x86 in my pocket?
Intel has announced three new partners that will soon offer smartphones based on Chipzilla's handset reference platform, and has provided more detail about its mobile-chip roadmap. Execs from Europe's Orange, India's Lava, and China's ZTE took the stage with Intel CEO Paul Otellini at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to …
... they would force open boot loaders so people can install whatever operating system they wanted. That way you could sell it to consumers with Android or whatever, while businesses could trim down their favorite operating system to mobile phone size and adapt existing applications. (far easier as they only need to change the GUI, this can even be done, to some extend, for VBA) Many companies who are not able to compile their operating system can still install it normally and modify it in a way so it'll automatically start the programs you need at startup.
However nobody cares if their Android runs on x86 or ARM. The value of the x86 platform lies within its PC legacy. If you build phones which are PC compatible you have some advantage over the competition.
Quite so. Lose Windows, lose the need for x86.
On the other hand, a massive part of the value of the ARM ecosystem lies within the diverse ARM SoC licencees' skillsets and product lines.
Where are Intel going to get those from? In smartphones, shouldn't the details of Intel's SoC partners be out by now if they expect to be taken seriously in the smartphone market? How are Intel going to be relevant to smartphones without these people?
Actually I disagree, part of the problem people have with ARM is that every SoC is completely different. That's why a Linux distribution needs to be ported to each one of those devices. That's a massive effort. It's like in the home computer age, where every home computer was essentially completely different.
There were some efforts to standardize this. For example Microsoft tried out its MSX, which essentially forced hardware developers to deploy standard hardware. CP/M only had to be ported to the amount of RAM inside your machine and the diskette format, the rest was done via a "BIOS" which was an abstraction layer for your hardware.
I don't see much use in the diversity of the SoCs. What's the use of having a hundred different DSPs for sound, if all you want is to output PCM samples? It doesn't matter what novel features your hardware has, the software will always have to use the largest common subset. If this is different for every piece of kit, you're only wasting valuable development time.
On x86 I can install any Linux on any x86 hardware without modification and the basic functionality just works. On ARM I currently cannot do that, and that's a problem.
"every SoC is completely different."
There's lots of choice. But they're not all completely different, and even when there are differences, different implementations can in principle be hidden behind compatible interfaces. Just as happens on PCs.
"On x86 I can install any Linux on any x86 hardware without modification"
You can't, you know. You can install a decent Linux on most **PC-compatible** hardware without modification. It's not inherently the x86 instruction set or pin-bus or chipsets that makes that happen, it's the decades of development of PC architectures and implementations. And the massive commercial muscle of the Wintel people.
x86 == PC. They're that closely entwined. How many people use x86 outside the PC these days?
On the other hand: yes there are lots of different implementations of ARM facilities, and it would be insane to expect them ALL to be compatible. Apart from anything else there's the small matter of endianness, which ARM leaves to the system builder, and x86 dictates by design.
But going a bit beyond that: supposing two ARM partners offer two different DSP implementations (your example, others are available) at different price points and with different features and benefits. [Or even one partner offering two or more different DSPs].
There's nothing whatsoever to stop these two different implentations having compatible interfaces (compatible API for the software, compatible pins+behaviour for the hardware?). That's what makes PCs as flexible as they are - not strictly just x86, but compatible interfaces and architectures too.
[continued, sort of]
So far there hasn't been a mass ARM market where the definition of user-visible compatible interfaces and architectures made sense, though you could sort of see the ARM/Linux consortia would have wanted it, and it was going on behind the scenes to an extent.
I had wondered if the architectures and standards required for Windows on ARM compatibility would improve that situation, but the more I look at Windows on ARM, the more I see an approaching train crash (unless there's a lot of misreporting going on). Which is a shame, given that the underlying compatibility it could have brought could have been beneficial to the market in general, if MS hadn't tried to turn compatibility into monopoly lock-in.
Even Otellini admits Intel can't do SoC all themselves and they need SoC partners (bottom of the article). To do that in a compatible way, they too will need compatible interfaces and architectures. It'll be interesting to see how well working with SoC partners rather than mostly in-house works for them. If you were an SoC partner, it's obvious whether ARM or Intel have bigger cash piles and marketing support, but it's also obvious which one isn't going to launch a directly competing product, Microsoft style, if your particular SoC application sector starts selling like hotcakes.
"How many people use x86 outside of the PC these days"
That depends on how you define PC.
There are thousands of embedded boards available that have a standard PC architecture but end up running one of several RTOS implementations and are used in the wider control systems market. The nearest that these come to being a PC in my mind is that they may run one of the versions of WinCE but are more likely using something like VxWorks.
if i can run steam and games like blur or skyrim on my phone, i'm not really going to care about much else.
Fascinating that they team up with ZTE.
Presumably, going to the low end supplier is a trade off whereby ZTE stay on their current low margins but get to increase turnover, and Intel get to keep their traditionally high margins whilst gaining some market share, finally.
just worry about the phone!