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ARM, Intel Battle Heats Up 260

Posted by timothy
from the all-about-comparative-advantage dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Low-power processor maker ARM Holdings is stepping up rhetoric against chip rival Intel, saying it expects to take more of Intel's market share than Intel can take from them. With Intel being the No. 1 supplier of notebook PC processors, and ARM technology almost ubiquitously powering smartphones, the two companies are facing off as they both push into the other's market space. 'It's going to be quite hard for Intel to be much more than just one of several players,' ARMs CEO said of Intel."
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ARM, Intel Battle Heats Up

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  • by CajunArson (465943) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @09:37AM (#40056901) Journal

    I've been hearing about how ARM is going to destroy Intel for the last 5 years at least and I haven't seen the products yet despite the promises thrown about with the Cortex A9. It looks like the cortex A15 willl be able to beat Medfield... but you aren't getting those A15s in large quantities until next year when Intel will have the next iteration of Atom ready anyway. Oh and 64 bit? That's gone from an insanely important feature when Intel didn't have it to being useless bloat when Intel does have it and ARM doesn't, but it's OK because in 2015 you might be able to get an ARM chip with 64 bit support....

    Since 2008 when the much derided Atom debuted, Intel has gone from not having anything that could remotely run a smartphone or tablet to having Medfield, which is competitive although not industry leading in the smartphone and table space. I have yet to see ARM come out with anything that even threatens a run of the mill Core 2 yet... so why is ARM talking so much trash?

    It might be that ARM is a little more nervous that there is finally some real competition in the mobile space, which is a boon to consumers. I'd like to see AMD get an x86 solution down into this power envelope too so that there would be multiple competitors on the x86 side as well.

    • by lennier1 (264730) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @09:59AM (#40057001)

      The only Intel consumer product ARM licensees are currently able to threaten is the Atom product line. Apart from that, both kinds of CPUs are simply serving two completely different purposes.

      • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @10:52AM (#40057267)

        The only Intel consumer product ARM licensees are currently able to threaten is the Atom product line. Apart from that, both kinds of CPUs are simply serving two completely different purposes.

        Yeah, but...

        The only reason my ultraportable laptop has an Intel Celeron U3600 in it (1.2GHz dual core arrandale, 18W TDP) instead of an ARM is because I couldn't find a laptop in the same class with an ARM chip. They're serving completely different markets, but ARM is easily powerful enough for most users (just look at the R-Pi running 1080p H.264 video over HDMI), and there's absolutely no reason my laptop needs an x86 processor. I just couldn't, at the time, find a 13" ultraportable with an ARM chip in it. (closest I could find was an ASUS Transformer, but I want to run a full desktop OS on it, not Android, and it was actually more expensive than I paid for my laptop).

        BTW, if somebody can find one now, I'd love to hear about it... I'm not in the market right now, but I like to know about that kind of thing for when I'm shopping next time... and also so I can make suggestions for family. :)

        • by lennier1 (264730)

          Give it another year. With Windows 8 for ARM systems it's inevitable that we'll see more powerful devices spill into the low-power segment between tablet transformers and netbooks/subnotebooks.

          • Yeah... they're starting to creep into the market already. Closest I can find that meets what I'm looking for is this: http://www.genesi-usa.com/products/smartbook [genesi-usa.com]

            But the screen is too small, which means that the keyboard is too small. I can't type on a netbook with any efficiency, because of the way they scrunch the keys together. If that was available with a 13" screen instead of a 10" screen, and all other specs identical, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

          • Windows 8 ARM doesn't run Windows x86 executables so why would that make any difference?

        • by SurfsUp (11523)

          The only reason my ultraportable laptop has an Intel Celeron U3600 in it (1.2GHz dual core arrandale, 18W TDP) instead of an ARM is because I couldn't find a laptop in the same class with an ARM chip.

          Reality is: Linux is your only hope for that, wearing its Android suit just for the time being.

        • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash.p10link@net> on Sunday May 20, 2012 @06:43PM (#40059761) Homepage

          just look at the R-Pi running 1080p H.264 video over HDMI

          Afiact the only reason the Pi can play 1080p H.264 acceptablly it is because it's decoded by the videocore GPU. The arm is nowhere near powerful enough.

