Linked by David Adams on Mon 28th Jun 2010 16:14 UTC, submitted by M.Onty

The ARM based RISC OS has been floundering in the wilderness somewhat these past years, but it looks like it may - finally - be on the path to a real Lazarus moment with the new Beagleboard and, unusually, El Reg has taken an interest.

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Form factor hasn't been an issue -- PDAs have been about that size (a bit bigger) forever

My PDA is the same length and height as an iPhone and about twice the depth. So there really isn't much in the two. in fact the Beagleboard could easy work out larger once you take housing, storage mediums, wifi and so on into account.

What's changed is that ARM processors have advanced to the point (capability and integration wise) that it would actually be a fairly usable desktop experience for common tasks (email, web, productivity, even light-moderate gaming with the integrated 3D capability) -- sorry, BTW, your 4 year old PocketPC doesn't even approach what the BeagleBoard has, clock-for-clock its probably 3ish times faster than what you've got, which is probably an ARM9, ARM11, maybe a StrongArm or XScale.

Actually my PDA does. 600MHz+ ARM processors were common in PDAs even 4 years ago.
In fact, I have Tomb Raider installed on mine and it runs very smoothly at VGA resolutions (never tried higher resolutions as my PDA screen is only 640x480).

I also used to use my PDA for and RDP all the time and still take it abroad as a small device to use on Hotel Wifi hotspots.

Granted PocketOffice is (or rather was) pretty useless, but even so I've got some work done on them too.

So the key difference between the two devices is beagleboard is actually 3 to 4 times cheaper than my PDA was new.

Already many ARM liscensees have announced dual-core parts in the 1.2 GHz range, and hinted at parts as high as 1.6 or 2.Ghz. Marvel already has parts at 2Ghz (though those are older, single-core, in-order parts).

Which is excellent news, but lets not forget that the Beagleboard is only a 720MHz single-core CPU.

I know I've said it more than once before, but I truly believe that ARM is the most credible threat to x86 that has ever stepped to the plate -- PPC, Sparc, Alpha and Mips never had the presense in the consumer space that ARM does (given the polularity of mobile media devices and phones, even though most people don't realize or care that it's ARM under the hood) -- combine that with the dramatic shift toward portable computing (where ARM still beats Intel by an order of magnitude under load and a smaller but significant margin at idle, even with integrated 3D acceleration), the rise of VM environments like Java and .net which make the underlying architecture not matter quite so much, and the impedning push towards Cloud computing (ChromeOS, et all) and you begin to realize how many fronts are about to converge on x86/x64 -- I don't expect that x86 is going to go away, not by any means, but I do see them loosing significant ground to ARM starting with smaller systems, running through power-concious devices, and culminating in encroachment on the desktop and server space. x86 will probably have to shore itself up on raw performance, where ARM still lags (though I'm sure if someone took the ARM ISA and took the chains off, giving it a power budget similar to even mid-tier laptop platforms, that you'd see an ARM with some serious performance -- its just that no one will build such a device until there's a need for it.)

While I'd love to see ARM dominate the mobile space, the more people expect portable desktop computing, the more ARM will come under threat from x86.
So I'm very worried for their future - particularly when they've completely failed to capitalise on the netbook market (a market that should have been easy pickings for them).

Some might argue Linux to blame as well, but the fact is ARM should have already gained a dominance there as architecture pretty much stands for everything that netbooks stood for: cheap, lower powered, moderate spec'ed and portable. Yet in spite of this ARM losing so badly to x86 on netbooks.

In fact, when you look at all the ARM devices out there: aside mobile phones, most are geeks toys (this article being a classic example - RISC OS on a Beagleboard)

So yes, I'd love to see x86 (and Intel) lose it's monopoly. But as things stand at the moment, I'm struggling to see this becoming a realistic vision.

However, in site off all this negativity I've posted, I *will* be purchasing a beagleboard clone (the one I posted earlier) and having a play ;)

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