Intel puts the crosshairs on ARM

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

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)

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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.

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