back to article ARM wrestles Intel for netbook crown

UK chip-design house ARM has announced the development of a pair of dual-core processors intended to go head-to-head with Intel's Atom line in the battle for the hearts and minds of netboook manufacturers. According to Wednesday's announcement, the two Cortex-A9 MPCore implementations are designed for silicon pumped up to …


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  1. Goat Jam

    Go ARM

    I will surely get myself an arm netbook assuming it has decent specs!

  2. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
    Thumb Up

    We want a choice!

    Now if only the ppc crowd would jump onto the bandwagon...

  3. Shagbag

    Any Real Machines?

    I've seen a lot of press about ARM vs x86 over the past 12 months and I can't help but think of an analogy to the hype that was WAP in mobile telephony. In particular, I recall the phrase "Where Are the Phones?"

    I'm growing impatient reading about "the x86 killer" and am beginning to think 'ARM vs x86' is nothing more than a media myth.

  4. ForthIsNotDead
    Thumb Up


    Great news. Go ARM.

    I recall the 1980's, when there many hardware platforms you could choose from both for office and home computers. We had Apple and Motorola for a while, but heck, even Apple went Intel, although I can't remember the reason for it. Was simply because Motorola no longer had a competive part?

    It would be nice to see ARM have some success breaking into the laptop/office computer market. At the moment, we're stuck with the 70's dinosaur x86 technology - even our modern Intel processors are kludged and bodged in order to maintain compatability with software that was written in 1979! Time for a fresh start...

    This could add some spice, some variety to the market. It would be nice to be able to choose between Intel and ARM platforms, in the same way we can choose between WIndows and Linux.

    Further more, it would be nice if ARM based laptops offered an entirely hardware platform altogether - again more choice, although, I guess it's hard to diverge away from the "PC" platform, since the worlds manufacturers are geared for it: After SD, SSD, IDE, SVGA, USB what else is there?

    One has to wonder where Psion could have taken things... I guess they would always be "niche", but they really had some awesome ARM based kit.

    I really grieve for Psion :-(

  5. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Good. But late?

    I do hope it´ll make my EEEPC 900 redundant. Go ARM, go! The market has been swamped by what can only be described as ¨slightly smaller laptops¨, time for a real netbook to shake it again! (and an ARM, too. Droooooooool....)

  6. zenkaon

    I like ARM

    My NAS drive has an ARM chip, works a treat. Only 200 MHz, but does the job well.

    Compiled (gcc) some source on it recently with no probs at all and there is always the ipkg package manager for installing ARM binaries.

    Lots of ARM based netbooks will be good, MS won't be able to strongARM them unless they start telling OEMs to only use Intel or AMD. Hope the performance hype lives up to it and the OEMs go for ubuntu rather than Xandros

    I'd buy one

  7. sleepy

    grab a seat; battle royal commencing

    Intel and MS have done very well from their monopolies, but the whole industry is now set up for a huge fight, with these two handcuffed to their legacy products & business model and the market moving on. With its low licensing costs, ARM is effectively the "open source" CPU architecture corresponding to unix/linux the "open source" OS, and (could it be?) to Webkit, the open source browser/renderer engine which together are already gobbling up the mobile and consumer markets.

    Probably Wintel's only strategy is to hold on to margins and accept dwindling market share. All attempts to move forward (by Intel to new architecture, and by MS to new OS) have failed so far. Why should it be any different now? They would have to be reborn as minnows. Instead they might become the main meal at a feeding frenzy led by Google, Apple, TSMC, Samsung.

    Will Intel be forced to re-license ARM to keep their fabs busy? Will MS be forced to use Webkit or a Unix OS core in their handhelds? The entire world will soon realise that these two are already cursed to "live in interesting times". No wonder Intel's legal counsel jumped ship to Apple.

    Then there's PowerPC.

  8. Robert E A Harvey


    I fancy one of those too - Like zenkaon says, with Ubuntu please.

    In fact, why don't canonnical sell one?

  9. Tom 7

    Hardly a competition

    Intel doesn't stand a chance against ARM in the netbook competition - unless MS and Intel combine forces behind the scenes to redefine what a netbook is and induce manufacturers not to make ARM devices like this generally available by special deals on W7.

    Wow 20:20 vision in hindsight - cheaper and longer lasting than lazic!

  10. ForthIsNotDead


    Sleepy said: "Intel and MS have done very well from their monopolies, but the whole industry is now set up for a huge fight, with these two handcuffed to their legacy products & business model and the market moving on."

    Spot on. Exactly. To me, the time feels right for not only a new hardware platform, but a new software platform. Again, I lament to what Psion could have been, and where they could be now. Perhaps Android is now the way forward, assuming useful applications are developed for it, of course.

