ARM rains on x86 as smartphones outship PCs
Netbooks cop a hiding
Netbooks are so yesterday's technology. Shipments of the small, not-so-cheap computers plunged during 2011 by 25 per cent, figures from market watcher Canalys show.
The decline worsened during the year, with year-on-year shipments down more than 32 per cent during the final quarter of 2011.
All other PC categories experienced growth during the year, Canalys said. Even desktop computers, for which shipments were 2.3 per cent higher in 2011 than they were during 2010.
Notebook shipments were up 7.5 per cent year on year, but it was tablets that really took off: shipments shot up 274.2 per cent.
That lifted client personal computer shipments as a whole 14.8 per cent, Canalys' numbers show.
Some 63.2m tablets shipped in 2011, just behind the 112.4m desktops but some way away from the 209.6m notebooks pumped out of factories during the year.
So while chip maker Intel may be concerned about the growth of tablets, there's no real indication the category is about to outsell laptops, one of the markets it dominates. Intel is, of course, more worried by tablets' use of ARM chips rather than its own.
A bigger concern for the chip giant is the rise of the smartphone, all of which are powered by ARM chips too. Some 487.7m of them shipped in 2011 - 17.6 per cent more than the 414.6m client PCs, as Canalys measures them.
Chuck in the tablets with all those smartphones and that's more than half a billion client computing devices shipped during 2011 with ARM on board. Intel has to make do with whatever's left out of the remaining 351.4m desktop and mobile PCs after AMD has eked its small share.
Thank goodness for all those data centre server sales, eh, Chipzilla? ®
A PC has more ARM CPUs than Intel CPUs
A typical disk drive (rotating or SSD) will have two or three ARM cores in it. Then there's the Wifi module and Bluetooth modules. Most likely ARM too. Then there are sundry other controllers in everything from CD drives to mice to power supplies. Many of those are ARM.
So every Intel Inside PC likely has a whole pile more ARMs.
Great surprise on netbooks
I found a lot of uses for those cheap netbooks at home and at work:
(1) Protect my thinkpad -- the kids get their youtube on the netbook.
(2) Dedicated web tool -- email, news, and videos run just fine on a 2009, 200 €, Linux Mint Netbook. No more "can I use your computer for a moment".
(3) Diagnostics in the lab -- Just carry the netbook to that camera, ADC, motor controller, ... it's so much faster than searching for long cables. And if you need more ports, just get another netbook.
It won't replace the desktop in terms of computing power, but it's an affordable tool for lots of applications. Maybe it will be replaced by cheap tablets, but I'll be carrying a keybord to make the tablet a proper netbook replacement!
It's not that we don't want Netbooks anymore, it's just that we already have one, and there has been no significant advance in the form factor over the last 2-3 years to justify getting a new one.
* Under powered Atom
* 1024x768 screen
* 1GB memory, max 2GB
* Crappy starter version of windows
* Reasonable battery life.
* Around £250
That spec could have been 2010, 2011 or 2012.
It came from Digital Equipment Corp as part payment in a patent spat.
After a little development they sold most of the ARM stuff to Marvel, though kept a comms SOC with ARM core.
So I wouldn't say they were ever very keen. Their own i960 RISC controller was popular once, but Intel failed to develop it sensibly and do good SOC.
Part of the success of ARM is that it's usually just a small part of an SOC. Even 4 or 5 years ago an ARM SoC might have had the equivalent I/O of an entire laptop motherboard. I used the Samsung 6400 SOC before iPhone and it has the Flash and RAM chips stacked on the ARM SoC all in a 3mm high package. So no Flash or RAM PCB traces or PCB footprint. Intel still don't have an SoC with all the I/O of that part (inc Graphics) low enough power to stack even one other chip on top.
They should be.
It has been suggested / reported / deduced that MS and / or Apple are going to start doing proper ARM versions of their mainline OSes. Linux is, of course, already there. The OEMs (in MS's case) could then start manufacturing laptops with ARMs in them and offer customers a choice. There will always be users who genuinely need a lot of compute grunt, but most people would probably value battery life over raw horsepower.
That'd be great for end users, ARM, MS, Apple and the OEMs, but almost certainly not so good for Intel. Nor AMD.