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Pocket Wars and Cores 159

Posted by timothy
from the shadow-conspiracy-of-armand-hammer dept.
An anonymous reader writes "If I were to ask you what is the most popular processor used in phones and pads, and you said, 'ARM,' you would be correct. Now comes the trick question, 'Who make ARM processors?' Not the ARM Holdings company. They design processors and license their designs to manufacturers. They also have a reputation for creating very low power designs. Interestingly, while almost everyone else was out ramping clocks and power consumption (until they hit a wall), ARM was chugging along addressing the low power end of the market. Now that low-power is all the rage, due to phones and pads, ARM has become quite a bit more popular."
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Pocket Wars and Cores

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  • by neurocutie (677249) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @04:55AM (#35427570)

    ok, so?
    (qualcomm, intel, samsung, marvell, etc.)

  • Wrong logo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by treeves (963993) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @04:58AM (#35427578) Homepage Journal

    Why the Intel logo for this story? They're ones who do *not* make ARM processors, ever since they sold that business to Marvell (oops). I guess the TI logo isn't as cool.

    • by mcvos (645701)

      Why the Intel logo for this story?

      Because it's about processors, and processors means Intel. Duh.

      (I've always rooted for ARM against Intel since the early '90s. The Risc PC, the StrongARM, etc.)

      • by symbolset (646467) *
        I may be mistaken, but I do believe that Intel holds through acquisition not just one, but two ARM licenses they haven't divested yet. And there's no ARM logo. Yet.
        • by JWSmythe (446288)

          ARM [arm.com] does have a logo. It's just rather plain. typing it out is close enough. Maybe they're going with elegance in simplicity, even in their logo. :)

    • by TonyJohn (69266)
      Intel's aquisitions may be changing that. See their quote on this recent press release [arm.com].
  • by mukund (163654) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @05:01AM (#35427584) Homepage

    I had always loved Slashdot, but is there any alternative community run site without the Slashvertisements?

    • alterslash.org
    • I've almost completely given up on it. I've stopped reading the articles, not because of lack of interest but because they never point towards the original source anymore. In fact what they link to also rarely even link to the original source. I've taken to just reading the comments waiting to see if some inquisitive poster has tracked it down.

      The editors purposefully manipulate whats posted usually to increase the hyperbole but often are outright lies. In some case the posts are so warped that they say the

      • That is why ArsTechnica is on my daily list.

        If you come to /. you should realise that many stories summaries seem to be designed as flames. Once you realise that you know to do you own research on the side, if the story matters at all.

    • by kwerle (39371)

      I, too, would like to find a place where the editors edit. Maybe even research a little. And where they don't comment in the stories. Where non-stories don't get posted. I mean - this is /. You would think that an editor could pick up the phone and actually call the subject of a story on rare occasion and maybe get a little insight into what is really going on.

      Oh, and a site that doesn't end up slashdotting the subject without warning.

      I use
      * http://www.foresight.org/nanodot/ [foresight.org] for nano tech news
      * http:// [macrumors.com]

    • by Iskender (1040286) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @09:01AM (#35428468)

      I think it's rather the constant shouting of "slashvertisement" that's getting old.

      Take a second look at this story:
      -It links to some Linux site or other which is certainly not ARM.
      -The article actually explains something quite insightful about the way ARM is advancing. Sure, some might have known this, but those who want to complain about that should realize that the discussion would be pretty shitty here if everyone was completely ignorant in advance. Do you ask the world what's wrong every time you hear something you already know?
      -There's the interesting point that you can't get a Windows desktop on ARM, and in the future when you can most probably won't want it either.
      -It's a story about a successful Intel competitor being even more successful (because face it, Intel wants to make every processor on Earth).

      Hell, there's no end to interesting things in connection with this. It's a story about something that's changing which could change a lot of things, possibly for the better. I'd ask what's wrong with you rather than what's wrong with Slashdot.

  • by rcs1000 (462363) * <rcs1000@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @05:11AM (#35427612)

    ...makes out

    There are many, many makers of ARM based 'application processors' and the like: Texas Instruments, Samsung, Apple, ST Microelectronics, nVidia to name but a few. In addition, some people - like Qualcomm with their Snapdragon processor - have licensed the instruction set from ARM, but then have basically built their own core around that.

    The nice thing about ARM is that - if you are looking to embed processing power - you can license a core (or two), design them into your own chip and then make it. Said chip can also include a USB controller, or a wireless baseband, or whatever. Intel will not sell you an x86 core for you to design into your own chip; ARM will.