          Which is all well and good if all you want to play is H.264 but if you want to play anything else you are at the mercy of the device vendor (the Pi foundation have talked about selling an additional codec pack for the videocore but it's unclear whether it will actually happen) and if you want to do something other than 3D graphics or playing video then the videocore can't help you at all.

          Also while "ram is cheap" for intel/amd systems that doesn't seem to be the case for arm systems. Nearly every arm system i've looked into had it's ram soldered to the board and few have more than half a gigabyte.

      • What you are saying is true today, but what about tomorrow?

        I am still reading the articles, but IIRC ARM was going to launch a line of low end server CPU in about 2 years - which would aim squarely at Intel. As ARM grows, both Intel and ARM will start invading each others territories.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ARM *did* bloody well destroy Intel in the smartphone and tablet spaces. This is not some old ancient niche that ARM has wrapped up -- these products and markets only appeared within the past 5 years or so.

      So yes, if you heard people saying that ARM would destroy Intel 5 years ago, they would be right, because Intel has tried and failed to field parts in these markets.

      ARM, on the other hand, has not yet tried to compete in PC or server markets. If anybody tried to tell you that ARM was going to destroy Inte

      • ARM, on the other hand, has not yet tried to compete in PC or server markets.

        Yes they did [chriswhy.co.uk] although the venture failed in the end (not necessarily because of the chips). The amusing part is that one of the more widely known models used an ARM chip made by... Intel. I don't disagree with the rest of what you say, but it seemed like an appropriate time to bring up an often overlooked piece of kit.

        We had a couple of those quite some time ago, and I don't mind saying that loading the OS from ROM made for some pretty speedy boots. One wonders how differently ARM would be seen today if Wi

      • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @11:04AM (#40057339)

        ARM, on the other hand, has not yet tried to compete in PC or server markets

        Actually, they have. And they succeeded for many years. They used to be known as Acorn, and provided processors for *many* systems in the 1980's and early 1990's. The very first generation known as ARM was powering the BBC Micro in 1987, and there's several other computers made around that time that used Acorn hardware.

        It is a different market, today, than it was in the 80's, though... most mainstream Linux distros have an ARM version available, and even Microsoft is going to be officially supporting ARM. It was Microsoft's anti-competitive moves in the early 90's that killed ARM in the desktop, and now that MS has 90% desktop market share, if they're supporting ARM, it's a good time for them to make a move.

      • by itsdapead (734413) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @11:53AM (#40057645)

        This is not some old ancient niche that ARM has wrapped up -- these products and markets only appeared within the past 5 years or so.

        5 years or so? Not if you count the Apple Newton [wikipedia.org] (1993), the Psion Series 5 [wikipedia.org] (1997) the HP iPaq [wikipedia.org] (2000) and (I think) the Sharp Zaurus (late 90s-mid 00s) - although I think the last 2 actually used Intel's StrongArm or XScale ARM chips. There are also things that never made it [chriswhy.co.uk] but helped set the stage for ARM's share of the mobile and embedded markets.

        So yes, smartphones and tablets have boomed in the last 5 years, after Apple came up with a winning formula and everybody else jumped on the bandwagon, but the ideas have been bubbling under for years, and ARM got its feet under the table 20 years ago.

      • by expatriot (903070) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @01:39PM (#40058257)

        http://www.calxeda.com/ [calxeda.com]

        HP will be using them in products.

        The video I saw talked about replacing 20 racks with one half rack. Not for all supercomputing tasks of course, but for web serving or Hadroop it works.

        IIRC they were using four core SoCs with built in fabric. Obviously the same approach will work with A15 (and 64-bit when that come goes into production)

        Windows on ARM is not about servers, but the same solution for laptops will work in low-energy servers.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @10:16AM (#40057089)

      22nm lithography. Intel is, as usual, a node ahead of basically everyone else. Other fabs just got their 28nm half node online not long ago, late last year. So we are seeing products based on that start appearing on the market. The current nVidia and AMD GPUs would be some notable ones, but there are (or at least will be) ARM chips too.

