Tags: Intel | ARM | chip | mobile

Computer Chip War Will Confuse Consumers

Tuesday, 12 Mar 2013 01:02 PM

By Michael Kling

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A battle between computer chip makers could put consumers in a confusing quandary.

The contestants of the computer conflict are Intel, the dominant producer of PC processors, and ARM, whose chips are used in most mobile devices.

Consumers can use the same software in their various devices if those gadgets have the same type of computer chips, making installing and using software applications straightforward for developers and users.

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But the battle between Intel and ARM chips may upend that status quo.

Consumers may not be sure if an app works on their computer, smartphone or tablet, according to CNNMoney.

For instance, ARM linked with Microsoft to create chips for Microsoft’s new Windows RT, called a type of Windows light built for mobile apps. Some consumers may not realize that devices using Windows RT, like Microsoft’s new Surface tablet, will not support older Windows programs they became used to on their PCs.

If they want those programs, they should buy a machine using Windows 8 that supports older Windows software that runs on Windows 7, Vista and XP, as wall as tablet-like apps. While the thinner ARM processors are ideal for mobile devices, they’re incompatible with earlier versions of Windows.

Not standing still, Intel launched a new chipset that’s efficient enough for mobile devices but strong enough for Windows 8, according to CNNMoney. Its chips are meant to be able to handle apps built for ARM chips, but a drawback is that performance might diminish when pushed by demanding apps, such as games.

Strategies of the opposing players and their products are completely different. Ideal for mobile devices, ARM chips are thinner, lighter and can run on lower power.

Intel, on the other hand, has focused on high-performance. Intel is vertically integrated. It designs and builds its own chips. ARM only designs the central building blocks, like the overall architecture and microprocessor core. Other companies license the designs, complete the design and manufacture the chips, or contract out production.

As smartphones and tablets become increasingly popular and PCs go out of style, tech business observers predict Intel could face a challenging future.

The departure of Intel CEO Paul Otellini, who had resisted adopting ARM-based technology, could free Intel to license ARM products and pursue a stake in mobile devices, according to Forbes.

“It was a much easier time when Intel had to deal with just AMD. Now with ARM and its licensing business model, Intel has to compete with dozen of companies including Apple,” Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight64, told Forbes.

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