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.
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.