      Intel though, they didn't do the 28nm half node (they haven't done half nodes so far), they went straight to the 22nm node and it is online and running full swing. Ivy Bridge chips using it have shipped in large quantities.

      What that means is Intel can pack more transistors in to a given die size, and have them use less power per transistor. For mobile, that is a big advantage. That means even in the event their shit does less per transistor, they can make it up with more transistors. Also means things like 64-bit are less problematic to implement (64-bit requires more transistors).

      Now I've no idea if Intel what arenas Intel will choose to compete in, but if I were ARM I wouldn't be looking forward to direct competition. I'd hope it remains largely how it is: Intel focusing on the high end (from netbooks all the way up) ARM focusing on the low end (from tablets all the way down). No competition, no problem. I wouldn't be enthused about the prospect of having to compete with someone in the low power market who has a better process.

      Intel is likely to keep the advantage too. Everyone else is hard at work setting up their 22nm fabs, but they are probably at least a year away, maybe more. Intel? They've been hard at work building Fab 42 inc Chandler which is to be their first 14nm facility. They say they'll have it online in 2013 (it'll be some time after it goes online until chips are shipping to consumers though), and they are pretty good about hitting their marks on that.

      It is one of the things that has given them an edge is their massive R&D in to fabs that keeps them a node ahead of everyone. ARM can't do that, they are just a design company, not a fab, and none of the other companies that do fab work seem to be willing to plow in the R&D money that Intel is.

      • this is only part of the equation. ARM have a simpler, more efficient architecture, a licensing model, an ecosystem (radios, OSes...) that Intel lacks.

        • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @11:54AM (#40057657)

          "ARM have a simpler, more efficient architecture"

          ARM fans say that like an article of faith, but I never see any proof of it. Show me the proof that an ARM chip can do more than an Intel chip, controlling for all variables. Take something like, say, solving systems of linear equations, one of the grand daddy of computation tests (linpack is a popular tool for it). Show me an arm chip doing better on linpack in terms of Mflops/FPU area or something, then I'll say ok it is more efficient.

          However it seems to me all ARM fans have to go on is that ARM makes tiny chips. Ok, they do... so what? Intel's chips are bigger but they do a hell of a lot more. Not only do they do faster calculations, but they have more features (like a 64-bit architecture). So calling them "inefficient" is silly without some kind of metric.

          So like I said, how about FPU area? ARM chips aren't 64-bit, but their FPU should be, and I've seen ARM chips with vector units. So take the area of the FPU on chip, and see what it can crank away on linpack. Then take the area of an Ivy Bridge and do the same. Adjust for clock differences and see what you have.

      • Medfield is on 32nm.
    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @11:27AM (#40057489)
      The battle is for the next generation of mobile. ARM is not going to take Intel's desktop share anytime soon. The Core i Series is sufficiently powerful where Intel doesn't have to worry. Intel isn't coming anywhere near ARM's low power offerings. The battle ground will be in the middle where there is a tradeoff between power efficiency and computational power for portable devices. Tablets and to some extent laptops will be where the two see who will win. For laptops, Intel is pushing their ultrabook specification trying to keep the laptop market. ARM is pressing into tablets with their advantage.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 20, 2012 @12:25PM (#40057847)

      I have Cortex-A15s in the lab right now, finished simulation and verification, and samples are being boxed up this week, and we're shipping them this year. And for quantity we can do as many as TSMC can make for us. Then it boils down to if any devices makers are willing to pay the premium we have to charge for the bigger faster chip. You will see about half of Jellybean devices running a Cortex-A15, and nearly all Windows 8 devices when it first ships.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      ARM has already won against Intel in the low power embedded side. Intel is oriented highly towards desktop computers and space heaters. They try to make inroads elsewhere but have had trouble for decades. The problem is that once you move away from the requirement to be Windows compatible, Intel loses all their lock in. The highest end ARM do not need to compete directly against the highest end Intel chips, because they are for completely different markets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by A12m0v (1315511)

      No one can stop the x86 train, not even Intel. Medfield is only the start and while it might slaughter ARM it will make life very difficult for ARM SoC designers, let's just remind ourselves how many architectures by many vendors that were supposed to kill x86 just couldn't, not even Intel's. Not with iAPX480, i860 or i960 or Itanium.

