Intel v. ARM

Will Intel ever manage to gain a foothold in the mobile world dominated by ARM with its X86 architecture?

OK it is an old story, but it just never seems to die.  Truth told the rivalry will most likely only get more intense as PC sales continue to stagnate and everyone talks wireless.  Tablets and smartphones seem to be the only devices mentioned when talking growth in the computing world, and the majority of them have a processor built around an ARM CPU.  Intel tried with the Atom, but I would venture it’s sales have never met internal projections.  It was everywhere in netbooks, but that genre is on life support, if not already dead.  So what is new in this story?

Tuesday there was an article at Barrons’ Tech Trader Daily with the title “ARM Drops 8%: Deutsche Cuts to Sell on Intel Threat, Falling ASPs”.  It seems the Deutsche Bank analyst has concerns about ARM’s long term royalty revenue due to lower ASPs and incursions into the mobile world by Intel.  In particular there is mention of “ … rising pressure from Intel thanks to the latter’s manufacturing prowess at 22 nanometer and 14 nanometer feature sizes for chips.”  Then, yesterday, there was buzz, this CNET article being but one example, around a claimed 41% power savings to come with the 4th generation Core processors, arriving at least a year down the road. 

The first thing that strikes me about both articles is the “beef” behind them is well down the road, likely somewhere in the latter part of 2013.  Commenting on the manufacturing prowess at the 14 nm node is maybe a bit of a stretch as the node is still in development.  It was only this spring that the 22 nm “tri-gate”  Ivy Bridge processors started shipping in volume.  Let’s give this generation a bit of time.
As for the power savings, details are to be presented at next week’s Intel Developer Forum.  It will be interesting to see how much of the 41% is from an evolving fabrication process and how much is circuit related.  Again though this is down the road.  If there is any “tie” between the two articles it might stem from Intel’s desire for mindshare ahead of their developer forum.  Whether this translates to design wins is a much bigger debate.  One that touches on the philosophy of a stand alone processor v. a CPU of an integrated SoC.