back to article ARM boss forecasts mass migration to netbooks

ARM CEO Warren East believes that netbooks will come to dominate the PC market - and it won't be that long before it happens. "Although netbooks are small today – maybe ten per cent of the PC market at most – we believe over the next several years that could completely change around and that could be 90 per cent of the PC …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Mark Burton

    More Welly

    It's interesting to note that all the sites we I have read about this story always mention that if you need to do heavey lifting ie whatching HD vide etc etc imply that it's simply not possible unless you have an X86 chipset.

    This is clearly tosh and poppy cock. At last years MWC Texas demoed HD played from their beagle board.

    As for games I don't hear much mention of people complaining that they wish they had an x86 chip in their iphones because the 3d games are so rubbish.

    Anyway, keep up the good work

    1. markp 1


      now i never knew that chip architecture family had that much of a bearing on it's media performance, particularly these days when HD playback can be found in £100 little bricks that connect between your TV and a USB hard disk.... and isn't ARM supposed to be BETTER for these things anyway?

      mine's the one with the 4-year-old budget laptop that can happily decode BBC iPlayer flash-player 720p streams, and the creaky old 450mhz K6/2 in the attic that can just-not-quite handle DVD rez mpg4... my PHONE can do better than that old x86...

  2. Chris Miller

    Google translation follows:

    Buy my product. Buy my product. Buy my product. Buy my product. Buy my product. Buy my product. Buy my product. Buy my product. Buy my product. Buy my product. Buy my product. Buy my product. Buy my product. Buy my product.

    Please buy my product.

  3. Mark 65

    Title required

    I can kind of see where he's coming from - most people spend most of their time using a computer for browsing the web, little bit of banking or shopping, and sending and receiving emails - but I think he's wrong.

    These same people also like taking a lot of photos since the advent of compact cameras whose pixel count grows ever higher as time passes thus requiring more memory bandwidth and processor grunt to "enhance" (turd polish in a lot of cases). These same cameras are also starting to garner more processor intensive movie capabilities so I think that the good old netbook may have to change in order to attain this level of market penetration as (limited) browsing and email can be performed by a phone and these other tasks currently require a more substantial machine.

    All in all I think they kind of missed their calling for 90% takeup when they invited MS to the party, sold them as laptop alternatives, got rid of the SSDs, and continually inflated the size.

    1. Code Monkey

      Photo Editing

      I've got a netbook and it's true, photo editing is a royal pain in the cods - so much so that I've gone back to using my desktop to do it.

      I can't speak for every netbook owner but for me the issue is the screen size, not the lack of processor grunt.

      PS from the article ""Although netbooks are small today..." - love it!

      1. The Indomitable Gall

        Re: Photo Editing

        Don't know about yours, but my netbook has an external monitor connection.

        Once they all move from VGA to HDMI you'll even be able to use an HD telly as a 1920x1080 monitor. At that netbook could quite realistically replace the home PC for a massive percentage of the population.

        1. Martin Taylor 1
          Thumb Down


          Splendid - I do miss the days of having my Sinclair Spectrum plugged into the telly! Not sure my wife does, though...

    2. copsewood

      been there done that

      I got a cheap Acer Aspire one SSD with Linux on it because no other OS would have been of any use at all. The limitation isn't the processor, because with X forwarding, offloading processor intensive jobs to be done elsewhere is very easy. For me the limitation is the keyboard and eye and shoulder strain. The keyboard is just large enough to touch type on but not very accurately, which can be a problem in command line mode. I got it because I can't be bothered to lug a large laptop around when I could use mobile computing. It is useful to have the option to use it when I'm traveling, remotely to manage my servers, find a place to visit, check a weather forecast, other occasional web browsing, showing and uploading photos etc. but half an hour a day on this thing is about my limit. Doing this on a lower power ARM chip with longer battery life would make a lot of sense, given all the software I want to use on it is available in source code form and can be recompiled for the more power efficient chip.

      1. john41
        Thumb Up

        The later "basic" Aspire One is much improved

        Bought one last week for £170 + VAT from EBuyer, with XP home, a bigger screen (now 10.5 in.) and generally more "zip" than the £199 + VAT Linux version we got 18 months ago.

  4. Gideon 1
    Dead Vulture

    Come on Reg, get with the story

    The reason ARM are so bullish is not that they'll get some of the peripherals market, but that they will displace Intel Atom from this segment with their ARM Cortex multi-core processors due to much much better battery life.

    1. Charles Manning

      ... and ....

      And size, cost and heat management.

