ARM's broad list of chip licensees enables it to innovate faster and reach deeper into the mobile market than Intel, according to one ARM official.
Intel is the worlds dominant chip maker, but
its business model doesnt align well with the move in computing toward mobile,
and that will make it difficult for the company to make significant inroads
into smartphones, tablets and other devices, according to an official with ARM
ARM-designed chips can be found in more than
90 percent of all smartphones on the market, and they also are found in most
tablets, according to Jeff Chu, director of client computing at ARM. His
companys businesswhere it designs the chip, and vendors like Samsung
Electronics, Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments, among others, license the
designs, adds their own technologies, makes and sells the chipsallows for
faster innovation and enables ARM to have a much wider reach than Intel, Chu
in a recent interview.
As a company, [Intel is] clearly capable of
building products, Chu said. However, in the mobile space, you cant say one
size fits all.
Intel and ARM have been moving toward each
other for several years, with Intel pushing hard to drive down the power consumption
of its x86-based processors. The companys processors are found in most PCs and
servers, but those chips consume too much power for use in mobile devices,
where battery life is a key concern. Intel officials have been increasing the
energy efficiency in its low-power Atom platform, and its beginning to pay off
with the release this year of the Atom Z2460 Medfield chip, which is now making
its way into smartphones from the likes of Orange,
Lenovo and Lava International
Intel officials expect more smartphones
running their technology to hit the market this year, noting agreements with
the likes of Motorola Mobility, which will release multiple Intel-based mobile
devices. The giant chip maker also is predicting more than 100 tablet designs
powered by its Ivy Bridge processors.
For its part, ARM and some of its partners
are looking to move their energy-efficient
chips into PCs
and low-power servers, challenging Intel on its own turf.
But its the booming mobile space that Chu
has been talking about in a recent series of interviews and demonstrations hes
given this month, and one that ARM executives tend to keep a strong hold on.
The computing industry is becoming more mobile, the devices more powerful and
the user experience more engaging.
Computing is no longer a task, per se, Chu
said. Its what we do.
That can be seen in slowing PC sales over the
past few years, as consumers increasingly opt for smartphones and tablets, as
well as the growth of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend in businesses, Chu
said. And as sales move over to the mobile space, dominated by ARM-designed
chips, the OEMs will have to follow, he said.
The competition between Intel and ARM will
ramp up more later this year, when Microsoft releases Windows 8 and Windows RT,
the version of the operating system for ARM-based systems. Systems makers like
Hewlett-Packard and Dell are expected to release tablets running Windows RT and
powered by ARM chips. However, its unclear when such devices will hit the
markets. Microsoft last month unveiled its own tablet, the Surface, which is
powered by ARM chips.
HP and others now are expected to first
come out with Intel-based tablets
running Windows 8, rather than directly
compete with Microsofts device. Chu and officials from Asus this month have
been showing off an upcoming tabletcode-named Tablet 600which runs Windows RT
and is powered by Nvidias ARM-based Tegra chip technology, demonstrating what
the combination of ARM chips and Windows can do.
It also illustrates Chus contention about
how ARM, with its growing number of licensing partnersARM estimates it has
more than 275 such partnersis in better shape to address the rapid innovation
in the mobile space than Intel.
Its also a broad market, Chu said.
Smartphones, like Apples iPhone or the host of Android devices that are on the
market, get most of the attention, but the mobile space also includes low-end
handsets and other devices. Intel will get some traction in the market, but as
it focuses on smartphones, its missing out on whole other segments of devices.
Saying Im going to get some phones is
like saying Im going to go out and get some cars, Chu said.
Intel executives have said they expect to
in the smartphone space over the next couple of years, and are
touting the first of the Intel-based phones from Lenovo, Lava and Orange, with
promises of more to come.
However, Chu said the rapidly expanding
market plays more to ARMs business model than Intels. ARMs wide range of
partnerships gives it a larger and more robust ecosystem that is at its core
based on low power and high efficiency.
You see this huge level of new products
hitting the market, he said. You cant address all of the market with one
However, one analyst said Intel has a key
differentiator in the smartphone space. The initial Intel-based smartphones
from Lenovo, Orange and Lava gives it a foothold in a growing smartphone
market, but what will separate Intel from ARM is the ability to add greater
security features via its acquisition of security software company McAfee.
Intel will infuse greater value in its
smartphone offerings by embedding tighter security features from McAfee, which
Intel acquired in 3Q10, Beau Skonieczny, an analyst with Technology Business
Research, said in a research note July 17 after Intel released its
second-quarter financial numbers. ARM lacks comparable security assets to
match McAfees portfolio, providing Intel with a significant advantage which
will help drive up margins. As a result, Intel will attract more smartphone
vendors to its more profitable smartphone platform.