  • No (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 20, 2012 @09:40AM (#40056911)

    Low-power processor maker ARM Holdings

    ARM Holdings do not "make" processors, low powered or otherwise. They design, they develop, and they certainly license. But they don't make.

    Interestingly from a Slashdot point of view they're probably the most high profile example of an "IP" company with a positive image.

    • Low-power processor maker ARM Holdings

      ARM Holdings do not "make" processors, low powered or otherwise.

      Indeed not. In fact, Intel [wikipedia.org] themselves have made their fair share of ARM chips.

    • Interestingly from a Slashdot point of view they're probably the most high profile example of an "IP" company with a positive image.

      The ones that actualy do research, and develop usefull products are normaly seen with a positive image. The ones too small to have everybody know what they do, and the ones that generate "IP" without developing anything usefull normaly have a negative image.

      It isn't fair to those too small ones, but tat is how things are.

  • Random idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @09:46AM (#40056919)

    Intel gets my respect for being one of the few companies to invest heavily into research. Seriously, they do a lot of "fundamental research" work, and so far, it's worked well for them. They develop products all the time that never get released because they're too "experimental" - Larrabee is the example that comes to mind first - and justify the expense because the information learned is worth the $100M they spent on an unreleasable product.

    Intel, you can hedge your bets. Take one of your teams - rumor has it the Itanium team won't be working on that much longer - and tell them to make a desktop-quality ARM processor. You've already got the ARM license, do something with it. Figure out how to bump up the clockspeed (if *Apple* can do it, so can you), throw cache at it, bring the core count up to eight or so. Target your own Core i3 chips both in speed and in cost.

    You do that, Intel, and you basically can't lose (barring sudden inexplicable incompetence). If the ARM desktop project completely fails, well, you just proved that x86 chips are unbeatable on the desktop market (which will never completely disappear). If the project succeeds, you'll win no matter which architecture comes out on top, and you'll have the advantage of having an experienced ARM team to help you take the best features of ARM and put them in your mobile x86 chips.

    • Re:Random idea (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Junta (36770) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @10:22AM (#40057115)

      Intel is not threatened by technical advantages of ARM per se, it is more about the business logistics inherent in the ARM ecosystem. If x86 is a requirement, your choices are Intel, AMD, and a distant third VIA. If ARM is acceptable, suddenly Qualcomm, Samsung, Broadcom, TI, nVidia, Freescale, and literally dozens more become options, mixing and matching with a few fabrication companies. By and large, business concerns over not being held over a barrel by your supplier has made the concept of avoiding the x86 space very appealing.

      Intel should probably consider a smartphone-targeted ARM processor, to break into that specific market that now has gobs of pre-compiled applications for ARM. However, I think the strategy for tablets and larger would be more aggressive licensing of x86 to more providers. x86 still carries a lot of weight in backward compatibility, and the non-iPad tablet market isn't exactly particularly cemented quite yet.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @10:35AM (#40057179)

      x86 is a big advantage for Intel. Not a lot of people have a license to use it, and the ones that do either don't do a very good job (AMD) or haven't done anything yet (nVidia). It also gives them binary compatibility with so much out there. It is big to be able to run a bunch of programs with no recompiling (and even with recompiling an architecture switch can be a pain).

      Were Intel to do an ARM chip like that, it would be an internal hedge, you wouldn't see it unless there was a reason. There would be no reason to sell thing thing and give the ARM market credibility against the x86 market. They'd only introduce it were it clear ARM was the way they needed to go.

      There's heavy inertia on x86 as well and it may never change. Really modern compilers and microarchitectures have rendered a lot of the old school RISC vs CISC and arguments like that moot. Turns out you can use pretty much whatever ISA you like and make the chip work well, and CISC isn't a big deal for modern compilers.

