Acer, Toshiba and Asus are among the PC vendors that may roll out notebooks powered by ARM processors by the end of the year, according to reports.
Quoting “industry sources,” DigiTimes is reporting that those OEMs, as well as Samsung Electronics, are working on notebooks that would be powered by chips using ARM designs and running Google’s Android operating system.
The devices would come as ARM officials talk up plans to become a larger player in the mobile PC arena, particularly among notebooks and mini-PCs. It’s part of a larger aggressive push by ARM officials to move their chip designs beyond smartphones and tablets. ARM-designed chips-manufactured by the likes of Samsung, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Marvell Technologies and Nvidia-currently dominate the rapidly growing smartphone and tablet markets, which x86-based chip-makers Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are trying to enter.
At the same time, ARM is looking to grow into markets dominated by Intel and AMD, in particular mobile PCs and servers.
ARM President Tudor Brown, during a press conference at the Computex 2011 show May 30, said that by the end of the year, he expects his company to command about 15 percent of the mobile PC space, aided by the growth in tablets. By 2015, Brown said, ARM’s market share will be more than 50 percent.
ARM’s efforts to move into mobile PCs and servers include growing the number of processing cores in its chip designs-the Cortex-A9 currently offers up to four cores-while also adding key features. For example, ARM’s upcoming Cortex-A15 designs will include greater memory capacity and support for virtualization.
Those efforts also will be buoyed when the next version of Microsoft’s Windows OS-commonly referred to as Windows 8-is released. Microsoft executives announced earlier this year that Windows 8 will support SoC (system-on-a-chip) architectures like the ones designed by ARM. As ARM executives look to move up the ladder into mobile PCs and data centers, software compatibility becomes a greater issue. Windows is a dominant operating system in PCs and servers, and most software is designed to run on the x86 architecture.
Having a version of Windows that would run on ARM’s designs could be a boon to the vendor. The sources in the DigiTimes story noted that ARM-based notebooks running Android came on the market a few years ago as “smartbooks.” However, they didn’t sell well because users were disappointed that the software compatibility and performance were not the same as traditional notebooks.
While the Android-running ARM-based notebooks from Acer and the rest could hit the market by the end of this year, systems running Windows 8 won’t be seen until 2012. The sources in the DigiTimes report said that several OEMs could launch ARM-based notebooks that come in at prices lower than $299 as they compete for market share.
Asus is said to be planning a 13-inch laptop with an ARM processor-most likely from Nvidia-and Android, though the company has not announced any plans or shown off a prototype.