ARM takes on Intel in 64-bit chip market

By Derek du Preez
28 Oct 2011 View Comments

UK chip designer ARM has released details of its new ARMv8 architecture, which for the first time will support 64-bit processing.

This is a strategic move fromCambridge-based ARM that will see it take on chip giants Intel and AMD, both of which are dominant in the 64-bit market.

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The adoption of 64-bit design will enable ARM to support larger devices, such as servers, whereas its focus until now has been on the mobile market, which utilises 32-bit chips.

"ARM's designs pretty much rule the mobile world now and they are in most smartphones and tablets," said Michael Azoff, analyst at Ovum.

"With this 64-bit announcement it is attempting to move on up into bigger devices and take on the established players," he added.

"Operating systems now commonly run on 64-bit based servers, as these allow better access to memory and have higher bandwidth."

Azoff suggests that this announcement points to deals being done with Apple and Microsoft. "By entering the 64-bit market, ARM is essentially revealing its closed talks with these big players," said Azoff.

"Windows 8 is a 64-bit operating system and Microsoft will essentially support not only Intel, but ARM as well. It has also got an agreement with Apple, where it is going to replace Intel with ARM chips," he added.

ARM has been successful in the mobile market because its current 32-bit chips are far more efficient on power consumption than those offered by Intel or AMD.

Azoff suggests that if ARM was to replicate this in 64-bit chips, then Intel and AMD will be forced to up their game to compete effectively.

"ARM has ruled the roost on mobile devices because it is very good on power consumption," he said.

"For Intel and AMD that's the challenge – to compete on a like-for-like basis," he added.

"I expect this will happen. It's not going to be ARM all the way, the competition will be there. Also, from Microsoft's point of view, they aren't going to just abandon Intel".

Microsoft also expressed support for ARM's announcement by branding it a "significant development".

"ARM is an important partner for Microsoft. We look forward to witnessing this technology's potential to enhance future ARM-based solutions," said KD Hallman, general manager, Microsoft.

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