      While Atoms might be low power compared with desktop x86 chips, compared with ARM they are terrible. Atoms boast 4W or so but still need a 6W or so companion chip + all the associated circuitry to make them work. That makes big/heavy/expensive boards, big/heavy/expensive batteries and big/heavy/expensive mechanicals

      The equivalent ARM-based solution is sub-2W and small. That means you don't need as big a power supply section and less thermal management (ie. smaller/lighter/cheaper circuit boards and heat sinks). And a smaller battery will suffice (smaller/lighter/cheaper again). That in turn means smaller/lighter/cheaper mechanicals.

      That's the way electronics is: the payback for reducing size, cost and power consumption is reaped multiple times, not just once.

  5. Philippe

    He has a point in the corporate world

    My company which shall remain nameless has tens of thousand of Desktops and Laptops.

    We just entirely stopped our refresh program with a view to move to netbook and use thin clients type solutions. The hardware cost will be more than half.

    On the go people have a netbook and at the office they plug into a station with keyboard, screen, and mouse and run Windows server 2008 virtualixed.

    A 90% netbook world, nope but a 50% absolutely.

    I for one welcome our new netbook overlord..

  6. RichyS
    Thumb Up

    ARMed and ready

    Woo hoo. Time to dust of my RISC OS floppies...

  7. breakfast Silver badge

    Probably right

    I use my netbook a whole lot- in fact for someone who has been using computers a lot over the last ten years it is good enough for loads of stuff because I have quite a bit of old software - i even use it to play the games that I never got around to finishing back when my regular desktop PC was a similar power to the Atom in my netbook. Obviously, being a proper geek I run linux on it, but wine has consistently impressed me with it's ability to run windows software smoothly.

    You may not want it for clever photo editing, but for basic stuff and typing while you veg out in front of the telly or sit by the fire netbooks are absolutely great and you can always use them for the basic processing and chuck data across to a real computer on a USB hard drive or whatever. Lately my netbook has seen a lot more use than my desktop...

  8. Steve X


    This seems to be a 'prediction' along the same lines as the ones that say since 80% of car journeys could be done in a Fiat Panda powered by a couple of AA batteries, then 80% of all new car sales will soon be tiny electric ones.We all know how likely that is.

    Maybe 90% of personal computer use can be handled by netbooks, but the other 10% can't, so either we'll all have two computers (I have 5 in working order at home, just for two of us) or people will buy decent-sized versatile laptops that are 'portable enough' for all uses.

  9. Gulfie
    Thumb Up

    Why Netbooks?

    I agree with the general thrust of the article here, the majority of people will move to buying consoles for games (cheaper than a big grunt PC) and so you don't need a desktop machine in the house any more. As long as the laptop (of whatever flavour) does the job, people will buy them. Therefore it is logical that the majority of laptops will be of the cheaper variety - but still mainly running Windows.

    I'm not buying any more desktops for my family - my wife has a laptop, I have one, the kids will eventually have one each, and I run a NAS on the home network which gives us all the storage we need. I do have two tower machines, one will be sold as soon as the kids have laptops, the other I will keep to continue playing my Windows games on. Eventually I will wave it goodbye, though. It's expensive and power hungry.

  10. Torben Mogensen

    Screen resolution

    There is no need for netbooks to have inferior screen resolution to "normal" laptops. Smaller screen size, yes, smaller resolution, not necessarily. While most Atom-based netbooks in the past has had only 1024x640 (or less), most modern netbooks or smartbooks sport 1280x720 or better, which is pretty much the same as cheap 15" laptops.

    1. markp 1


      where are you buying these things? i haven't seen any specific "netbook" machines that are higher than WSVGA. you have to reach into "proper subnotebook" territory for significantly higher resolution.


      someone sat in a typical IT department that's just had a delivery of brand spanking new, middle-spec, Windows 7 preinstalled.... and 1024x600 rez netbooks

      have you any idea how tidgy stuff looks at 1280+ resolutions on a sub-12" screen, anyway? Also, 720 pixels high is not enough for the 21st century. Once we get towards 800, then we're talking.

      I'm happy with my 1024 wide BUT 768 high (12") laptop screen by the way. Vertical resolution is FAR more important for a whole range of apps that don't fall within the small range of a/ watching movies (which is what we're all doing on our computers all the time, right?), b/ playing FPS games (big whoop on a netbook) or c/ the latest multi-columnar version of Outlook... which is best at 1366 or wider anyway. This old lump still works fine. I had the option of getting a 1280x720 one when buying it... probably would have dumped that by now.

      Word processing, powerpoint, spreadsheets, internet..... on my two monitor setup, all those live on the secondary, 1280x1024 display. And quite often image editing too, as once you take toolbars into consideration (PARTICULARLY ribbon ones), the remaining workspace is roughly 4:3, 16:9 or 3:2 landscape photo shaped. Office 2007 on a netbook screen is painful to use.

    2. Quirkafleeg


      Resolution is pixel size, not pixel count.

      My EeePC 901 has a higher resolution than my older laptop with its 15.4" 1280x800 panel.