    Windows and Linux: Old. Time for a change. Something completely fresh and new, virgin, would be great. With Android being open, it will hopefully attract a fair share of interest from Open Source developers. If Open Office was developed to run on the new ARM based laptops, well, you're already onto a winner, coupled with a browser and email client, and you're off.

    Of course, having said, I think even now I can hear the sound of Microsoft changing their compiler switches! /build=ARM


  11. Dave Bell

    The Linux problem

    zenkaon hints at the problem which seems to have killed Linux netbooks. Not specifically Xandros--it worked well in my experience--but the poor quality of the support. When Asus made Firefox 3 available, it downloaded and installed easily, and "broke" a couple of other programs. And there was no uninstall.

    This might, at heart, have been a Xandros problem. But nobody seemed interested in fixing it.

    The elephant in the room of the Microsoft/Windows comparison is the huge installed base, and the steady new sales, which ultimately pay for fixing problems.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Arrow? Quiver?

    More like a smelly sock and a makeshift condom, windows bindows, it is hardly a consideration for people that matter.

    ARM is the wave of the future, roll on ARM. It's like RISC man, so much cooler than CISC.

  13. K

    @By Shagbag

    Its hype - I recall about 15 years ago when RISC processors where the next "big" thing, but they failed to materialise through lack of support, this has exactly the same stink about it, but I hope I'm wrong.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Not holding my breath

    I am sorry to say, but I think ARM is on to a loser here. If Windows will not run on an ARM system, then no one will use an ARM system.

    Bleat on as much as you want about how such-and-such a Linux distro is great, but no one gives a shit. Linux has a lot going for it, but it is still not ready for the average user, although it is good for niche uses. Hopefully the rise of Android will take the rest of the Linux distros with it.

    Basically Wintel still has the market under control, and that's a shame as any form of meaningful competition is stifled at the moment.

  15. Chris Wood

    Timed for Chrome OS

    Seems to me this has been timed so there will be hardware available around the time that Chrome OS is released.

    As Google have already said they will support both ARM and x86 there will be a proper head-to-head on Chrome-based devices.

  16. Gulfie


    ARM is a RISC processor. PowerPC is also RISC. The Transputer was probably the first, high profile RISC processor. RISC lives on and is a success... check your facts.

  17. zenkaon

    @ForthIsNotDead -OOo

    The ARM port of Openoffice is currently available from the experimental stream of Debian.

    That's one of the things about Linux, it will port onto any chipset. In fact didn't el Reg run an article a while back concluding that (due to geeks who love to do this sort of thing) it was impossible to stop a Linux port to any new platform. I see that Debain has 11 chipsets supported on it's download lenny page.

  18. It'sa Mea... Mario

    Yay ARM!

    I want a netbook I can duel boot with Ubuntu and RISC OS, even if the only source of Software for RISC OS is fan sites of 15 - 20 year old software for the Archimedes computers...

    If they bundled it with RISC OS and a copy of Ibix the Viking I'd be first in line!!!

  19. Richard 22

    @Shagbag and @K

    Erm, you do know that virtually every single mobile phone on the planet has at least one ARM processor in it don't you? Very low end ones may not do these days i guess, but certainly all smartphones do (there may be some obscure ones which don't I guess). This is all about ARM extending upwards from smartphones to the small, cheap computer, and trying to stop Intel extending downwards across this gap.

    I'd guess that one major challenge facing ARM isn't just win vs linux, it's more that every single app needs to be compiled for the ARM architecture. Not such a problem for open source stuff (although it's a non-trivial thing to do), but what about the closed source stuff that everybody will want for an internet computer - Flash, silverlight etc - are they available for ARM?

    I'd like to think that ARM can make inroads in this area, but I think there's a big hill to climb. People's expectations of a computer are very different to their expectations of a smartphone.

  20. Anonymous Coward


    This isn't hype, I have friends who work at ARM and they're already testing ARM based netbook prototypes. ARM is also working in conjunction with canonical to bring a full fledged ubuntu desktop experience to these machines.

    Once they get these babies running with dual core 2GHz ARM chips and hopefully a decent amount of RAM (at least 1Gb) then they'll have a killer product.

    I, for one, welcome our new ARM based overlords.

  21. Matt Bucknall

    @Shagbag + K

    What are you talking about? ARM processors are all over the place. Pretty much every phone and MP3 player manufactured in the last 5 years contains at least one ARM processor... They're in NAS devices, network routers, cars, burglar alarms, factory equipment and countless other devices.

    So there aren't many servers or desktops using ARM processors. No surprises there because that has not been their intended use for quite some time, not to mention the fact that such a concept has been politically unviable until very recently.

