ARMed And Dangerous To Monopoly

For decades personal computing and much of the rest of IT has been locked into x86 architecture.“Because of the success in scaling from 20nm SoC to 16nm FinFET, ARM and TSMC have decided to collaborate again for 10FinFET. This early pathfinding work will provide valuable learning to enable physical design IP and methodologies in support of customers to tape-out 10nm FinFET designs as early as the fourth quarter of 2015.” That changed a bit when AMD pushed AMD64 on the world, but the bulk of processors were still sold by Intel. They even paid OEMs to shun AMD. That’s now water under the bridge with ARM developing processors/components of processors that do the job better for small cheap computers and even servers and HPC computers.

It gets even better. ARM and its “partners” are drawing a bead on 10nm which will make ARMed processors even less expensive to produce/operate. This will allow even more processors to be sold for tiny gadgets, mobile gadgets, personal computers and yes, servers and HPC. Of course Intel can do this too, reclaiming some performance leads but Intel will have to go head to head on price/performance, the antithesis of monopoly.

It’s all good for consumers and other users of IT/electronics/gadgets. Now, about the operating systems to run these things…

Ah, poor Wintel. Life was easy back in the day. Now M$ and Intel will have to work for a living.

See ARM and TSMC unveil roadmap for 64-bit ARM-based processors on 10nm FinFET process.

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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19 Responses to ARMed And Dangerous To Monopoly

  1. DrLoser says:

    He does say it slows down a bit with more than 4-5 applications running at once… Compared to nothing that’s clearly superior.

    “Compared to nothing?”

    That’s certainly the first criterion that springs to my mind when buying gifts, Robert.

    But then, I am a despicable worthless cheapskate.

  2. Deaf Spy says:

    Omg. I didn’t know 512 MB cost the same as 1 GB, and 7″ display is priced the same as 8″, and 4 GB flash is equally priced to 16 GB. Let’s not forget that when you buy two cams, one comes for free.

    Sarcasm, eh?

  3. ram says:

    The Intel Atom processor computers are not bad. DDR3 memory, 2 cores, 4 threads, AMD64 architecture instruction set, and available from several suppliers with Linux preinstalled for under USD 100 (under USD 80 in larger quantities). What is not to like?

    If that is not enough “grunt” for you, cluster them. A cluster of 10 still costs under $1000 and supplies 20 cores that can run 40 threads. If you need even more grunt, get them “preclustered” on an Intel Xeon Phi coprocessor board. That will provide up to 61 cores, 244 threads, and 1.2 teraFLOPS of performance. Many modern server motherboards can accomodate four of these. They also almost exclusively run Linux!

  4. Deaf Spy wrote, “Pogson, at no point in my comparison I mentioned the CPU.”

    Deaf Spy had written, “$99 bucks for an Atom based product”.

    I thought “Atom” being capitalized mean an Intel Atom CPU. My mistake, he must have meant it was a real device made of atoms of silicon, carbon, hydrogen etc.[SARCASM]

  5. Deaf Spy says:

    Pogson, at no point in my comparison I mentioned the CPU. The machine you put against my example is inferior in so many other ways that the CPU is irrelevant. Fact is: the CPU itself does not lead to higher price in the low-class. You sample is cheaper, simply because it is generally a piece of crap, that looks worse than a low-class smartphone.

    Ah, and 4 hours battery life is also not that great. Nothing to brag about.

  6. Deaf Spy wrote, “the product you advertise is clearly inferior”.

    That doesn’t matter to many people. They just want a PC. I build kernels. I need some guts. Other people read text and look at pictures. Any CPU will idle for them. The price/performance ratio is absolutely better with the cheaper machine. It’s like schools where I taught. You can’t do much with IT if you have none. As soon as you have a lot of seats, anything becomes possible. That’s what’s happening in emerging markets, the smartphone is the new PC. A tablet would be a luxury item there. A cheap luxury is very desirable.

    Here’s a guy who reviewed it. He got 4h use out of the battery. He used words like “good”, “decent”, and for $50, “a great piece of work”.
    see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFhox1LgTGE
    He does say it slows down a bit with more than 4-5 applications running at once… Compared to nothing that’s clearly superior. He was buying the thing as a gift and was satisfied with it. So, you can have two recipients of this gift happy or one for $100. Which would you choose?