      If you see Intel do ARM chips, I think it will just be for mobile phones and tablets. If their attempt to muscle in to that market with x86 chips is unsuccessful, they may elect to play the ARM game, which they'd have an advantage on most other fab since they are generally a node ahead in process technology.

      I can only see a desktop ARM chip getting released if ARM starts to become the One True Way(tm) and I don't think that is all that likley.

      • by gman003 (1693318)

        They may not release it (they have a ton of unreleased products), and they may not even announce it (to avoid giving ARM any publicity), but honestly, I wouldn't actually be that surprised if they were already doing something like this, and just keeping it secret.

        Then again, Windows 8 brings up some interesting opportunities. It seems like, if Windows 8 on ARM takes off, there will be demand for desktop-grade ARM chips. Definitely not a guarantee (personally, my money's on W8A dying horribly), but a possibi

        • I don't think there is. Why would there be? So I can offer you a chip that performs the same (so far I've seen no evidence that an ARM chip will perform better, and their lack of chips that compete indicates that is right), cost the same since wafers size costs money, but doesn't run your shit. Why would I want that again?

          Like I said, the x86 entrenchment is heavy. If you get an x64 chip, you can run all your software on it. Hell they go so far as to still boot in 16-bit real mode so you can, no shit, run D

          • by gman003 (1693318)

            Software compatibility cuts both ways.

            I suspect that much of the reason people are "flocking" to smartphones and tablets isn't just because of the hardware, but because of the software. Desktop environments essentially "peaked" somewhere between 98 and XP. Everything since has either been copying those, copying those but with more shiny, or coming up with really retarded "innovations".

            Mobile devices, like it or not, are doing things differently. And people seem to be liking it. I suspect that, instead of Wi

            • Oh there will be plenty of smartphone market. Already is and it is still moving up. However that doesn't mean it competes well with the desktop market. Smartphones are toys, basically. You use them to check e-mail, maybe do a little web surfing, and play simple games. Oh and GPS. Fair enough, love mine for all that. However that isn't what I use a desktop for.

              I would never dream of trying to type this post out on a smartphone. If I want to create content, a desktop is what I'm after. This is to never mind m

              • The way it'll happen is that tablets and laptops will converge with creative use of docking stations. We're already seeing this with Asus and Lenovo hybrids, and now Sinofsky went on record [msdn.com] to say that this is basically what Win8 is aiming at:

                Two devices, not three

                Imagine a tablet. Light and thin. Amazing battery life. Gorgeous screen. You can lounge on the couch enjoying a beautiful, fluid experience, doing the things you love to do on a tablet: playing games, socializing, browsing the web, reading, touching up photos, watching TV. You are just immersed in your experience, doing the things you love to do. You hand it to your daughter and she knows exactly how to use it.

                But then, if you want to have a bit more control and efficiency, you can set this same tablet in a stand and attach a keyboard, or just flip a keyboard around, and suddenly you have a complete Windows desktop experience, with full Microsoft Office, multiple monitors, peripherals, and a mouse.

                Or, imagine a featherweight laptop with a beautiful large screen and a great keyboard. But in addition to doing everything you use your laptop for today, you can also use your favorite new apps built for today’s tablets.

                Windows 8 imagines the convergence of two kinds of devices: a laptop and a tablet. Instead of carrying around three devices (a phone, a tablet, and a laptop) you carry around just a phone and a Windows PC. A PC that is the best tablet or laptop you have ever used, but with the capabilities of the familiar Windows desktop if you need it. You may choose to carry a tablet, or you may choose a laptop/convertible, but you do not need to carry around both along with your phone. You never think about a choice, or fret over your choice of what to carry. Things just work without compromise.

                Great hardware like this doesn’t quite exist yet, but it will be commonly available later this year. This is the promise of the Windows 8 experience. With a little imagination, you can start to see why this kind of device will change the way you think of a PC.

      • The 22nm technology is very good, and Intel can use it to "bless" specific ARM market segments and thereby control them.

        Intel could feasibly make the fastest and most power-efficient ARM processors with a 22nm foundry, and could craft customer contracts in such a way as to prevent those CPUs from entering devices that compete with the x86 products.

