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July 28, 2011

ARM, Windows 8 to Power Future Notebooks, says IHS

After more than 30 years of domination by Intel’s X86 microarchitecture, the PC microprocessor unit (MPU) market is finally set for some real competition. A new study by market research firm IHS iSuppli shows that shipments of ARM (News - Alert) processors is predicted to surge in the coming years as it is projected to appear in nearly one out of every four notebook PCs made in 2015.

Spurred by next year’s introduction of Microsoft (News - Alert) Corp.’s new ARM-enabled Windows 8 operating system, ARM-based systems will account for 22.9 percent of global notebook PC unit shipments in 2015, up from 3 percent in 2012, according to HIS. Consequently, shipments will reach 74 million ARM notebooks in 2015, compared to 7.6 million in 2012, as per the new IHS study entitled “Desktop and Notebook PC Technology Penetration Forecast.”

“Starting in 1981, when IBM (News - Alert) first created its original PC based on Intel’s 8088 microprocessor, the X86 architecture has dominated the PC market,” said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst of computer platforms for IHS. “Over the next generation, billions of PCs were shipped based on X86 microprocessors supplied by Intel and assorted rivals—mainly Advanced Micro Devices (News - Alert) Inc. However, the days of X86’s unchallenged domination are coming to an end as Windows 8 opens the door for the use of the ARM processor, which already has achieved enormous popularity in the mobile phone and tablet worlds.”

To be introduced in 2012, Windows 8 is expected to support ARM-based PC systems in some versions. Microsoft at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES (News - Alert)) in January announced that Windows 8 would work with ARM-based system-on-chip (SoC) designs, whereas the company’s flagship operating system has supported only standalone X86 microprocessors in the past. ARM support will enable the full-fledged Windows PC operating system to work on highly integrated chips that are more space- and power-efficient than traditional X86 microprocessors, such as the ARM devices used in smartphones and media tablets, according to the analyst.

During the next few years, ARM is expected to achieve its biggest successes in the value notebook segment. Typically priced at less than $700, value notebooks are designed to deliver the optimal price/performance to consumers. A category that includes netbooks, value notebooks most frequently employ AMD's E Series and Intel's Celeron M and Atom microprocessors.

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Ashok Bindra is a veteran writer and editor with more than 25 years of editorial experience covering RF/wireless technologies, semiconductors and power electronics. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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