  22. Torben Mogensen


    K writes: "I recall about 15 years ago when RISC processors where the next "big" thing, but they failed to materialise through lack of support"

    I can't see that they failed. They are hugely successful in mobile devices and game consoles and has a good showing in servers. Just about the only niche they haven't conquered is the personal desktop/laptop computer. And even there they haven't been total failure: Apple used PPC for many years in their Mac line and will probably move away from x86 to ARM in a year or two. And Acorn's ARM-based home computers were moderately successful too, though nowhere near Apple levels.

    Nor do I see lack of support for RISC machines. Just about the only support missing is support for running desktop Windows from Microsoft.

    Sure, there have been casualties on the RISC front -- MIPS is mostly gone from servers and game consoles and is now mainly used in Chinese products, Sparc may die with Oracle's takeover of Sun, and Intel never got their Itanium in nowhere near as many machines as they expected. But there have also been casualties in the CISC market, most notably Motorola 68000, which was once the dominant 32-bit processor.

  23. Nick Kew

    ARM is only half the story

    ... and I want my ARM-based laptop[1] to have that other update, an E-Ink screen.

    [1] why limit the discussion to netbook?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @It'sa Mea... Mario

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Compatibility is the enemy of competition

    It won't run x86 windows applications natively, unless under emulation which means slower, which means that speed advantage is lost

  26. Hayden Clark Silver badge


    That's what kills Linux in the non-techy home. Printers. If you can't just plug the CanopsonMark multi-function that everybody has in to it, and print a page in a minute or so, it is "broken" for the domestic user and will get returned.

    When's the last time you saw a manufacturer CD with .debs, .rpms and tgzs on it?

  27. BOBSta

    ARM netbook please!

    Yes please, I'll take one. As long as the hardware spec isn't limited like on WIntel netbooks.

    12" LED screen at 1280x800

    1/2/4 GB of upgradable Ram

    HDD and SSD options

    nVidia graphics

    Wireless G/N

    2+ USB2

    HDMI out

    (mini?)DVI/DisplayPort out

    1.3MP+ Webcam

    8+ hours battery



  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Printers

    Why is printing so difficult? Why are printers so crap? I can see why they might need special drivers for some of the fancy functions, but if I just want to print something, why can't the printer accept a PDF file via a standard hardware interface? They could make it look like mass storage for all I care. At least then I could connect any computer to any printer and just copy the PDF file across and it would get printed.

  29. zenkaon

    @ Hayden Clark

    I've never installed a deb or rpm to get a printer to work under Linux.

    You goto system->Admin->Printers and then add your printer - There is a long long list, if needed the driver is downloaded and away you go.

    My network printer was "installed" in less than 5 minutes from several Linux boxes, whereas on Vista it took around an hour and put a load of HP crapware on my wifes laptop - hardly plug and play!

    Hayden, have you really plugged your fancy printer into a vista/win7 box (that has never seen the fancy printer before) and been printing or scanning in a minute or so??? Or did you need to put the cd in and install a load of crapware onto your machine?

  30. It'sa Mea... Mario

    @ AC 10:01 GMT

    Thank you for the Link!

    My dream my not be so impossible after all!

  31. This post has been deleted by its author

  32. Neil Hoskins


    For those lamenting the demise of Psion, and what could have been if the Series 7 and Netbook had been developed further... Surely all that's needed is a decent UI and apps layer on top of Symbian? Symbian would be perfectly capable of powering a netbook: the only thing stopping it is the fact that S60 is basically a phone-based UI (and not a very good one at that).

  33. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    @Matt Bucknall

    And the big one. Set top boxes.

    While people define computers as "Desktops running Windows" RISC has failed.

    That seems to be MS's great feature. Creating a generation of IT types who cannot *conceive* of *any* other processor running *any* other OS.

    Is that much of an achievement?

  34. Toastan Buttar
    Thumb Up

    I just want a cheap netbook

    It has to retail at under £200 (I don't mean £199.99 + P&P, either).

    I don't care what OS it runs.

    I don't care what processor it uses. Passive cooling would be very nice, though.

    I don't care what browser it runs. All I need is a place for my bookmarks, snappy rendering, and we're good to go.

    It has to be able to run the latest version of Flash without stuttering.

    It has to be able to play movie files at full-screen (whatever that resolution might be) without stuttering.

    It has to have Wi-Fi that 'just works' - type in your password and off you go.

    A smattering of useful office utilities and native games would be nice.

    Webcam ? Meh, take it or leave it.

    It has to have decent battery life. 3 hours is an absolute minimum, 6-8 hours would be very nice.