        If and when Intel develops an architecture that is competitive to ARM, it would then have established supply relationships into the targeted market segments.

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      You do that, Intel, and you basically can't lose (barring sudden inexplicable incompetence). If the ARM desktop project completely fails, well, you just proved that x86 chips are unbeatable on the desktop market (which will never completely disappear). If the project succeeds, you'll win no matter which architecture comes out on top, and you'll have the advantage of having an experienced ARM team to help you take the best features of ARM and put them in your mobile x86 chips.

      Good companies are always ready to adapt fast. Bad companies who can't adapt always fail when their niche disappears. I agree with you completely; if Intel is smart, they'll be ready to abandon x86 if the time is ever right, and be ready to be a leading designer and manufacturer of ARM chips, retaining their crown as the biggest and most trusted chip company in the world. If they're stupid, they'll cling on to their (very profitable) x86 until their dying breath, wasting every last penny in the death strugg

    • Re:Random idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by steveha (103154) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @11:45AM (#40057593) Homepage

      You want Intel to make an ARM chip that is competitive with x86. Intel will never, ever do that if they can possibly avoid it.

      Intel dominates in x86, and they make good profits on x86 chips. As noted in TFA, Intel would be just another ARM source out of many, and they would make less on an ARM than on x86. nVidia, on the other hand, is no longer friendly with Intel and has no reason not to build a super ARM as you would like; and in fact they seem to be working on it. Google search for "Project Denver".

      The first Project Denver silicon is rumored to be 8 ARM cores, 64-bit, with a 256 CUDA core GPU on the same die. I would love a smartbook with that chip, but I think they will be able to sell that as a blade server platform as well.

      steveha

      • by expatriot (903070)

        The different profit on the chips is significant and I don't know why more people are not talking about it.

        Web sites say that ARM makes about 5 to 10 cents royalty per processor. Most ARM SoCs sell in the $1 to $20 range.

        I am sure Intel could make a 22nm chip that had better performance and only five times the dissipation, but could they make money on it at $10?

      • by Glock27 (446276)

        You want Intel to make an ARM chip that is competitive with x86. Intel will never, ever do that if they can possibly avoid it.

        Intel dominates in x86, and they make good profits on x86 chips. As noted in TFA, Intel would be just another ARM source out of many, and they would make less on an ARM than on x86. nVidia, on the other hand, is no longer friendly with Intel and has no reason not to build a super ARM as you would like; and in fact they seem to be working on it. Google search for "Project Denver".

        The first Project Denver silicon is rumored to be 8 ARM cores, 64-bit, with a 256 CUDA core GPU on the same die. I would love a smartbook with that chip, but I think they will be able to sell that as a blade server platform as well.

        steveha

        I'm glad you brought up Project Denver. It sounds exciting, but NVIDIA is sure being quiet about it. Have you seen any updates recently?

        The results of Project Denver just might be enough for Apple to look at ARM for MacOS systems as well as iOS. Rumor has it that NVIDIA GPUs are back in favor at Apple these days.

  • Even though AMD is not mentioned in TFA there is still a picture of an AMD guy with a wafer (even though ARM doesn't even contract out chip manufacture much less have its own fabs). Silly journalists, TLAs are for engineers.

  • They should be making the SoCs on their most advanced process. Not one a generation behind

    Intel is making the same mistakes that sun and it's old competition made. Their cpu's are too good and too expensive

    • by cnettel (836611)
      Intel is certainly planning to get Atom to 22 nm soon. And the roadmaps point at a 14nm Atom in 2014, that is, at the same time as the architecture tick following Haswell. This means that Atom will see three process transitions in as many years to get up to speed. I guess the Medfield design was too far gone and that the 22nm capacity was already booked in to simply switch over.
  • I always like the random tech cheer for stuff like arm and linux. C'mon guys, you need a business driver and there isnt one. You don't just take technology and look for a problem for it to solve, you identify the most important problems to solve and then implement technology to solve that problem.

    ARM built up to do what a desktop cpu does will look just like the cpu it intends to replace. It won't have significant power or energy advantages. It'll require a ton of software work and rework.

    This is MIPS a

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