More Dire Predictions

Not mine this time. The Harvard Business Review has a piece showing the fragility of Wintel, not in numbers, but in mindshare:
“At CES, for the first time, almost all of Microsoft’s OEM partners abandoned Microsoft exclusivity. And Microsoft’s next-generation operating system has abandoned Intel exclusively for the first time. There’s no reason to believe that either of the two companies are going to be able to turn this around.” They got that a bit wrong. M$ has dabbled in ARM and some other processors before they figured out how to play monopoly.

TFA make the important points that the way we do IT is changing so that a powerful PC on the desk or in hand makes less sense and that Wintel is powerless to respond quickly for fear of endangering the cash cows. Wintel will do what they see as their best interests and that is not responding quickly to each ripple on the pond.

If M$ supported ARM widely, ISVs would be pressed to migrate applications to ARM. That is dangerous to M$ because ISVs who make portable software could easily port to GNU/Linux or Android/Linux. If Intel supported ARM, they would almost certainly undermine their monopoly on hairdriers for desktops and notebooks. The problem for both M$ and Wintel is that others are not so constrained. Any little operation in China could whip up a device competing in personal computing space with any CPU and any hardware. That is happening. We do see a lot of gadgets shipping with older ARM CPUs with Lose CE but the sexy devices are shipping with Android, not that other OS.

Intel can stay relevant in the new space longer by migrating to 22nm first but the fabs are going to push out 28nm ARM this year so the window of opportunity is closing. ARM has caught up to Atom and will trample Atom. The advantages of money and in-house fabs cannot overcome the inherent inefficiency of x86 with too many unused bits riding the clock. The Atom is a decent processor. I have used a few but ARM is great in the mobile space and costs less everywhere. Intel can respond by cutting prices for Atom or paying OEMs to use Atom but they cannot beat the price/performance issues with power consumption. It is not even clear Intel can pay people off because of the antitrust situation.
“The settlement prohibits Intel from using threats, bundled prices, or other offers to exclude or hamper the competition in the sale of CPUs (central processing units), GPUs (graphic processing units), or chipsets. The settlement also prevents Intel from deceiving computer makers about the performance of non-Intel CPUs or GPUs.”

M$ is not so hampered but they do not have the money to block the sale of hundreds of millions of ARMed devices annually. ARM could catch up to units of x86 in personal computers this year. The writing is on the wall. They long ago defeated x86 in the embedded space.

For 15 years Wintel has had its way with personal computing. Now there is a real opportunity for competition at all levels. Apart from buying out ARM which likely would be blocked legally Wintel cannot stop this competition. ARM + Linux will win a big share of this market and when the next version of that other OS emerges on ARM or not Wintel will have a much lower share of personal computers. What that share will be remains to be seen but the emerging markets will likely accept ARM widely and they will dwarf current markets in volume if not in price. Wintel could retreat to North America and Europe or shrink to 1/4 or 1/3. Long before that happens Wintel will start to compete on performance and price and monopoly will be gone.

There’s news that IBM + ARM will work together to bring ARM down to the 14 to 20 nm range.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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