Intel puts the crosshairs on ARM

Intel puts the crosshairs on ARM

Summary: Intel's sudden — and dramatic — arrival to the mobile market is making investors and analysts twitchy.

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TOPICS: Processors, ARM
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Chip maker ARM has essentially had free rein over the mobile space while the chip behemoth Intel focused instead on traditional PC systems. But now that Intel has shifted its laser focus onto the mobile space, ARM investors are getting jittery.

Intel is putting pressure on ARM from two sides. First, its Clover Trail+ Atom silicon is delivering significant power savings compared to what ARM is offering. The Atom Z2580 is so good that tests carried out by ABI Research suggest it packs a punch equivalent to that of the Samsung Exynos Octa or the Qualcomm APQ8064T while consuming about half the power.

(Source: AbI Research)

See alsoAMD beats Intel by unveiling world's first 5GHz processor

News that Samsung has chosen Intel over ARM to supply chips for its new tablets have put ARM shares into a downward spiral since the beginning of June.

The second pressure on ARM is Intel's next-generation Core processors based on the Haswell architecture. While there's no doubt that these processors are pricey, they do bring to the table significant power savings, and put significant pressure on ARM. As x86 processors become more efficient, the less OEMs want to compromise new tablets by kitting them out with ARM silicon.

Microsoft had hoped that its Windows RT platform would give ARM greater reach into the mobile tablet space, but this platform hasn't as yet been well received by either consumers or enterprise customers.

Intel's sudden arrival into the mobile market is making investors and analysts twitchy. Analysts at Bernstein Research warned in a note to clients that they found "a great deal of evidence that with its current products, Intel is competitive against ARM" before going on to conclude that "we can't stress enough how much we are worried about current expectations for ARM."

This threat from Intel doesn't just apply to ARM, but also extends to its rivals, such as Imagination Technologies. While its share price hasn't been rocked as hard as ARM's, it too is living in an increasingly vulnerable market space.

Topics: Processors, ARM

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42 comments
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  • If ARM-Makers' Shares Drop, Buy!

    Intel has to out-compete ARM simultaneously on 3 fronts: performance, power efficiency, and cost. It can manage two at once, but not all three. It is hampered by the greater complexity and expense of the x86 instruction set, which offers no benefits that anybody cares about in the mobile space. Yes, it has more money to spend its way into the market, but no way to recoup that expenditure in a market more used to paying ARM rather than x86 prices.

    History is not kind to high-margin, low-volume vendors trying to muscle their way into low-margin, hign-volume markets.

    The only chance Intel has is to make ARM chips.
    ldo17
    • But Intel is a high-margin, high-volume seller

      They can play both games at once.

      Don't think so? Watch them.
      x I'm tc
      • Re: But Intel is a high-margin, high-volume seller

        This may be hard for many
        ldo17
        • "greater complexity and expense of the x86" is BULL

          Just goes to show you don't know a damn thing about chip design. At micro-level the #1 factor is gate leakage which brings a magnitude more influence on power consumption than the architecture choice. So whoever has better fabrication technique at the micro-level to cut down the leakage has the upper hand, and so far it's always Intel being ahead in terms of fabrication.

          Stop spreading nonsense and offering stock picks on it.
          LBiege
      • Re: But Intel is a high-margin, high-volume seller

        people to appreciate, but Intel only make the world's third-most popular architecture. x86 unit shipments are a drop in the bucket compared to ARM.
        ldo17
        • You are missing the point

          x86 might not be the most popular architecture by units sold, but that is because up to now a significant number of units sold were due to ARM's lower power consumption. You obviously wouldn't put an i3 CPU into a cell phone.

          The whole point to the article, and concern about competition from Intel, is that if Intel can compete on power and performance, even if cost isn't the same, there is something to be said for leveraging design and programming expertise on the part of manufacturers. Why keep both ARM and x86 programmers on staff if you don't have to?

          With all the places that ARM processors are found, I basically see ARM having been picked only for its power consumption. I suspect it's a rare situation that an ARM is picked *because* it's ARM, and that's probably a fundamental flaw in their business model.
          croberts
          • Re: Why keep both ARM and x86 programmers on staff if you don't have to?