    Now: before this thread descends into meaningless ARM versus Intel rivalry, can I point out that the two architectures are optimized for entirely different situations. To say ARM is better than Intel, is like saying a bicycle is better than a ship - it's not a meaningful comparison. If you want to embed processing functionality, or you want low-power (particularly low standby power), then you need ARM. If you need raw processing power, optimised to run desktop or server operating systems, then you'll be wanting x86.

    And the reason why x86 is so power hungry? It's because it's on big bits of silicon. And why's it on big bits of silicon? Because it support hyper-threading, out-of-order executon, has hardware virtualisation extensions, has extensive branch prediction, and tonnes of on chip cache.

    There is no reason why ARM cannot offer all of these things too (and their Eagle design goes some way to do this). But if you want to do this, then your chip is going to get bigger, and more expensive, and more power hungry.

    Over the next five years, we are going to continue to see mobility become more important: and that means more and more ARM cores, and a diminution of the importance of the traditional PC market. ARM has a very bright future - but, I suspect, it will probably have a great deal of trouble getting into the traditional PC space.

    • by KiloByte (825081) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @05:41AM (#35427712)

      A single amd64 core can emulate an arm core from about the same market segment via qemu. A cross-compile which on my lousy $400 6 core desktop takes 44 seconds needs 132 minutes natively on 1 core n900. For any activity that actually needs CPU power, x86 chips are not going away. If something replaces them, it'd be something designed for speed -- rather than 8086 compatibility or low power.

      Yet, for most daily uses, you don't need much CPU power. We got so used to "Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away" that most people forget they ran software with about the same functionality ten years ago on machines a hundred times slower. Dropping some of worst software bloat can get us a really long way.

      • most people forget they ran software with about the same functionality ten years ago on machines a hundred times slower. Dropping some of worst software bloat can get us a really long way.

        Indeed. My phone actually kicks my netbook in the teeth when it comes to video playback, as well as power consumption. A modest processor with decent graphics hardware is all you need for basic multimedia, web browsing and such.

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          For a fair comparison you should also include the screen sizes of the two devices, particularly the resolution.

          An average smart phone is doing something like 320x480 pixels; an average netbook (say a 1000-series EEEPC) is more like 1024x600 pixels: four times as many.

          Also a smart phone is likely to be more specialised, and it could well be that they have built-in video decoding hardware. Also I don't know much about code paths but it seems to me that video is a quite linear and highly predictable code pat

          • My smartphone runs at 800x480, netbook is 1024x600. Still more pixels, but the phone easily plays fullscreen 720p videos at a nice smooth framerate, while if I try to watch HD video on my netbook I get something crazy like 1fps.

            I think the video decoding hardware is the important part yes, as my netbook is pre-ION. But it shows how the processor isn't always the most important factor, and like I said "a modest processor with decent graphics hardware is all you need" for average home use.

      • If that surplus processing power could be harnessed it would be a different story, but Windows isn't up to that task.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        If intel is right and the future includes boatloads of cores then you'll just make -j128 or something and you'll get it done in approximately the same time... if you have SSD and a big fat block cache.

        • by KiloByte (825081)

          Not really since in this example link itself takes more than 10 minutes and can't be parallelized.

          Most of current software is woefully single-threated too. I can't really think of any thing other than compilation (with makefiles that allow -j6) which uses more than one core. At most, it's decompression (a small portion of a core) feeding a thread that uses 100% of another, or something in this vein.

          "Nine women can't make a baby in one month" -- Fred Brooks

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            I can't really think of any thing other than compilation (with makefiles that allow -j6) which uses more than one core.

            Basically everything that really needs to be multithreaded is (or at least it's multiprocess.) Video encoding, 3d rendering, games, even apache runs multiple processes (on Unix, thread creation is [relatively] expensive and process creation is cheap; on Windows the reverse is true.) Everything except for your program with a single source file, which you should break up so that it will parallelize. If the program is so big and complex that it takes that long to compile surely there must be logical ways to pa

      • Yet, for most daily uses, you don't need much CPU power. We got so used to "Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away" that most people forget they ran software with about the same functionality ten years ago on machines a hundred times slower. Dropping some of worst software bloat can get us a really long way.

        I have a nearly 6 year old Dell laptop running Windows XP. For fun, I put a demo license of Windows 7 on it and found that Windows 7 actually runs faster than XP on it. Not only that, but I get the full Aer

        • by KiloByte (825081)

          Are you sure we are talking about the same Windows 7?

