Mobile Devices: The New Thin Clients Get essential guidance for understanding the role thin clients plus virtual desktops play in the enterprise today.
- Taking Windows Mobile on Any Device Taking Windows applications mobile has many advantages, but the process of identifying a solution is complex. Learn how to solve this complex problem...
- PaaS - Powering a New Era of Business IT Why PaaS has suddenly become relevant and irresistible to many organizations. Dive into the opportunities and considerations associated with using PaaS from an...
- Redefine Your IT Operations: Remote Office IT Has Never Been Simpler Join us to see why PC Pro named Dell PowerEdge VRTX the "2013 Server of the Year." PowerEdge VRTX may be just what...
- Meg Whitman presents Unlocking IT with Big Data During this Web Event you will hear Meg Whitman, President and CEO, HP discuss HAVEn - the #1 Big Data platform, as well... All Hardware White Papers | Webcasts