Saturday, October 29th 2011

ARM Going 64-Bit To Compete In High-End Desktop Market

Judging by their latest press release, ARM Ltd really is serious about competing with Intel and AMD in the high-end desktop and server computing market, where competition is fierce. For years, ARM had said that there was no need to extend their architecture to 64-bit yet. However, it appears that the time has now come for this to happen, as ARM has announced its new ARMv8 architecture, the first to include a 64-bit instruction set, at ARM TechCon 2011 in Santa Clara, California. ARM CTO Mike Muller said:
ARMv8 will enable the development of ARM architecture compatible devices that can be designed to maximize the benefits across both 32-bit and 64-bit application areas. This will bring the advantages of energy-efficient 64-bit computing to new applications such as high-end servers and computing, as well as offering backwards compatibility and migration for existing software through a consistent architecture.

Muller also explained that the ARMv8 architecture will have 32- and 64-bit modes, much like today's x86/x64 CPU's which should ease transition into the 64-bit world for existing applications. The 32-bit mode is called AArch32 and the 64-bit mode AArch64. Key features of the existing ARMv7 instruction set will also be kept, as would be expected. Some of these features are: TrustZone, virtualization and NEON advanced SIMD, which will be either maintained or extended, as appropriate.

Put this together with Microsoft's endorsement of the ARM architecture and the fact that Windows 8 will run natively on it, ARM has a significant shot at the big time on the desktop. Microsoft exec KD Hallman, said:
ARM is an important partner for Microsoft. The evolution of ARM to support a 64-bit architecture is a significant development for ARM and for the ARM ecosystem.
Other big industry players are interested in this too such as NVIDIA, who are currently selling their Tegra ARM-based line of products. NVIDIAs Dan Vivoli said:
The combination of Nvidia's leadership in energy-efficient, high-performance processing and the new ARMv8 architecture will enable game-shifting breakthroughs in devices across the full range of computing - from smartphones through to supercomputers.
Naturally, the two players who are most definitely not interested in this development are Intel and AMD, who have their businesses firmly rooted in the x86/x64 line of processors and competing against each other, so it remains to be seen what kind of competition they will bring to ARM desktop processors. Also, given the litigious nature of this high stakes industry and considering the recently settled spat between Intel and AMD, one wonders what lawsuits will be flying ARM's way from one or both of these companies.

Intel did actually buy the rights to make ARM processors several years ago and for a while sold products under their XScale brand, before eventually selling the business to Marvell. One wonders why Intel didn't start a transition to the efficient ARM architecture along with the processor-agnostic Microsoft years ago? This would have left the cumbersome x86 architecture, released way back in the 1970's, as the museum piece it should be. Apple proved this sort of transition was possible by their very successful switch from PowerPC to x86 in 2006. So, will the decision not to go down the ARM route now come back to byte Intel? ARMv8-based products are expected to be announced in 2012, with prototypes in 2014, so dominance of x86 will not be threatened for the next few years.

ARM Ltd is a British computer company that was spun off as the processor division of Acorn Computers in 1990. While Acorn (the company which made the BBC Micro, Archimedes and Risc PC computers) didn’t do so well (it had a habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory) got unceremoniously taken apart at the start of the century and eventually become subsumed into Broadcom, the elegant and efficient ARM RISC processor design they created in the mid 1980's has become by far the most dominant force in virtually every embedded application, especially mobile phones and other portable devices, due to its massive market share. It's therefore not so surprising that this architecture is starting to go head to head with the most widely used architecture on the planet, Intel's x86 (and x64 by extension) in the lucrative desktop processor market.

So, will ARM eventually dethrone formidable foe Intel as top dog? The next decade will tell.
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56 Comments on ARM Going 64-Bit To Compete In High-End Desktop Market

#1
Damn_Smooth
Not that AMD is offering much of a challenge, but I think they should worry about getting in to second place before first.
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#2
1c3d0g
The problem with Intel is they invented their own EPIC IA64, which, if they switched to ARM now, would be proof that their own architecture failed. It's gonna take them a few more billions for them to lose on Itanium before Intel's ready to admit this. Probably when 128-bit computing arrives, we'll see a change (if they cannot out-innovate ARM with their fab process technologies).
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#3
TheLaughingMan
AMD should have bought them when they had the chance. AAA for the WIN!
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#4
Neuromancer
High end desktop and server?