    I bought an Elonex ONEt out of curiousity. It falls short in many of the aspects I've highlighted above, but it only cost just over £100 and it's a fun gizmo for the most part. If a machine appeared on the market at say £160 and could do everything I asked, I'd snap one up in an instant. Keep my desktop for the heavy-duty work, scanning, GIMPing, word-processing, printing, making music, etc. Curl up with the netbook for everything else (ie 95% of the time !).

  35. David Hicks


    Try installing an HP network printer (yes, bought from PC world for 50 quid, photosmart 2575) on windows -

    1. Go to

    2. find and download driver package (70-500MB depending on which bundle you choose)

    3. Install driver and hope it finds the printer.

    Linux -

    1.Go to System -> Printers -> Add printer -> network printer. Click OK when it finds it.

    Seriously, I know people who've had to do all sorts of weird things like setup XP virtual machines to run older printers because Vista refuses to use them and the manufacturers haven't made updated drivers.

    Linux has FAR more hardware support that windows now.

  36. Geoff 25

    Re: I just want a cheap netbook

    Not the cheap option but iPod touch and iPhone are ARM based aren't they... and there's rumours of a jumbo iPod touch, iTablet thingumy. A device that just works? Even games available from iTunes...

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux and printers

    I use Linux at home exclusively, while my wife uses a windows laptop. She has a Lexmark multifunction printer, and all she needed to do to get it working was pop the install disk into the drive. Despite being quite proficient in Linux, the printer still doesn't work for me.

    And even if I could get it working, I doubt I could get the other functionality to work.

    It's not Linux's fault, but is Lexmark's for being so Linux unfriendly, but it still means that Linux is a no-go for my wife.

    Hopefully, the might of Google can convince all printer makers to create Linux drivers.

  38. /dev/me

    Ga ARM Go

    I'll be sure to buy one, without an OS please. Let's not make the same mistake twice ;-)

    I'm installing ARMedslack on it, and I'd like to do it myself thank you very much!

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You're Kidding me.....right?

    "Intel has one arrow in its quiver that ARM doesn't: Windows"

    I think you were to mean

    "ARM has one ball-and-chain NOT dragging on it's ankle: Windows"

    A platform that will be blissfully free of the influence peddling and backroom deals hostile to innovation from this huge corp., FOSS and its breakneck pace will blaze on this platform.

  40. Derek Kingscote

    Psion Linux netBook

    I remember going to a trade show, ooh must be 5 years ago (maybe more), and a saw a new Psion netBook running linux. It was the same underlying machine as a netBook pro I think.

    And it was linux from the ground up. It had a white case because it was a demo unit; wonder where it went. Suspect it never got to market due to M$ licensing of Windoze CE restricting the use of any competing OS.

    Taking on the point of Open Office and a suitable browser and the ability to send a PDF direct to your printer, if one of these linux machines had mobile telephony functionality, video resolution & the requisite connectivity and MP3 player driving bluetooth earphones it would probably clean up.

    There was a guy somewhere who had considered gutting a Psion netBook and installing a single board ARM processor a new higher res screen and running linux. Dunno what happened with that. Anyone know?

    Lament for Psion, great products, clever keyboards but lost through the netBook pro WinCE

  41. BOBSta

    Lexmark printers

    Will all the people complaining about how Lexmark printers / multi-functions aren't supported in Linux please just stop whinging and do the sensible thing :

    Ditch that pile of crap and get a HP / Canon / Epson that IS supported. You get a hell of a lot of printer for < £100 these days!

  42. Oninoshiko


    I can't say for linux, but my vary large colour laser made by Brother works wonderfly in OpenSolaris. I can only assume that it would be a breeze in linux too...

    Fire, what happened to all the Lexmark printers we had around the office...

  43. Conrad Mazian


    "Intel has one arrow in its quiver that ARM doesn't: Windows. Although Linux enjoyed solid acceptance in the netbook market when those sub-subnotebooks first appeared, that love has been withdrawn due to Microsoft marketing and users' reluctance to learn a new OS."

    Bullfeathers. Windows gained market share because Microsoft:

    A) Dropped their pricing

    B) Used their monopoly position to push OEMS not to use Linux

    Customers didn't ask for Windows, Microsoft asked for Windows. And Microsoft got Windows, and pretty well destroyed the Netbook market. Then along comes ARM, which can't run Windows XP/Vista/Vista 7, it can only run Windows CE, which is crippled by design, or Linux, which isn't. And of course if it could run Windows, Microsoft wouldn't let them install certain versions with certain screen sizes...

    I think ARM is far better off with Linux, which will allow the companies that use ARM to innovate, as compared with Microsoft, which wants control.

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