Look Out, Intel. ARM to Enter Netbook, MID Categories

AMD may be rumored to give Intel’s Atom architecture a run for its money in the netbook and mobile Internet device market, but they aren’t the only ones. Today ARM, provider of silicon for low-power consumption processors (which are found in smart phones and personal media players like the Archos 5), announced that it’s going full force into netbooks. The company is teaming up with Canonical to optimize the Ubuntu Desktop operating system for ARMv7 architecture, including ARM Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 processor-based systems. The company believes its play to power netbooks is a natural evolution of its position in the mobile device market since its architecture is highly efficient, optimized for Web browsing, and can handle high-quality video. The ARMv7 architecture is already tied into the Texas Instruments OMAP and Qualcom SnapDragon platforms. Read on for the full scoop. Kerry McGuire, director of strategic software alliances for ARM, gave us some more details on the company’s plans to roll into the netbook market. “Our platform can provide not only high performance but all-day battery life and advanced video functionality,” she said. In response to how it can compete with Intel’s Atom, McGuire said the ARM has the experience required in connected devices like smart phones, and the company will outshine its competitors’ ability to handle high-defintion video. “We can provide maximum power saving,” she stressed. McGuire also shared an interest from cell phone carriers in netbooks and that ARM has the experience working with carriers to bring its architecture mainstream. As for OEM partners, ARM didn’t share any plans, though the company is interested in netbooks of all sizes, including 8.9-inch and 10-inch systems. However, since the Ubuntu ARM distribution for desktops and netbooks will be officially available starting in April 2009, we don’t expect to see anything before then. When asked if the company was also interested in netbooks running a Microsoft OS, McGuire stated that ARM has a long history of working with Microsoft’s Windows CE and Windows Mobile. We are excited about the prospect of a netbook that can run all day on a charge–hopefully without a huge 6-cell battery hanging off the back or bottom–but only time will tell whether ARM’s entry will offer comparable performance to Atom.

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  1. Marvin_Martian Says:

    Can’t wait for the reviews of the first model. Hope they don’t go for the “ultra-cheap” market.

  2. Richard Says:

    This would be fantastic, although I believe if they really want to succeed they will need to focus on optimizing Linux as the OS, rather than splitting their efforts with the far more marginal Windows CE/Mobile platforms. There is a real opportunity out there for a new optimized hardware/software platform to compete with the likes of Apple. The combination of Canonical with a smart and talented hardware company would be absolutely killer.

  3. ricord Says:

    The autonomy will be the key of mobile internet.

  4. tk Says:

    ARM is loosing the battle against intel. unless their chip is x86 compatible it won’t run XP. and the majority of netbooks purchased are xp based. The mainstream isn’t ready or will ever be ready for linux.

  5. Oswald Says:

    For the developing world, these could be fantastic indeed – in the end, shouldn’t Windows be interested in new markets? Less predictable, small profit margin markets, sure, but also huge – have you seen that cellphone density map? I can think of a great many people in a great many places who need low power all-day models. Surely some of them have some money?

    I have no idea, really, but I’d bet Windows is looking into it.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    “ARM is loosing the battle against intel.”

    There is no battle.

    ARM have >98% of the mobile phone market and virtually 100% of the embedded market. Next logical move is the netbook market.

    Apart from WiFi, the single most important aspect of a netbook is battery-life – which is disappointing even with Intel’s Atom processor. By comparison, ARM processors consume less than 1W of power (including supporting chipset(s)) whilst Intel’s best offering consumes around 10W (including supporting chipset(s)).

    I don’t know about you, but if I can check my emails and browse the web for even 5x longer than current offerings, I’d be switching in a mouse-click.

    (Check out the Always Touch Book for a pre-order ARM netbook.)

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