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Intel Hardware

Why Can't Intel Kill x86? 605

jfruh writes "As tablets and cell phones become more and more important to the computing landscape, Intel is increasingly having a hard time keeping its chips on the forefront of the industry, with x86 architecture failing to find much success in mobile. The question that arises: Why is Intel so wedded to x86 chips? Well, over the past thirty years, Intel has tried and failed to move away from the x86 architecture on multiple occasions, with each attempt undone by technical, organizational, and short-term market factors."
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Why Can't Intel Kill x86?

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  • by loufoque ( 1400831 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @02:38PM (#43081385)

    Intel is still the major manufacturer of laptop, desktop, workstation and server chips...
    What if they're not the main provider for cheap toys? It's mostly a matter of price anyway. Whatever they do, Intel chips will always cost significantly more than ARM chips due to their business model.

  • wtf? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by etash ( 1907284 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @02:51PM (#43081581)
    the question is idiotic. sounds more like "asking a question just to ask it". Why should even intel kill x86? Would anyone even WANT to kill his cash cow ? It sounds more like wishful thinking from the camp across the atlantic ( arm *wink* *wink* ). Sure they would like to initiate or induce an inception of such an idea, but Intel has no reason at all to abandon such a successful platform.
  • Legacy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <`ten.tsacmoc' `ta' `yburxyno'> on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @02:55PM (#43081637)

    Because the world runs on legacy software, and that legacy software runs on a legacy platform called x86. The answer is really that simple.

    You can come up with a superior platform for power (ARM), it has been done and it worked really well on phones where there wasn't a large legacy base of software already in place. You can come up with a superior platform for 64 bit processing (Itanium), it has been done and it worked really well in a very limited marked (servers that handled large databases). However that market was too limited and large lawsuits have been filed to try to get out of that market.

    Other examples abound and have been made, the payoff to whoever could succeed would be in the billions of dollars (Even the Chinese are trying their own homegrown CPU architecture). Every single one of them that has tried to enter the desktop market has failed though for the simple reason that it couldn't emulate x86.

    Even Microsoft would dearly love to get out of the x86 business, the payoff in terms of killing legacy software support and selling all new software would be huge (hello Surface RT). I think you'll notice that sales of Microsoft RT products have all been a dismal failure with manufactures declining to make new products as fast as they can.

    Until you can build a chip that can emulate x86 and support a different architecture and do so more cost effectively than just an x86 chip x86 will live. You can't kill it, Intel can't kill it, AMD can't kill it, Microsoft can't kill it and you sure as hell can't nuke it from orbit. It's embedded in billions of computers and software programs worldwide, and that is a zombie army that you just can't fight.

  • by Killall -9 Bash ( 622952 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @02:59PM (#43081685)
    Christ, I keep hearing this shit. I've been hearing the code monkeys lament the backwards compatibility tribulations of the windows ecosystem since the days of Windows95 fucking up 16-bit Windows3.1 code. AND IT ISN'T THE PROBLEM. It is A PROBLEM, but not THE problem.

    I can name a whole shit load of things wrong with (pick a version of) windows, none of which have anything to do with backwards compatability, or anything else under the hood.

    The problem with windows 15 years ago is that Microsoft didn't know how to innovate. All they could do is steal the good ideas of others.

    The much worse problem with windows today is that they've stopped stealing good ideas, and started developing horrible ones in-house.

    Microsoft is an alchemist that has discovered, after years of toil, a method for turning gold into shit.
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @02:59PM (#43081687) Homepage
    But what happens when cheaper, more power efficient ARM chips are powerful enough for desktops and laptops? I haven't bought a new machine because of speed issues since 2006. I bought a machine that year, and it's still running. I've since bought 2 laptops which were pretty much bottom of the line. Computers long ago reached the point where they were fast enough. If I'm able to buy an ARM based computer for $100 that plugs into the back of my screen and provides internet functionality, along with the ability to watch movies, listen to music, and play a few games, why would I spend $500 on a more traditional desktop? Intel chips will probably be around for quite a while on servers and workstations, but I think it won't be long until the laptop and desktop model is getting corroded by ARM chips.
  • No need (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @03:11PM (#43081841)

    These articles are constantly missing the point.

    x86 is fine. The flaws of the architecture are mostly superficial, and even then, x86-64 cleans a lot of it up. And it's all hidden behind a compiler now anyways - and we have very good compilers.

    ARM has an advantage in the ultra-low-power market because they've been designing for the ultra-low-power market. Intel has been focusing on the laptop/desktop/server market, and so their processors fit into that power bracket.

    But guess what? As ARM is moving into higher-performance chips, they're sucking up more power (compare Cortex-A9 to Cortex-A15). And as Intel is moving into lower-power chips, they're losing performance (compare Atom to Core).

    The ISA doesn't really affect power too much, as it turns out. It affects how easily compilers can use it, and how easily the chip can be designed, but not really power draw or thermal performance. Given the lead Intel has on fabrication, any slight disadvantage of the x86 architecture in that regard is made up for by the software library.

  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @03:12PM (#43081843)

    Why would they want to kill it off when they're still making money hand over fist with it?