          XP runs barely on 64MB, adequately for small tasks on 256MB, ok on 512MB.
          7 runs barely on 512MB, adequately for small tasks on 2GB, ok on 4GB.
          Let's not even mention Vista...

          There are reasons for running 7: some hardware, especially shitty laptops, doesn't get drivers for XP. Also, XP 64 is a bad joke, meaning you can't use more than ~3GB due to sketchy PAE support. None of these matter for old boxes, though.

          There's no excuse to skimp on memory on new sy

          • my 7yro desktop has a gig of ram so for light tasks would be sifficient.. I'd expect it to be faster for 2 reasons (1) MS has had nearly a decade of research in tweaking the OS kernel. (2) Aggressive optimizations on low-end hardware to support Atom. Vosta was laughed at for being sluggish in netbooks. W7 addresses this. Strip out the bloat, tune windows services and yes old hardware should fly with sufficient ram.

          • by Shados (741919)

            [blockquote]7 runs barely on 512MB, adequately for small tasks on 2GB, ok on 4GB.[blockquote]

            Ok, thats not 64mb of RAM, but...

            http://phoenixmatrix.com/devblog/post/2009/07/05/A-story-of-Windows-7-and-memory-usage.aspx [phoenixmatrix.com]

            It works perfectly well for "small" tasks like this too. My netbook that i use everyday, with Aero on, to do everything except gaming and software development is on 1 GB. You do NOT need 2 GB for small tasks.

  • Since most of us don't need the mobile device to continue functioning after heavy usage for more than maybe 48 hours, ARM has also hit a wall with how much lower power consumption is needed.
    • I'm guessing here, but you live in a place where watts are cheap and reliable, right? Did you know most of the rest of the world isn't like that?
    • by dtmos (447842) *

      ARM has also hit a wall with how much lower power consumption is needed.

      This is a line of reasoning I've been fighting most of my career.

      Lower power consumption is always needed. In a battery-powered, portable device, energy use is use of a limited resource and, therefore, is never low enough. Even if "most of us don't need the mobile device to continue functioning after heavy usage for more than maybe 48 hours" -- a statement of dubious validity -- the energy saved in performing feature set X can be used to perform additional features, features that may be used to competitiv

  • by NuShrike (561140) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @05:29AM (#35427666)

    ARM derived from the ideas of MOS and WDC (the 6502 and descendents) to make a low-power, efficient processor without fancy overheads.

    Remember the rumors when the Apple II flirted with using ARM cpus toward the end of the line when Jobs was herding the company heavily toward Motorola and the 68K? Well the II line died with that, and so went any disruptive chances. Then strangely, it sorta came back again in the Newton, but Jobs killed that when he got the chance again while flirting with the PowerPC.

    Then suddenly, Jobs embraced the ARM the next time around in the iPod and then later the iPhone (one-upping Sony in CE), and things have been going swimmingly for them.

    Meanwhile, others picked up ARM for portable game devices, PDAs, and WinMob phones. It evolved slowly and not very well -- poor graphics drivers, poor OS/hardware implementations, hardware cycles focused on selling hardware, not the experience, etc.

    Then the Jobs and iPhone said, "only the best combination of ARM cpu and graphics hardware for us. No more cheaping out to hardware designers for years like you guys have been doing", and boom explodes the market.

    Companies are falling over themselves to make the best ARM hardware they can, although some are still missing the forest for the trees like Samsung. Others dumped the market because they thought it had no money like Intel's (formerly DEC's) Xscale(StrongARM) and ATI's Imageon graphics division (now Qualcomm's) and got caught with the pants down and what are now important toe-holds.

    Nvidia whom only abortively were in the market and missed a cycle with the Tegra and half of it with Tegra 2, but seems to be holding their own. Imagination as PowerVR was pushed out of the PC market by Nvidia and ATI but flips it and now dominates as the best and reference hardware for mobile graphics over "newcomers" Nvidia/ATI. Funny enough, ATI's Adreno (from the former Bitboys) got recycled by Qualcomm into something that still viable after a stretch of horrible MSM720x hardware. Apple knowing they need to one-up these old-school houses, got PA-Semi and Intrinsity, fabbed by Samsung to own their own supply line for this critical hardware.

    Ya this story just wonders what could've happened if Jobs wasn't so obstinate and denied using the ARM long ago.

    • Re:Revenge of ARM (Score:5, Informative)

      by White Flame (1074973) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @05:38AM (#35427700)

      ARM-based CPUs owned the cell phone market long before Apple. Even back when Palm owned the PDA market, everything was shifting to ARM away from the mixed market that included MIPS and Super-H.

