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Can Intel Wrestle ARM?

Intel vs ARM, Microsoft, Apple & Google

Intel is a company which generated nearly $44bn in 2010 and its net income last year topped $11bn. It has more than 80,000 employees. It knows what is at stake and it wants to win. Last week Intel CEO Paul Otellini told investors "You'll see the first Intel-based phones in the first part of next year" and industry support is there with "phones shipping in the market from major players".

Intel ARM 4

It isn't taking prisoners either with Otellini slamming its mistakes of the past. Among he admitted "In hindsight, Nokia was the wrong partner to have picked [for the MeeGo smartphone platform]". Intel also went on the attack against age old partner Microsoft with Renee James, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Software and Services Group, claiming:

"There will be four Windows 8 SoCs for ARM. Each one will run for that specific ARM environment… They are neither forward- nor backward-compatible between their own architecture – different generations of a single vendor – nor are they compatible across different vendors. Each one is a unique stack."

Windows 8

Microsoft hit back saying James was "factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading", but the Intel argument is simple: we have history on our side. The problem is when you exist in an industry as fast moving as technology, claiming strengths based on legacy is a risky business. The fact is the Nokia venture failed and, regardless of stack, Microsoft has opened up the next generation of Windows to ARM chips.

Microsoft isn’t alone. Google's Chrome OS will run on ARM chips, as does Android in both its phone and tablet versions. Meanwhile Apple, once rumoured to be readying an $8bn takeover bid for ARM, is said to be testing a version of its iPhone and iPad A5 chipset in MacBooks. The move would make sense because it would give Apple a unified hardware base and simplify development of third party software. Apple's A-series is based on ARM designs.

MAcBook A5

So how does Intel respond? Arguably it has already started. In beating Moore's Law with its latest announcement Intel has shown it is no longer happy to compete with itself, it is prepared to use its great resources to challenge its new opponent head on. The result will be a monolithic battle between hardware platforms and business ideologies and there is every chance there will be no outright winner. Actually there will be one: the consumer.

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