In five years' time, Intel will be selling more system-on-a-chip products than mainstream microprocessors. So said CEO Paul Otellini yesterday. It's a bold claim and one that warrants closer consideration. Much depends on what Otellini consider an SoC. Most folk will think of them as small-scale chips for handhelds and embedded …
Intel smells the coffee?
A move to lower-power(-consumption) processors in the mass market is long overdue. I want an ARM-powered desktop, never mind laptop, netbook, and ARM's traditional market! But failing that, Atom is a fair second-best.
Evidently Intel is ahead of the manufacturers in anticipating the importance of lower-power in much of its market. If they're going to compete head-on with ARM, that sounds like good news for consumers!
Atom is just there for Windows
The only reason things like EeePC are running x86 is to run Windows. Get rid of Windows FUD and these devices will all be running ARM.
Atom is far too power hungry for nice small devices. ARM uses only a small fraction of the power and is cheaper too.
Nick writes: "I want an ARM-powered desktop, never mind laptop, netbook, and ARM's traditional market!".
Actually, desktop computers were ARM's original market. ARM was developed for Acorns next-generation desktop computer line (to replace their 6502-based 8-bit line which included the BBC Micro), and it worked very well for that -- having much higher performance than the alternatives at the time. Acorn even made Unix workstations using ARM. It is only after ARM was sold off as a separate company that the focus moved to be entirely embedded and mobile applications (Apple's Newton project played a large part in that move).
So the move "up" to servers and desktop machines is a move back to the original market for ARM.
The main CPU is a distraction
>Actually, desktop computers were ARM's original market.
Yes, ostensibly, but Acorn's marketing department had been previously fired by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. They (the marketing department) could only conceive of selling into education, and even higher education was an unattainable leap of the collective imagination (hence the fact the UN*X version only sold 200 copies.)
Someone who had been working on the UN*X version uttered a phrase I will never forget; "one in every washing machine."
I actually prefer the even more ironic, "two in every washing machine." The main CPU is an irrelevance - even if every netbook and smartphone in the world uses an Atom as the main CPU there will still be ARM processors, probably *many* ARM processors, in the machine.
The article suggests that Intel has realized this. Back before iAPX86 every microprocessor was an embedded controller - that's why microprocessors were developed (to replace manufacture-time programmed PLAs with software controlled logic). The 6502 was an embedded controller, the ARM was too. Intel has been driving headlong down a blind alley for 25+ very successful years, but it really *is* a blind alley. There is only so much money to be made controlling the main CPU, there is so much more money in all the other CPUs that the main CPU has to call on to do even something as simply as reading a piece of flash memory.