      Now, while your claim that Apple's embrace of the "experience" instead of just raw features might have some merit in changing the consumer landscape, I don't think they had any affect on ARM's presence in that market. They already had it.

      • by Salvo (8037)

        ARM development had stagnated; Hardware Manufacturers wanted cheap chips and were hesitant about pumping any more funds into R&D.
        The original iPhone had a 1176JZ underclocked to 412 MHz and still blew away other handsets. The 3GS had a Cortex A8 and once again set the pace for the rest of the industry to catch up.

      • by Alioth (221270)

        ARM already had it thanks to Apple: when Apple chose the ARM for the Newton, other companies started taking ARM seriously and began to use it too.

        This comes directly from Steve Furber and Sophie Wilson, the designers of the ARM (both of whom I've had the pleasure of meeting).

    • by itsdapead (734413)

      Remember the rumors when the Apple II flirted with using ARM cpus toward the end of the line when Jobs was herding the company heavily toward Motorola and the 68K?

      Eh? The ARM might have been a contender for the last, education-only, gasps of the Apple II line, but Apple had committed to the 68K (with Lisa and then the Mac) back in the early 80s when the ARM was still a twinkle in Wilson & Furbers eyes.

      It might have been a viable alternative to the PPC, though - that would have been interesting, but I fear it would have eventually hit the same problem: the chipmakers not keeping up with the brute-force Intel megahertz wars on the desktop because their main inter

      • I'm pretty sure a powerpc would spank an ARM on every benchmark so was never a consideration for PowerMacs.

        • by itsdapead (734413)

          I'm pretty sure a powerpc would spank an ARM on every benchmark

          If you're talking about a G5 vs. your cellphone, of course - but an early-1990s desktop ARM chip vs. a early-1990s PPC would be a more interesting contest. Remember, ARM started out as a desktop chip - the first Acorn ARM systems in the late 80s smoked the competition (but, no DOS, no deal). Later they made the smart decision to focus on the mobile/low power market and leave the desktop to Intel space-heaters.

          It would partly have been up to Apple to take the ARM core and team up with a chipmaker to specif

          • no, i meant even back then. Riscos had a scientific niche - a friend bought one for math computation but as a general cpu apple needed more. Powerpc was desigmed explicitly for the AIM alliance to deliver a high performance desktop chip for running photoshop. I'm sure Apple would've evaluated arm back then as a replacement for 68k.

        • I doubt it would win on performance per watt. Freescale and IBM didn't seem to care about that. IBM made it clear they just wanted to concrete or sheer processing capability. I suspect that was one if the reasons Apple moved to Intel - well that and cost.

          • ok, maybe not *every* benchmark. :)Still, ibm's g3 boasted fair battery life compared to moto and intel offerings at the time eg ibook g3 had better battery life than powerbook g4. It was when they married altivec onto a server chip for the g5 that mobility was sacrificed.

            Early netbooks had a performance perhaps comparable to a g3? I suspect if someone released today a multicore powerpc soc it would spank atom in meego performance.

    • Then strangely, it sorta came back again in the Newton, but Jobs killed that when he got the chance again while flirting with the PowerPC.

      Then suddenly, Jobs embraced the ARM the next time around in the iPod and then later the iPhone (one-upping Sony in CE), and things have been going swimmingly for them.

      That's quite a carnival mirror you're peering into. Apple was a founding partner in setting up ARM in 1990 [ot1.com].

      • by NuShrike (561140)

        I appreciate your correction.

        However, the Apple II line ended in the '90s and I think Apple had a chance to dig into CE outside of the PC wars with the Apple II and ARM at the time. They had a huge mindshare in schools at the time and could've leveraged it into something. But Jobs was against the perception of Apple products being fun, "toys" or for gaming.

        Maybe it was a proper Darwinian death.

    • Be careful to not confuse 'apple' and 'pc' with the entire processor market. There is a huge market for microprocessors and ARM is just the most successful, mainly because of their excellent lineup of developer tools. The power efficiency came second.

      Think about it, are there more microwaves in the world, or more PCs? I don't know the answer, but every one of those microwaves have a microprocessor. There are lots of uses for microprocessors. The Apple Newton was only ever a small sliver of the microproce
      • by Guy Harris (3803)

        Be careful to not confuse 'apple' and 'pc' with the entire processor market. There is a huge market for microprocessors and ARM is just the most successful, mainly because of their excellent lineup of developer tools. The power efficiency came second. Think about it, are there more microwaves in the world, or more PCs? I don't know the answer, but every one of those microwaves have a microprocessor.