Budge HP/compaq units maybe. the same underpowered type desktops that they sell to the unknowing, with XP and office installed running only 128MB of RAM. lol
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#5
Super XP
This is a massive wake up call for AMD. On a side note, I can see ARM buying out AMD and its patents in the near foreseeable future. I will say this once and I will say it again, if IBM had half a brain many years ago, they would have already purchased AMD and AMD would have probably been top dog today.
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#6
MikeMurphy
Massive wake up call? They clued in a couple years ago. Intel further back.

x86 is in trouble
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#7
LAN_deRf_HA
If ARM nudges out AMD I hope someone at IBM realizes they should buy them up for the graphics component. IBM makes the cpus for consoles and absorbing AMD would let them provide the graphics directly. The next gen consoles were all going to use AMD anyways. This would have the added benefit of saving their desktop cards and preventing a nvidia monopoly. I could live with AMD dying on the cpu end but the cards perform just fine.
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#8
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
by: qubit
Put this together with Microsoft's endorsement of the ARM architecture and the fact that Windows 8 will run natively on it, ARM has a significant shot at the big time on the desktop.
Oh my! I wonder how it will hold up against x86-64 processors in performance, cost, and power consumption. The latter two are likely very well, but I'm not sure about performance.

They might be a greater threat to Via than AMD/Intel.
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#9
FreedomEclipse
~Technological Technocrat~
by: Super XP
This is a massive wake up call for AMD. On a side note, I can see ARM buying out AMD and its patents in the near foreseeable future. I will say this once and I will say it again, if IBM had half a brain many years ago, they would have already purchased AMD and AMD would have probably been top dog today.
A massive wakeup call it is but i doubt ARM has the money to buy out AMD and its Patents. Not for at least for 20-30years.

ARM are still a small company, but they will expand slowly and take the place of AMD (hopefully) buying patents are a different story though....

IMO AMD should spin off their graphics department so we can have ATi again
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#10
MikeMurphy
by: FordGT90Concept
Oh my! I wonder how it will hold up against x86-64 processors in performance, cost, and power consumption. The latter two are likely very well, but I'm not sure about performance.

They might be a greater threat to Via than AMD/Intel.
Not much performance is required to do the tasks that 99% of people do.
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#11
Goodman
This will take some years before it happens mostly because of licenses...

Anyhow it would be good & time to get a third party in to the game more competition the better for us all :rockout:
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#13
Thefumigator
Do people think ARM is a thread to Intel AMD or whatever, just because its architecture is widely used in almost every mobile device in existence?

IMO there will always be AMD, Intel, X86 and PC. If ARM wants to play in that field they should demo X264 encoding doing it faster than a Core i3 to say the least.

Imposible some may say. I wouldn't use Imposible as the proper word, "though" would be the right one and I don't think ARM could make AMD sweat, nor even talking about the trans-national megamonster that is Intel.
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#14
KieranD
ARM was founded as a joint venture to make a CPU for the Acorn Archimedes using RISC architecture. Interestingly they dont manufacture anything, they merely license the technology and right to manufacture. They have processors in loads of things mainly the embedded market.

"Today ARMs account for over 75% of all 32-bit embedded CPUs." Well there you go; the only thing they have no market share in is servers and desktops.

I never hear much of VIA anymore.
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#15
Wile E
Power User
Windows 8 supporting it does no good if application devs don't code and compile for it.

x86/x64 is here to stay for a long while yet.
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#16
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
I wonder if applications coded for x86-64 will run on the ARM version of Windows. IA-64 applications, for example, don't work on x86-64 nor x86. IA-64 runs x86 code in emulation and generally doesn't do a very good job at it.

Put bluntly, if ARM can't run the plethora of x86/x86-64 Windows software out there, it's dead before it starts. The ARM machines would be relegated to very specific tasks (e.g. OS on point of sale machines).