  11. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Put ARM's in the supermarkets - computer distributors want too much money

    I am typing this on a noisy Intel craptop. When I have real work to do, I ssh to an AMD desktop. I would like to upgrade to a silent ARM box that is too cheap to be worth nicking. If they really want my business: standardise laptop sizes so I can upgrade the main board or replace the keyboard or LCD panel with standard parts just like a desktop.

  12. Wolf 1

    He's pushing his product, what did you expect him to say?

    Netbooks serve *1* market. The market that needs a tiny laptop with a (nearly) full-sized keyboard where the size of the netbook outweighs the (massive) disadvantage of a limited screen. 1024x600 is *usually* enough for emergency work...

    That's why I have one. I carry it with me so I can use terminal server to perform admin functions when it's impractical to drive into the office for whatever reason and I happen to be away from home. Add 3G cell-modem access and it's a wonderful (if limited) tool.

    Let's face it. Netbooks *suck* compared to laptops--which suck compared to desktops--except in the one aspect which defines them.

    A laptop is mobile. A netbook is ultra-portable. But those are expensive capabilities because you lose so much to have them.

    Nobody I know would willingly use a netbook as their only system for working an 8 hour day. Very few would use a laptop (always excepting the 17"+ screen monsters that are known as "desktop replacements". :) Those should really be called "hinged all-in-ones" anyway.

  13. Mage Silver badge

    Transcoding Video and Games?

    Minority sports on laptops.

    Consoles is main game market. Serious PC gamers use Desktops so they can change the graphics every 3/6/9 months.

    Likely ARM will have SoC HW transcode support if a market demand. Even quite slow ARM core can do HDTV out by using MPEG HW in its SoC. TV bluRay or HD setboxes only use CPU for "tuning", UI etc, all the "heavy lifting" is DSP HW/Firmware, not general CPU SW.

    x86 isn't going to go away, but MS and Apple (for different reasons) have made x86 less attractive and ARM more acceptable for a Netbook. Some PMPs are almost ARM tablets.

    Since an x86 CPU uses x100 to x400 more transistors than an ARM cpu core, Intel can never ever compete on SoC integration cost and power consumption.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Consumer market, maybe?

    90% of the consumer market might make sense. Consumers don't want to have a desk at home, and a netbook is perfectly suitable for the standard web browsing/email stuff, and cheaper than a laptop. For business purposes though, you want a decent sized screen and keyboard.

  15. olli

    ARM vs. Intel

    Me thinks ARM wants to eat Intel's lunch. The performance of ARM processors is increasing rapidly and ARM knows the SoC business.

    ARM would probably benefit if applications' dependency on single-threaded performance decreased, i.e. if applications were better to utilize multiple processor cores. Why stop at one or two cores in a processor?

    Intel leads the race in single-threaded performance which is great for legacy applications but at a cost (power consumption). Apple's coming iPad uses an ARM-based SoC which includes just about everything except RAM while Intel-based netbooks have multiple chips. Who is the winner in battery life?

  16. Phillip Webster

    When will they actually arrive?

    Been waiting pretty much since the first x86 netbooks were released for ARM versions. Despite repeated encouraging noises from ARM and various manufacturers and plenty of demos at shows there aren't any useful units you can actually buy.

    Apple look to be the first to enter the market with a sensible ARM CPU. Just a shame it has that awful iPhone OS on it (yes, I have an iPod Touch, yes I've used it, yes I still think it's awful and I won't be able to change it on the iPad which kills any usefulness in the device for me).

  17. Ashley Stevens


    If you read what he actually said, it was that the netbook market had room for a lot of innovation. So you people talking about screen resolution of 1024x600 are not getting the point at all. Most people think of a netbook as Intel's definition of a netbook. Intel tells it's customer's what they can and can't make. Atom netbooks are limited to 1024x600 because Intel says so. Atom netbooks can't do HD video or have HDMI out because Intel says so (and that's why they don't like NVIDIA with Ion). ARM and it's partners put no such restrictions on OEMs. It allows them to innovate in form factor. All Atom netbooks are essentially the same. But look at the diversity in smart phone. Now imagine that diversity in ARM-based netbooks. In the Intel world, everyone is forced to make essentially the same thing and compete only on price. The only winner is Intel - the OEM and customers lose (OEM's lose differentiation and revenue, customers lose choice).

    Expect to see ARM-based netbooks in all sorts of form factors, including touch-screen and tablet format. Sure, some of them will flop, but others will fly and it'll be the market that decides which, not Intel. Who knows what the hit format will be?

  18. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Innovation

    Atom netbooks are not limited to 1024 x 600. A number of vendors fit higher-resolution displays - and I don't just mean the ones using Z-series made-for-MID Atoms, either.

