Ah, the ARM chip. ARM is a hugely successful architecture, and can be found in just about every cell phone or other small device out there. ARM, however, wants more, and for a long time now we’ve been hearing predictions about an upcoming massive rise in ARM netbooks – so far, this hasn’t materialised. Warren East, ARM’s CEO, said in an interview with PC Pro that netbooks could one day make up 90% of the laptop market – preferably powered by ARM processors of course.
“Although netbooks are small today – maybe 10% of the PC market at most â€“ we believe over the next several years that could completely change around and that could be 90% of the PC market,” East told PC Pro, “We see those products as an area for a lot of innovation and we want that innovation to be happening around the ARM architecture.”
East explained that even when you buy an X86 laptop today, chances are it will include two, three, or maybe even more ARM chips already. They can be found in WiFi, BlueTooth, hard drive, the integrated camera, and maybe even in the printer you bought with it. “Right now there’s only one microprocessor in the PC that probably isn’t ARM and that’s the applications processor,” East said, “Certainly what we’re talking about over the next few years – particularly with netbooks, not with PCs – is the opportunity for those to be ARM.”
East acknowledges that the lack of Windows (the grown-up version) is certainly a problem for ARM adoption, but that the advancements made in the Linux world is impressive. “What’s holding it back is people’s love of the Microsoft operating system and that fact that it’s familiar and so on,” East explained, “But actually the trajectory of progress in the Linux world is very, very impressive. I think it’s only a matter of time for ARM to gain market share with or without Microsoft.”
He would still like to see Windows on ARM, though, but he’s not pushing Microsoft to do so. “It’s really an operational decision for Microsoft to make,” he said, “I don’t think there’s any major technical barriers. Microsoft’s well aware of the technical support we can provide to them, but it is an operational challenge for them, and one that only they can work out. We can’t really help them with it.”
I’m really hoping ARM netbooks will finally one day take off. We’ve been hearing for about a year now just how great ARM netbooks are going to be, but so far, little to nothing has materialised in the way of products you can actually buy. It seems the major OEMs are a bit hesitant to start shipping ARM netbooks, and I can’t really blame them for it.