Would you give an ARM for an Intel phone?


Intel and ARM

That has to be the worst graphic I've ever thrown together. It was lots of fun! :D


From the review of the Orange San Diego by Mat Smith on Engadget:

The first generation of Intel-powered Android phones has arrived, and while the chip maker doesn’t appear to be claiming that its initial efforts are world-beaters, we’ve been promised a chipset that prioritizes what people want most: capable web browsing, strong camera performance and robust battery life.

Contrary to what Eric Schmidt promised us, and in line with most handsets, it doesn't currently run the latest version of Android. Don't worry, the carrier will provide an update though! Uh huh ;).

The San Diego runs on Android Gingerbread. We’ve been told that Ice Cream Sandwich can already run on this hardware, but it still won’t be seen on these devices until Q4.

And if I may make one more friendly dig at Android, since when have you read a review about an iOS device that also includes this?

It’s difficult to describe what’s been done to stock Android. For every change Orange made, some parts were left completely unaffected — like an increasingly rare stock version of the app drawer. We were able to scrape back most of what Orange had wrought — aside from the dated orange app icons.

So why is a fairly generic, outdated Android device with carrier cruft interesting?

I like chips

The chip dominating the mobile world at the moment is ARM. Compared to the infinitely more complex x86 platform, ARM chips are smaller, draw less power, and have the added benefit of sounding like a limb.

Intel has been trying to make inroads into the mobile market, first with their Atom CPUs to keep ARM off netbooks. They've largely been successful, or at least as successful as one can be in the limited, bottom-of-the-barrel notebook market.

Phones are another story entirely though; every day we read articles about how more and more people are eschewing their computers for phones to browse the net, and an increasing number are being introduced to the net with phones. There's every reason to believe phones will be the number 1 platform for accessing the net in the coming years, if it isn't already.

Intel wants a piece of the action, and this may be their first, low key demonstration of that intention.

To me though, they face two challenges:

  1. The architecture itself has so much more baggage attached to it than ARM, they'll always have a competitive disadvantage. Intel have the benefit of extraordinary R&D facilities and funds, but they're ultimately competing with an architecture that's fundamentally simpler and more energy efficient.

  2. Whereas Windows on x86 ensured a constant demand for their chips, mobile OSs like Android have largely been built to be platform agnostic. In this way, Intel don't have the guaranteed market in the mobile space they had on the desktop. To be fair though, this cross-platform nature could also work in their favour if the Intel platform is able to surpass ARM.

What's fascinating to me is the news that AMD has licenced certain ARM components, which suggests their lead competitors are going in the opposite direction.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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