ARM wrestling: how mobile ARM processors crowd out Intel x86 in computers

It’s not yet fully realized, but processors for desktop solutions finally have a serious alternative.

Thanks to which buyers will receive decent performance and autonomy in a more budget segment.

The past couple of years have been interesting for the marketprocessors. Microsoft has begun adapting Windows for ARM processors. Apple, according to rumors, intends to transfer its laptops from Intel processors to its own solutions. Mobile. Mobile chipset manufacturers have mastered the 7 nm process technology, and Intel, after a series of production delays, was finally able to master the 10 nm process.

Intel has been hopeless over the past few yearslagged behind the market, giving primacy in the development of technological processes to companies like Samsung, Qualcomm, Huawei and Apple. At one time, she looked at the smartphone market and was unable to catch up with it either with Atom, having spent $ 10 billion (x86) on the project, or with her own ARM solutions, and disgraced Apple when she did not manage to develop her own 5G modem by this year. Apple reverted to Qualcomm, Intel and the mobile division of its former partner. The power of mobile processors overtook the desktop ones. The desktop market continued to fall, because the user is offered the same thing year after year, only each time more expensive.

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PC market dynamics over the past 12 years. Source: Gatrner

It is unclear whether Apple has a chance to wrapthis suitcase without a handle is for your own good. But it is absolutely certain that Intel had serious problems in the territory, which the company considered its own for many years. Yes, and the company itself recognized that ARM solutions outperform x86 in some ways.

Hello from the past

While Huawei and Samsung compete in numbersrumors about the planned release of 5nm processors, Intel has not been able to go below 14 nm since 2014. On the 50th anniversary of Moore's Law (in this article we talked in detail about what it is and how it works), the company admitted that it was no longer able to keep up with the designated innovation bar and would develop processors as best it could. While others really could, Intel delayed the release of a 10nm processor for a couple of years in a row, making improvements to 14nm chipsets.

This summer, Intel finally introduced Ice Lake processors on the 10nm process with integrated graphics that are twice as powerful as the previous ones. True, they don’t have laptops yet.

Too little. Too late.

Athena Project: Intel Dead Horse

The desktop market has stagnatedbut in the absence of real progress in chipsets, he began to live a strange life. Unable to technological breakthrough, Intel started a marketing epic with ultrabooks. Manufacturers played with materials, improved screens, reduced thickness, but, in fact, could not offer the user anything qualitatively new in terms of characteristics in the top segment. What is and does not change, was offered expensively. Of course, an audience of models for $ 1000- $ 2000 exists, but it is not so large that the segment becomes massive. Intel admitted that with ultrabooks, the company managed to grab only 40% of the laptop market (in this price category) in seven years. The management considers the result to be mediocre and plans to push through another ambitious project in the top segment.

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In the summer, the company announced the Athena project andshowed at Computex a laptop concept with a marvelous shape, with multiple screens and a folding body. Devices within the project will cost from $1200 and above, with a constant connection to the network, capable of replacing a smartphone, compact, fancy, with AI and other things that make them expensive. Inside &#8211; processors no older than Ice Lake. Intel promises partners that it will spend on marketing Athena.

What are the partners? At Computex, companies showed off their laptop options of this kind. But with the other hand they are looking for an alternative. Something that can cheer up the market and bring real sales.

What a twist

In mid-2018, ARM introduced the roadmap of development in the desktop market. The Cortex-A76 core introduced last year surpassed the Intel Core i5-7300U in some tasks. The corporation believes that the experience in mobile devices will help to conquer a new segment, and the Core i5 will yield in performance to mobile solutions this year in Deimos chips (7 nm process technology). In 2020, a transition to 5 nm is planned. Until 2020, the company promises a 15% increase in productivity.

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ARM Processor Development Roadmap

Microsoft, ARM, Qualcomm: the hearts of three

Microsoft, like Intel, didn't do well eithermobile affairs. It turned out that the operating system giant simply does not know how to make user-friendly interfaces, and even subsidies and the Nokia brand were unable to sell Windows smartphones. The project was closed, pouring billions down the drain. The company relied on tablets running stripped-down Windows (which couldn't do anything) and fast and cool, but insanely expensive ultrabooks. We have already talked about them above. Small market segment and again insufficient portability. While smartphones were increasing their screens and working days, Windows solutions for the most part could not last until the evening, and the declared battery life hours did not correspond to reality. Not only the hands of Microsoft engineers and the gluttonous Chrome are to blame for this, but also their long-time partner - Intel with x86 solutions.

In 2017, Microsoft began adapting Windowsfor ARM architecture. Qualcomm, in turn, presented chipsets at the end of 2017, partners - HP, ASUS, Lenovo, Samsung and others - the first laptop models.

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At the end of last year, Qualcomm introduced a chipsetSnapdragon 8cx. Apparently, this is exactly the same Deimos with eight Kryo 495 cores (four high-performance Cortex-A76 and four energy-efficient Cortex-A55). In benchmarks it is comparable to the Intel i5 8250U. That is, with a modern laptop above the average level, ARM laptops will be able to give the user a better experience in autonomy (real days of work while connected to a mobile network) and comparable in performance in the category under $1000. Compare this to the Athena project, where we are talking about a lower limit of $1200.

Of course, ARM solutions will not work for users. But for Microsoft, which was losing users in favor of iOS and Android tablets, for vendors who found it difficult to drive sales of laptops, especially in the middle segment, for users who wanted to progress but did not get it - for everyone this is a new interesting round of market development .

Apple: Brutus and you

This year, Bloomberg’s find somehow hesitated, duringin any case, in the media space, but in the past it thundered in many non-industry media. According to rumors, Apple plans to switch MacBooks to mobile ARM processors next year. This will be done (if any) in order to reduce dependence on Intel, bring the ecosystem closer together and make it easier to port applications between devices.

This year, introducing the new iPhone and chipset,Apple said this is the most powerful solution in the world of mobile devices. Apple loves bravado and tests on the Internet show that you can’t talk about absolute superiority, at least Samsung, Qualcomm and Huawei have alternatives of the same level. But in this case, the trend is more important and the fact that the performance of the iPhone chipset is also very high. IPad performance is enough to mount 4K video. Samsung's flagship tablets and smartphones paired with a Dex station (you can read our Galaxy Tab S6 and Galaxy Note 10+ reviews) are already capable of replacing a computer for most tasks. Huawei will probably also work in this direction if the sanctions are lifted.

In the dry residue

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There are no open position reports in open access.the market of various manufacturers of mobile chipsets, and there is no single report on the market of mobile and desktop solutions in principle. But it seems that the future of x86 is not as bright as Intel seemed when the company decided to enter the smartphone market with Atom in full confidence in the invincibility of its development. Intel is unlikely to die in the coming years. In the end, there are other niches where the company's products are in demand, and there are enough demanding or conservative users. But it seems that the market for desktop solutions is waiting for changes and revival, and we are more interesting and inexpensive laptops on ARM. Probably immediately with 5G.