            And you've already got the ARM expertise, so why bother adding the x86 expense?
            ldo17
          • How about samsung

            They make computers, and phones, and tablets. Imagine they all ran x86. You could apply all your in-house expertise for any given project. This isn't about ARM v x86 uniquely. Any time you can simplify processes and resources, there is usually a positive result.
            croberts
          • Re: How about samsung

            What would be the advantage in moving to a more complicated architecture?
            ldo17
          • you can now cover the high and low end with x86

            From HPC to embedded. x86
            DevGuy_z
          • Re: you can now cover the high and low end with x86

            Funny, ARM is doing that now as well. It is better established than Intel at the high-volume end, and it is steadily encroaching at the niche end, while Intel is trying to go the other way.

            History has not been kind to niche players trying to break into the volume market.
            ldo17
          • Ido17: Stop the nonsense! ARM manufactureres are running scared, and for

            very good reasons.

            You are running scared too, since you have been, for the longest time, touting the advantages of the ARM platform over x86, and now, ARM is losing on all factors. The advantage that ARM used to have is virtually gone, and that advantage used to be in power consumption. The prices of ARM vs the newer Intel chips, will shortly be gone too. All total, when it comes to processing power, and energy consumption, and price, the Intel chips will be taking over, in all platforms.

            That garbage you continue putting out about complexity won't matter, since the complexity is due to a CPU which is a lot more capable than the "simple" ARM architecture. So, even in the capabilities and features, Intel will rule.

            ARM took too long to get into the 64 bit architecture, and it's going to be a complete loser there.

            For ARM, they had better come up with something to battle the Intel onslaught, or it's good-bye to them.

            Now, why don't you go bury your head in the sand, and keep being in denial. Since you don't matter anyway, nobody will notice.
            adornoe1
          • Re: You are running scared too

            You do realize Intel is aiming these chips at running Android, not Windows?
            ldo17
          • If they can run Windows, most people will prefer the Windows OS on the

            processor.

            You're not thinking, as usual.
            adornoe1
    • This doesn't make sense

      The only technical difference is that ARM chips are licensed... So there is an extra cost in production?

      Of course in the real world none of it matters - we're better off if no-one has a monopoly
      MarknWill
      • ARM chips are licensed - so are Intel's (effectively)

        Both companies need revenue to pay for development. Intel makes its own chips and charges a high price to cover these costs. ARM doesn't make chips so it charges a licence fee to cover its development costs. Whichever route you go, there are manufacturing costs and development costs so the final processor costs should be comparable, all else being equal (which, of course, it isn't).
        JohnOfStony
        • nope.

          That doesn't make sense - there's a third party in there making money too - they have to make a profit too - two companies have to make a profit out of it.

          I feel I was clear - I have no loyalty to a chip maker, an architecture... I'll use whatever comes in the best device for my needs, I was just pointing out the logical floor in the argument.

          as I say in reality it doesn't matter much, but you're just confirming that the theoretical production cost of the ARM ecosystem is higher than the theoretical cost of the Intel system if all things were equal ..
          MarknWill
      • Re: we're better off if no-one has a monopoly

        There is no monopoly in ARM chips, the way there is in x86--another reason why Intel has difficulty competing.
        ldo17
        • of course there is

          The chips are licenced from arm and without the likes of qualcomm and apple the chips are mostly straight off the ARM patent - even the S4 just has two standard ARM cpu's on the die - the underlying cores are the same, just built by different manufacturers... Even the majority of qualcomm chips are arm designed cores.

          If ARM became the only architecture designer out there, there would be less incentive for them to get products to market quicker - at the end of the day even the qualcomm and apple cores start with the arm design and go from there.

          in what way are we worse off with competition?
          MarknWill
          • Re: The chips are licenced from arm

            No, ARM only licenses designs for CPU cores. The chip makers are then free to add other bits--e.g. audio/video encoding/decoding, camera, wi-fi, cellular etc--to make a complete "system-on-a-chip" (SoC) which is purpose-built for a particular application area.

            Intel cannot compete with that.
            ldo17