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Intel And ARM Go Head-to-Head

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While Intel has been telling us how it will become a major player in the tablet, smartphone and ultra-thin notebook sectors, British-based ARM has been claiming it will hold up to 50 percent of the mobile PC market by 2015.

Computex in Taipei is the setting for two keynote addresses which have set up a battle for control of the mobile sector of the computing world which is likely to be fought tooth-and-nail over the next four or five years. First up was mobile chip specialist ARM, whose Preisdent Tudor Brown took to the stage to tell journalists and industry experts that he hopes the Cambridge-based outfit will hold 50 percent of the mobile PC market come 2015. This will mean a major growth from ARM’s current market share of 10 percent as it hopes to power more netbooks and ultraportable PCs. Rumours still abound that ARM is aiming to get its chips into Apple’s next range of MacBook Airs – and considering the happy partnership they enjoy with the iPhone and iPad, it’s not an entirely unlikely eventuality.

       Asus UX21

ARM also pointed out that Intel is making a change to its business model to try and catch up in the smartphone and tablet sector and as Intel has never done this before, ARM is taking it very seriously. And Intel has revealed the breadth of its plans at Computex, with executive vice-president Sean Maloney announcing the newly-patented Ultrabook. The first ultrabook, which we saw yesterday, will be the Asus UX21. Ultrabooks will be ultra-thin notebooks but with the added benefit that they will cost less than current slim models such as the MacBook Air and Samsung Series 9. Maloney said that Ultrabook PCs will cost less than $1,000 and within 18 months will garner 40 percent of the notebook market. How is Intel planning on making this a reality? Well according to Maloney: “Sandy Bridge is the first step in reinventing the PC. The second step is Ivy Bridge, which is built on our industry-leading 22-nanometer process. The third step is Haswell in 2013. We will double the battery life." So low power CPUs which will improve battery life are the way forward but we’ve heard this before from Intel but a failure to cut the price meant it failed. With Ivy Bridge coming in the first quarter of 2012, we hope Intel gets it right this time round.

Intel Roadmap

Maloney also spoke about the new Atom platform, code-named Cedar Trail, which he says will enable thinner and fanless netbooks. Intel will also be speeding up the shrinking of processor fabrication, with the Atom line getting a die shrink every year for the next three years with the 32nm Cedar Trail succeeded by 22nm and 14nm versions – promising 10 hour battery life and weeks of standby.  Maloney finally spoke of Medfield, the follow up to the Moorsetown system-on-a-chip, which is aimed specifically at taking down ARM’s domination of the tablet and smartphone market. Again Medfield is set to appear in the first quarter of 2012 and Intel showed off 10 prototype tablets based on the Oak Trial Z760 processor at Computex, though they struggled to work properly with Android Honeycomb.

Whatever happens in the coming years, what all this competition means is that consumers should be able to look forward to lower price combined with slimmer and more powerful machines – which is all good as far as we're concerned.

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