    Try reading "The Innovator's Dilemma."

  • by Inkidu ( 2838387 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @03:15PM (#43081885)
    It's already a bad day for Redmondians. Haswell is slated to be introduced in 2014 will mostly offer the BGA designed Broadweil "System-on-a-Chip CPU", pre-sodered on an Intel motherboard like Atom chips are now. There will be nothing to upgrade - in effect this will be a device in PC clothing. There are rumors of high-end LGA packaging, but the upgrade possibilities will be limited to a few paltry offerings. No one will be making consumer upgradable parts anymore. Another way of saying it is that It will become cheaper for Dell just to replace the whole "PC-thingy" than to repair it. Yet Another Way... Intel's Ivy Bridge product cycle ends in 2014. Its successor, Haswell, will not have a desktop chip. The English story: [] As tablets and smart phones replace desktops and notebooks, Intel, Microsoft and the desktop manufacturers struggle for market-share. The end of the desktop in 2014 does not mean the demise of the notebook, or of Microsoft, or of the support jobs they bring. It does foreshadow their end though. This time its a question of what and who will be left behind. Intel's market-based decision will shrink the computer field in general, and IT departments everywhere. With a paradigm shift away from a smart-client/server model to a dumb-portal/Cloud one, the computer becomes just another office supply, and the IT department becomes marginalized. When in the cloud, other services seem more viable. Virtual storage and backup deals mean goodbye to lots of servers, and that backup guy too. No longer dependent on the IT department, HR, Customer Service - hey, every department can find alternatives in the cloud. And those alternatives in the cloud will be supplied by the same people who make the software installed on their computers now. By putting Office online, Microsoft separates their biggest revenue stream from their troubled operating system. Microsoft will want to make up for the loss of revenue. They will “incentivise” their cloud products, making services cheaper than anything an IT department can provide. The stakes are even higher because Microsoft has to move into cloud, which is Google’s home turf. Google enters the market meeting Microsoft head on, feature-to-feature and with a better price - for now. Both competitors want a piece of the IT department, especially in these changing times. So count on predatory pricing to make the move even cheaper. These giants are in a fight for their corporate lives, so don’t think for one moment they’ll do anything that’s not in their financial interest. Every perk will have its price. The original story: []
  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @03:27PM (#43082081)

    That when Mankind actually launches ships to other star systems, the computers on board will be running a descendent of the x86 ISA, even if it's running 1024-bit words on superconducting molecular circuitry.

    And also that the geeks who know anything about them will be bitching about the <expletive> ancient POS instruction set.

  • by The Snowman ( 116231 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @03:36PM (#43082207)

    The Core-2-Quad 6600 (q6600) was released in Jan 2007. The chip is such a workhorse that it will run any of the new games out their. The limiter is the video card capabilities.

    While the GPU is certainly a much bigger factor, the Q6600 is showing its age. I just handed one down to my wife after upgrading to a Core i7 Ivy Bridge. Part of the problem is while the GPU is the more limiting factor, CPU still plays a role: and after seven 7 years, games will tax a Q6600. The second issue is that architecture doesn't support PCI Express 2 or greater. While the cards are backwards and forwards compatible, this does not mean you will get acceptable performance. If you can't move data fast enough, that new GPU won't really shine. Compatibility does not equal "takes full advantage of."

  • by PoolOfThought ( 1492445 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @03:39PM (#43082261)
    I hear what you're saying, but WilliamGeorge is right. You can't just declare that something is "fast enough" for someone else. They are probably a little more qualified to make that decision than you are.

    Maybe I don't need a faster computer to play "Sim City 5" or whatever "games" you talking about. But there's more to life and computing than the latest FPS.

    Let me know when I can full system compiles on my video card or run real world business applications on my video card. Until then (and even then), know that I will spend up to an hour each day simply waiting on compiles to complete and unit tests to run. A faster machine is something I look forward to and one would certainly cut down on the amount of time I spend waiting on my computer to be ready for me to get on with my job.

    Then again, it would also likely cut down on my slashdotting as I often alt-tab over here while waiting on those other tasks to complete.
  • by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @03:58PM (#43082575) Homepage

    The i960 was a printer processor with strong vector performance. Much like the gaming systems on XBoX, Playstation today. 486/i860 systems were really good though the use of GPUs more or less is a modern version of the same effect.

  • Not to mention everybody misses the point, the move away from X86 was NOT about the customer or because they had a better design, it was because they wanted a monopoly and the courts had ruled they couldn't cockblock AMD and Via. If they could have waved a wand and made themselves the sole supplier of X86, think they would have come up with Itanic?

    Look at and learn from your history folks, Intel makes MSFT look like the Care Bears. They bribed all the OEMs, rigged their compilers, they aren't nice people. X86 has higher IPC than any other arch out there when you look at amount of work done per watt, the new i series is just fricking insane when it comes to how much work they can do per cycle, so why would Intel have wanted to move away, when they can simply strip it down like they are doing with Atom and still have a very powerful chip? Because they have dreams of monopoly and have had since the day the courts ruled that they couldn't block AMD from making reverse engineered 486 chips.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.