Edit: But wait, there's .NET. Microsoft is likely to adapt .NET for Windows 8 ARM processors which means all .NET applications compiled for "Any CPU" will run without modification on ARM.
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#17
Inceptor
Will ARM nudge out AMD?
Maybe, but they need to grab market share first, that'll take a few years to establish.
ARM will be in Windows 8 tablets, and if the rumor is true, also in Macs in 2 to 3 years.
After that, who knows? It depends on how the Personal Computing market evolves...
I can see ARM being a major player in Tablets and power efficient laptops, easily. They could nudge out AMD and Intel there, in the plain-vanilla mainstream computing market.

Edit:
In response to the comment below -- Intel is the greatest threat to AMD's cpu business, definitely, I think everyone agrees there. But, ARM moving into the 64 bit arena is a game changer. ARM licenses their chip designs... big difference, multiple manufacturers pumping out ARM chips, multiple cores per die, with graphics good enough for a tablet or non-PC-gamer laptop... or even in massively parallel supercomputers... that's a potentially massive realignment of the market. A realignment in favour of ARM. If they and their manufacturing partners do it right.
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#18
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
Via is more likely to nudge out AMD than ARM (both make x86 processors) and even the chance of that happening are extremely remote. Regardless of what happens with ARM, Intel is still the greatest threat to AMD.
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#19
Fx
by: D4S4
: popcorn :
aye. bring it on!
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#20
v12dock
ARM will stay in its place
AMD will stay in its place
VIA will stay in its place
Intel will stay in its place

What an exciting truth
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#21
Super XP
AMD won't just be sitting idle, there greatest defence and offence is ATI Graphics and there APU's as they so like to call them. It will only get better and better. AMD also has the contracts for all 3 Next Gen consoles (XBOX Next, PS4 & Wii U):D
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#22
RejZoR
by: MikeMurphy
Not much performance is required to do the tasks that 99% of people do.
Then again AMD Fusion C-60 and E-450 offer exactly that... I don't think AMD is going anywhere. Maybe the Bulldozer is not what many have expected but the low end parts are exactly what i have expected and more.
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#23
crazyeyesreaper
Chief Broken Rig
if i remember properly

ARM licenses some of there tech from AMD

AMD holds the x64 license,

ARM does good AMD does good as AMD receives money as well do to those licenses,

ARM entering the x64 market means AMD makes more money from ARM and of course gets money from Intel,

Another thing to consider is ARM entering the desktop and mobile sector means while they may not be as powerful as there competitor tablets and netbooks using ARM cpu could improve battery life even further without sacrificing features. forcing Intel and AMD to release even more competitive products,

right now AMD can get down to 9w -18w on a single - dual core low power APU in the 1-1.4ghz range

ARM has quadcore chips already that can fit in smartphone power requirments,

now they might not support all features other CPUs do, the key thing to remember here is games, movies, music, web browsing dont really need all those instructions set, meaning the typical end user in the near future could end up with an ARM quadcore that uses less then 10w but feels and functions the same as an Intel or AMD dual core- triple core in day to day tasks. as ARM is already capable of creating octo core RISC cpu.

so as it stands ARM can already products 8 core mobile chips that are low power, they can also already adress up to 1TB of memory if needed, alot of there tech is lic direct from AMD, so alot of AMD tech ARM has complete access to, should be fairly interesting to see what happens.
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#24
bostonbuddy
Just waiting for the day when a phone can run crysis
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#25
TheLaughingMan
What Crazy said. A lot of ARMs processor tech is already licensed from AMD to begin with. If I am not mistaken this is the second time they have announced them move into this market this year.

Let me be frank. This is a bad move for ARM and they will most likely not do this for more than a chip or two. While licensing the x86-64 from AMD would cost money, getting SSE4, AVX, AES, and other instruction sets for an x86-64 processor would cost too damn much. It would require negotiations with IBM, Intel, and AMD. And this is ARM we are talking about here. They will build some kind of low power CPU for a netbook which is a dying market by the way. That fade came and went. It is too late to jump on that bandwagon.

Not to mention it will be meet in the Market by Intel's new lower CPU with greatly improved graphics and AMD Trinity which will be a quad core at 9W to 18W. Add it all up and you get fail.

And who brought up VIA bumping AMD out of anything? When was the last time you heard of VIA doing anything of note? AMD has much more power than you think. While they were operating at a lose for a long time, they are in the green now and have products beyond CPUs. Products ARM is using to make these chips.
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