    Shop around. You can even find a better price for a similar machine. Here’s one for $36.35 delivered to my door. The camera is poor but I already have a decent digital camera. It doesn’t have GPS though…

  7. Deaf Spy says:

    But Pogson, the product you advertise is clearly inferior:
    512 MB vs 1 GB RAM
    4 GB vs 32 GB storage
    7″ vs 8″ screen
    1.3 mp vs 2 x 2 mp camera

    And you Chromo has battery life of… 2-3 hours, as advertised. That is pathetic for a tablet.

    Really, you are not serious, aren’t you?

  8. Deaf Spy says:

    Intel still has to compete on price
    Price? Look at this, Pogson:
    http://www.wpcentral.com/micro-center-selling-8-inch-windows-81-winbook-tablet-9999

    $99 bucks for an Atom based product, that works out of the box. Including “M$ tax”. Including one-year subscription for Office 365. I call this dirt cheap.

  9. Deaf Spy wrote, “Atom tablets demonstrate same battery life as ARM-based Androids, Mr. Pogson. But have more power, and more applications as they are x86 compatible.”

    At these levels of Moore’s Law equity in power-consumption may be close but Intel still has to compete on price. ARM’s “partners” are selling billions of processors for a reason and much of the world doesn’t give a damn about x86-compatibility.

  10. ram says:

    Robert Pogson said “Perhaps the world needs some kind of malware-proof architecture but how can that be general-purpose at the same time?”

    You just hit the nail on the head! Many of these new power efficient, fast, and cheap devices are NOT general-purpose. The vast majority are Open Source and based on GNU/Linux software (certainly Linux is the primary development platform) but actually only run a single (perhaps semi-multifunctional) application. The application comes preinstalled on the device. You just turn it on and it works!

    The enabling technologies are cheap external USB storage, abundant external displays and keyboards, and surprisingly cheap device mini-displays and control interfaces. Expect to see many such devices on retailer’s walls (in blister packs) for retail prices under $100. Applications will include media playback, media creation, games (of course), and internet browsers/clients. Stability (because the code is relatively small compared to full-out operating systems and applications) is excellent, speed is great without the overhead of a full-bore multiuser operating system, and security is much improved (much smaller code sizes strike again!). “Boot” times are so fast as to be unperceptable by the user.

    It is a revolution in computing alright, and in a direction none of the big players expected!

  11. Deaf Spy says:

    Atom tablets demonstrate same battery life as ARM-based Androids, Mr. Pogson. But have more power, and more applications as they are x86 compatible. Then, you have Core M knocking at the door.

    You claim is based on no real facts, I am sad to say.

  12. kurkosdr wrote, “Truth is, nobody wants an ARMed miniPC. They have Android tablets and iPads for playing around, and Windows laptops and desktops for work.”

    Truth is nobody I know wants a Wintel PC. They cost too much, waste too much electricity, are fragile and are constantly needing “fixing” but that is futile because the source code is hidden. Only M$ can fix them and M$ doesn’t care. People are so tired of that. The last place I worked, there was no one on staff who objected to me changing the whole damned lot to GNU/Linux. One person eventually wanted XP back to play some DVDs with DRM and one person wanted That Other OS back, just because. We “upgraded” her to “7” on a new machine. She lost the use of her desktop printer in the process… Even the lady across the hall who wanted the change delayed until she had completed the paperwork for the year was absolutely amazed at the speed on identical hardware. That’s out of 24 professional staff.

  13. kurkosdr says:

    ” There’s just no reason not to use GNU/Linux and ARM.”

    Fact: Desktop Linux is not gaining significant market share in the ARM world, or at a worldwide scale.

    Look, I am with you buddy, let’s say ARM miniPCs are good. I own an ODROID U-3, running Android but soon Desktop Linux too, and I like it more than I thought I would (as a nerd toy of course).

    BUT… this is not the point! The point is that “ARMed” miniPCs are not threatening desktops and laptops, not the slightest bit. Maybe next year will be the year of ARMed miniPCs, right?

