Intel: We have ARM license, no plans to use it

Intel: We have ARM license, no plans to use it

Summary: The first question at a Q&A session during Intel's investor day today was predictably about ARM. CEO Paul Otellini quickly dismissed the idea that Intel would develop a processor using ARM cores, the technology behind the processors in the vast majority of tablets and smartphones.

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The first question at a Q&A session during Intel's investor day today was predictably about ARM. CEO Paul Otellini quickly dismissed the idea that Intel would develop a processor using ARM cores, the technology behind the processors in the vast majority of tablets and smartphones.

Otellini noted that Intel already has an architectural license, which allows it to design processors from the ground up using ARM's architecture and instruction set. But Intel executives said that its own 32nm Atom processor, known as Medfield, already meets the stringent power requirements of smartphones. Furthermore, Otellini argued, building a good platform for mobile isn't really about the core but "all the other stuff around it" that makes a good SOC, or system-on-chip. Finally, joining the many companies designing ARM-based chips wouldn't guarantee Intel a spot in smartphones and it may not profitable either.

"So the short answer is, ‘No, we have no intention of using our own license to build ARM processors,'" Otellini said.

Instead Intel is making a bet that in the long run its silicon process technology and manufacturing capabilities will give it an edge over the many fabless chip companies that design ARM SOCs and rely on foundries to manufacture them. Intel's Atom processors have been stuck on 45nm process technology for years, but now the company seems serious about speeding up development. As I mentioned in my previous post, Intel confirmed that within the next three years it will ship new Atom SOCs on 32nm (Saltwell), 22nm (Silvermont) and 14nm (Airmont).

In addition, Otellini said Atom would scale in terms of power consumption both down into cell phones and up into other devices such as specialized servers. This combined with lower-power Core microprocessors for PCs, starting with Ivy Bridge in late 2011, will create a continuum of processors, in terms of power, to compete with ARM and others such as MIPS in all types of devices.

Recently, ARM executives have been trying to convince AMD to develop an ARM-based processor as a way to expand into tablets and smartphones. But it now looks like AMD has put the decision on ARM "on hold" until the company finds a new CEO.

Topics: Processors, Hardware, Intel

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  • RE: Intel: We have ARM license, no plans to use it

    So how's that working out for them?
    dheady@...
    • They're still the biggest

      @dheady@...
      so pretty darn good it seems.
      Will Pharaoh
    • RE: Intel: We have ARM license, no plans to use it

      @dheady@... they have no reason to go into ARM since they already have x86 and its not going anywhere. They would rather push their own arch onto smart phones and unify all the platforms then jump on someone elses arch.
      Jimster480
      • RE: Intel: We have ARM license, no plans to use it

        @Jimster480<br><br>Intel lots the plot several years ago when they sold off their successful ARM development they acquired from DEC (Digital), which evolved into StrongARM and XScale. It was hived off to Marvell.<br><br>Commonly seen in HP's iPaq and Dell's Axim PDA line-ups. My Axim X50v still zip's nicely along with Tom Tom SatNav on it.<br><br>It was cutting their nose off to spike their faces, as they had no real replacement Intel low-powered architecture to replace it, and the tsunani of global mobile phone ownership was just stirring.<br><br>A big D'oh to Intel here.

        Esp. as Microsoft announced Windows 8 will be native on ARM next year, as well as Intel's architecture.
        neilpost
  • I still think

    Otellini is missing the other half of the equation; its not just about power consumption, but instruction set; if Intel's chips are still CISC chips I think they're setting themselves up for problems, as opposed to using, or developing, RISC chips. From a programming point of view, I think that's just as important as power consumption and heat, imo
    fairlane32
    • RE: Intel: We have ARM license, no plans to use it

      @fairlane32
      When was the last time average developers used assembly?
      djrraz@...
      • RE: Intel: We have ARM license, no plans to use it

        @djrraz@... That's right... what really counts is power consumption or how long the battery powering the device can hold the juice.
        FuzzyIce
  • RE: Intel: We have ARM license, no plans to use it

    Wasn't Itanium supposed to be the ultimate RISC chip with the compiler (that nobody could write) the key to usability?
    wkulecz
    • RE: Intel: We have ARM license, no plans to use it

      @wkulecz

      Oracle are to stop new development for the architecture, which will be the start of it's death march.
      neilpost
  • RE: Intel: We have ARM license, no plans to use it

    I didn't realize Itanium was still alive. I think this experience has left Intel a bit gun shy about RISC. Why would Intel want to be another one of many me-too ARM producers?

    x86Atom has the possibility of inheriting an awful lot of Windows code.

    ARM makes great sense for TI and Nvidia, etc. who have other hardware that benefits integration with a CPU core. Intel's "prowess" in DSP or graphics along with ARM would be a disaster IMHO.
    wkulecz
    • RE: Intel: We have ARM license, no plans to use it

      @wkulecz

      What they bring to the table, that their competitors can't match, is their process technology and fab capabilities. They are at least two generations ahead of TSMC. Ceding the mobile device market to TI and Nvidia may not be a good long term move. But as you stated they lack the capabilities for not only graphics and DSP, but for power management and all analog as well. That's something you can't just run out and buy a company and get.
      x86Guru
  • RE: Intel: We have ARM license, no plans to use it

    Intel is at least two generations ahead of the contract fabs in process technology and could built ARM devices that Nvidia and other suppliers could not duplicate.

    Intel came late to the low power x86 game and quickly destroyed upstart low power x86 providers like Transmeta.

    If they want to play in the mobile device arena then they will have to move to ARM. If not, there is still plenty of money to be made in servers, desktops, and laptops. Every time Intel has strayed from X86 they have struggled.

    OTOH, completely writing off the mobile device market, as they appear to be doing, may not be the best strategy for the long term.
    x86Guru
    • RE: Intel: We have ARM license, no plans to use it

      @x86Guru <br>Intel: Is anyone in the mobile market-space actually wanting x86 architecture, and the ball-and-chain that is 32bit Windows ?<br><br>Windows on a tab sucks, never mind any fanciful idea's about bringing vast libraries of x86 code to mobile devices.

      Microsoft don;t help with their directionless mobile/tab strategy with What will Windows 8 bring, how will if be different to WP7, and WTF value really do Nokia bring to the game ? Nothing Nokia do with mapping, GPS, mobile, hardware isn;t done better/cheaper elsewhere by the likes of Google, Tom Tom, Microsoft, Samsung or HTC.
      neilpost
      • What Nokia brings to the table is Nokia itself.

        @neilpost I think the big "coup" of getting Nokia to ally with you is that you get a name that people trust associated with your product. It's hardly the first time Microsoft did this sort of thing; being associated with IBM made MS the juggernaut it is today, and Ballmer et al. are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again.
        Third of Five