ARM Aims for 20 Percent of Notebook Market by 2015

Ahead of Computex, ARM officials say the combination of low-power chip designs and Microsoft's Windows 8 OS will drive adoption of ARM-based PCs.

ARM executives used the run-up to the 2012 Comdex show to set the stage for the next few years, forecasting up to a 20 percent share of the notebook market within three years and promising 20-nanometer processors by next year.

In addition, apparently company officials, whose chip designs run in the bulk of smartphones and tablets worldwide, reportedly are more worried about the shaky global economy than they are about Intel€™s aggressive efforts to grab some of that mobile device market.

According to new reports, Simon Segars, general manager of ARM€™s Processor and Physical IP Division, told reporters in an interview June 4 in Taiwan a day before Comdex starts that he expects the boost in PC share to come from the high energy efficiency afforded by ARM€™s designs and from the introduction of Microsoft€™s Windows 8 operating system later this year, which will include the first version of the ubiquitous OS-dubbed Windows RT€”to run on ARM€™s architecture.

€œIt€™s an inflection point,€ Segars said, according to BloombergBusinessweek. €œIt€™s been Windows on x86 forever. This is the first time that Windows PCs have run on a different architecture.€

For the past couple of years, executives from Intel and ARM have been eyeing each other€™s territories as ways to expand the reaches of their respective processor technologies. Intel is anxious to grow beyond its core PC and server spaces, which are commoditizing, and into the booming smartphone and tablet spaces. Intel executives expect to start making inroads into those areas this year, with tablets powered by both the new Ivy Bridge-based Core processor and new low-power Atom X2460 Medfield system-on-a-chip (SoC), and smartphones running on Medfield.

Lava International this year has rolled out the Intel-based XOLO X900, which is selling in India, Orange is preparing to launch its San Diego smartphone, which like the XOLO is based on the Intel reference model. Lenovo also has released an Intel smartphone, the K800 in China.

Intel officials also are expecting to leverage the release of Windows 8 to make inroads into the tablet space, with some vendors, like Acer, showing off some designs at Comdex.

However, despite the moves by Intel, ARM€™s Segars said that it is the struggling global economy and not Intel that poses the largest challenge to ARM, which designs chips that are made by the likes of Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Nvidia and Samsung Electronics.

"I think this year what is more challenging for the industry as a whole is the world's economy, that it continues to go up and down and the stability of various countries around the world," Segars told Reuters. "That has a continuous impact on the spending, and a large pool of ARM's revenue comes from royalty, which are affected by what consumers spend to a large degree."

That hasn€™t changed ARM€™s strategy around PCs or servers, both the domains of Intel, Advanced Micro Devices and their respective x86-based technologies. Segars told Bloomberg that the low power consumption of ARM-designed chips will lead to PCs that are lighter than Intel-based PCs, use no fans and have battery lives that can last for days. That combined with Windows 8 will make ARM an attractive technology on which to build PCs, he said.

Segars€™ comments echo what ARM executives said during last year€™s Computex show. At that event, ARM President Tudor Brown said that by 2015, he expected that half of all mobile PCs€”including tablets and mini-PCs, will run ARM-based chips.

ARM also is expecting that processors made via a 20nm manufacturing process will show up in tablets and smartphones next year, despite reported shortages of 28nm chips this year due to capacity issues with chip foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC).

ARM also is starting to make some inroads into the low-power server space, where officials said their low-power chip designs could fit in well with such environments as cloud computing and Web 2.0. Hewlett-Packard and Calxeda are working on low-power server designs powered by Calxeda€™s ARM-based EnergyCore SoC, and Dell last week announced limited distribution of its Copper servers running on Marvell Technologies Armada XP CPU.

ARM officials don€™t expect to start chipping away at Intel€™s server dominance until 2015 or so, after systems powered by their upcoming ARM v8 64-bit architecture start hitting the market.