    1024 x 600 is commonplace because (a) the panels are cheaper and (b) vendors want to widen the gap between netbooks and notebooks, especially the 11in CULV jobs.

    1. Ashley Stevens

      Re: Innovation

      Well actually it's the screen size that Intel limits not the actual resolution. But that tends to limit resolution in practice to around 1024x600 or 1024x768. You won't find any 14 or 15" Atom machines. And it's not vendors that want to widen the gap between netbook and CULV notebooks, it's Intel. Indeed the whole netbook/notebook distinction is created entirely by Intel marketing. That's the point, Intel defines the product: Netbook, Notebook, or MID. Taiwanese OEM/ODMs make it. End of innovation. Not so with ARM.

  19. Saul Dobney

    Additions not replacements

    Multiple systems, not replacements. There are a lot of us now out there with a number of computers in the family, each for different purposes. Netbooks are sort of like magazines lying around the sofa. A film comes on, you flick over to Rottentomatoes to see if its any good. Or just browse for houses/cars/books/gadgets while the footie is on the TV. Or to save buying the paper in the morning, you just pick up the netbook/iPhone by the bed and flick through the newspaper sites without bothering to get out of bed.

    Cheap. Fast start up. Cool on your lap. Readable resolution for the web. WiFi. Simple to keep charged/long battery life. Don't know if it will be ARM or Intel, but it certainly isn't Windows. And as price is the key (sub $250), I'm not sure that it's Apple either.

  20. Outcast

    Where are they ?

    I just wish they'd hurry up and release the damn things.

  21. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Could be

    If deivices in netbook size get more powerful, you won't want anything more. Many users already don't want to do any more computing than the netbook format allows. Playing videos... they may not even think of doing that. Anyway, sans DVD, my own Fizzbook Spin is still a pretty satisfactory video player. My other wish is speech recognition but I bought Windows XP...

    When Microsoft launched Windows CE which became PocketPC which became Windows Mobile, it may have looked at first as though they didn't get it. Palm was in the market with monochrome stylus screen and good battery lifetime, Microsoft's product was clumsily graphical, in colour, processor hungry, would go maybe through lunch break away from the charge station. But hardware advances predictably would make Microsoft's portable platform tolerable and affordable, erase most of those disadvantages. Palm's line looked doomed and was, even before considering Microsoft's advertising budget, the power of the misapplied Windows name, andsSome Palm goofs customer-satisfaction-wise.

    So likewise, netbooks are gonna grow up without having to grow big. And with touchscreen and speech, bye-bye keyboard. Who wants spend all that time to learn how to give yourself RSI over a working career? And also at home? Should I stick my neck out and predict that in my time, schoolkids won't even learn to write, they'll just dictate into electronic lipreading devices? Maybe not, we did still teach Latin in the UK for about 1500 years after the Roman legions went home... maybe not.

  22. Robert E A Harvey

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    "Desktops, laptops out - small, cheap computers in"

    Please can I have a small, cheap computer with a proper keyboard and a big screen?

  23. Keith Oldham

    Are you taking the pistons ?

    SMALL cheap computer with a proper keyboard and a BIG screen?

    I think you might need the services of Dr Who

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Now you mention it

      The Tardis is the only really desirable bit of technology in the known multiverse.

      I want a cheap one of those too.

  24. Alex Walsh

    It's all about...

    ...the cloud isn't it? I'm sure there's a school of thought (one that I don't necessarily subscribe to I might add), that will see us all using low power (ARM based) netbooks to connect to the new swish Google Docs, use that new game streaming thingy for games and so on and so forth.

  25. markp 1


    is this an effort to try and make a self-fulfilling prophesy? spread the word that all the cool kids are doing it, and all the followers will as well, regardless of whether it's the best idea. it worked for the ipod after all, which was a comparitively naff digital music player at launch despite current shininess.

    i'm quite happy sitting here at my work desktop with twin 1440x900 and 1280x1024 monitors, fairly hefty Core 2 Duo, 4Gb RAM, 3.5" HDD and optical drive hardware, full size keyboard and mouse etc... and my 12" laptop that was, at the time, about the smallest you could buy without spending four figures on a Vaio (needed portability so I could work on cramped trains), and has proven to maybe be an inch too small, but tolerable. I've tried netbooks... they're usable and serve a niche - but 90% of the population? Please. There's probably more than that who'll be pressing bespectacled faces up to the 10" screen trying to make stuff out. 15" laptops with XGA displays are out there. I certainly know that stuff's more suitable and preferred by those of my parents' generation who are becoming large users of IT. Small screens, small keyboards, fiddly touchpads and the need to hunch over quite a bit more than you would with a larger device are not compatible with failing eyesight and mobility. Price difference be damned - if the cost was the only issue, we'd all be using £50 castoffs from eBay and driving around in near-scrap Fiat Cinquecentos.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like