    Truth is, nobody wants an ARMed miniPC. They have Android tablets and iPads for playing around, and Windows laptops and desktops for work. Where does an ARMed miniPC fall into the picture? Replacing Windows laptops and desktops? Yeah, maybe next year, just wait, right?

  14. ram wrote, “It is not just ARM that is changing the face of computing.”

    I know about MIPS and other Chinese off-shoots. I think China is the best source for such alternatives because they can sneeze and create all the volume needed to make a viable business model. Clearly, one or two platforms was not enough to meet the needs of the world, but how many will be too many? The Linux kernel thrives on a dozen or so now. Isn’t that enough? Are there enough developers to double that? I think that would be stretching. Adding one or two more should be doable though. How will they get onto retail shelves if ARM, Intel, Via, MIPS are already having trouble holding share? There’s just so much a new architecture can do. With the ones we have there’s nothing that can’t be done and most of the improvements over x86 have already been done. Perhaps the world needs some kind of malware-proof architecture but how can that be general-purpose at the same time?

  15. kurkosdr wrote, “ARM can’t make inroads in laptops and desktops because it doesn’t have a decent OS. You only choices are Android (a touch-centric OS), Chrome OS (secondary computers/kitchen computers only) and the eternal 1% OS, aka Desktop Linux”

    Desktop GNU/Linux works just fine on ARM. My next PC if I live long enough to replace Beast will be an ARMed machine. There’s just no reason not to use GNU/Linux and ARM. I get all my usual applications, lower capital cost and lower cost of operation compared to the usual Wintel stuff. There’s no problem buying such gadgets. A few of the best are still priced for early-adopters which I’m not (money is an object).
    e.g.
    AMD has the Opteron A1100 board. That would be absolutely wonderful for my purposes but they want ~$3K for it and it comes running Fedora.

    Mouser and FreeScale supply development boards that are a big step back for $468…

    FreeScale has something close but it has only 1 SATA port and 1gB RAM.

    The Wandboard Quad is close and at $129 is affordable. It’s big deficit is only 2gB RAM. I need at least 2.5gB just to avoid swapping today. Maybe an SSD is the way to go.
    Too bad I don’t have an HDMI monitor. Mine are VGA/DVI…
    Sooner or later I will find what I want and some OEM will ship such a machine intact. The ChromeBooks are pretty close too. On many, you can install GNU/Linux.

  16. DrLoser says:

    You just don’t hear about them in the media. Could be it is because they actually have EARNINGS and don’t need to promote their stock.

    Yes, that would be it, ram.

    All media is a communist conspiracy, secretly designed in 1950s Stalinist Russia, to suppress the welcome news of small start-up companies (Hewlett Packard, Intel, Apple, Microsoft, I’m running out of options here) with earnings.

    Alternatively, might I offer the proposition that you are, in fact, a useless paranoid nutter?

  17. kurkosdr says:

    “Now, about the operating systems to run these things…

    Ah, poor Wintel.”

    Bahaha… Tablet sales are flatlining and ARM miniPCs are a real niche. Yeah, poor “Wintel” (which kind of person says “wintel” in 2014?). They only have a dominant positions in the two forms factors (desktop and laptop) that have been alive and well for decades, keep doing, and will keep doing so.

    And ARM can’t make inroads in laptops and desktops because it doesn’t have a decent OS. You only choices are Android (a touch-centric OS), Chrome OS (secondary computers/kitchen computers only) and the eternal 1% OS, aka Desktop Linux (which, last time I checked, isn’t experiencing any massive gains on ARM computers, or in any architecture, in a worldwide scale).

    I like how the tablet craze fooled both FOSSies and Microsoft.

    FOSSies trully believed Windows laptops and desktops would become obsolete (yeah, right).

    Microsoft ruined their flagship OS with fugly tiles just to chase a fad that has already ended.

    Fun times…

  18. ram says:

    It is not just ARM that is changing the face of computing. There are other processor companies now sampling some pretty amazing (and cheap) technology. You just don’t hear about them in the media. Could be it is because they actually have EARNINGS and don’t need to promote their stock.

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