        Yes, but is it a big fancy high-end super-powered sophisticated !!!!!!32-BIT!!!111ONE!!!!! ARM, or is it some lower-end 16-bit or 8-bit microcontroller? I suspect there's a huge market for microprocessors that make ARMs look like mainframe processors.

  • ....they went to extremities with the appendages . Give 'em a hand for getting a leg up !
  • by cimetmc (602506) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @07:15AM (#35428018)
    Back in 2004 I've read a quite interresting article on ARM. http://news.cnet.com/The-unheralded-monopoly/2010-1006_3-5262581.html [cnet.com] As you can see, the strong position of the ARM is not new, maybe just a bit more visible these days.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @07:47AM (#35428138) Homepage

    I read through the article and found it very informative. One thing I didn't realize was that Microsoft will not do Windows 7 mobile on ARM.

    That was a surprising statement. I googled on it and found this:

    http://www.xbitlabs.com/news/other/display/20090603123741_Microsoft_Windows_7_Will_Not_Support_ARM_Microprocessors.html [xbitlabs.com]

    This article says "Micrsoft does not believe ARM can deliver the performance needed." To that I wonder "why is everyone else able to make amazing performance happen with ARM???"

    Every time I hear another Microsoft shill claim "but this is not Windows, it is entirely new from the ground up" I have to chuckle a little. If that were true, then they wouldn't have any problem getting performance out of low-power hardware if they designed their OS with that in mind "from the ground up." The truth of the matter is that Microsoft simply can't get away from its legacy code and rebuild from scratch. I shouldn't say they can't -- I should say they are unwilling. Apple did it when they went with OSX. A completely new OS and while the transition was painful for users and developers, it was the right choice. I have been saying for nearly a decade that Microsoft should do the same... others have too... but they simply choose not to at every opportunity.

    This whole scenario gives me a better understanding of why Windows Mobile isn't catching on even with hard core MS fans. The "desktop experience" doesn't fit in your hand and they simply don't know how to do it any other way.... (Or maybe they are afraid to since MS Bob...)

    • by ElephanTS (624421)

      I shouldn't say they can't -- I should say they are unwilling.

      I totally agree with the MS problem but I think they can't. Ten years ago they should have got away from everything that Windows had become and start again but they were too scared they would lose their base customers on the way. It shows they were insecure about their product and thought that it was a success they couldn't repeat again - too dependent on a naive market. Instead they came up with the compromise way forward (fix it - let's make Vi

      • I think Win8 for ARM devices will approach this... with .Net (managed code) a lot more common, switching out the underlying architecture becomes much less problematic, and far easier for application developers to tweak for portability to the new platform. See what Mono, Moonlight etc for some examples, though not from MS, the concepts can be very similar.
    • by TonyJohn (69266)
      Not sure what you mean by "Windows 7 Mobile" given:
      - Windows Mobile - has long supported ARM, but has no version 7.
      - Windows Phone 7 - only supports ARM.
      - Windows CE - supports ARM.

      The only thing that doesn't support ARM is "big" Windows 7, and this is changing:
      http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2011/jan11/01-05socsupport.mspx [microsoft.com]

    • no, The article (18 months old) says Windows 7 won't be supported on arm: Microsoft Corp., whose Windows operating system is installed onto the vast majority of PCs, said that the next-generation Windows 7 OS will not support ARM chips since Microsoft believes that they would not provide adequate performance. ARM microprocessors are still supported by Windows Mobile operating system,
    • by SheeEttin (899897)

      This article says "Micrsoft does not believe ARM can deliver the performance needed." To that I wonder "why is everyone else able to make amazing performance happen with ARM???"

      Because it'd have to run Windows?

    • by jafac (1449)

      Well, it seemed like a simple exercise for them to port back and forth to PPC when they maintained an nt kernel and migrated xbox to xbox 360. But by then, PPC had changed from a pure RISC architecture to a completely different animal anyway. (ironic how Apple migrated the opposite direction at about the same time, pretty much with similar ease, based on maintenance of legacy NeXT x86 code they had in their back pocket. . . I'll say that my 8 year old dual G5 may be slow compared to a brand new Power Mac,

    • Apple did it when they went with OSX. A completely new OS

      Completely new ... in the mid-80s when it was called NextStep. (Program a NeXT and then transition to OS X -- you'll see what I mean.) It might have been completely new to the Macintosh user/dev communities, but it was actually a pretty old OS (~15 years or so) by the time OS X shipped as the default OS on Macs (2002). And, it still had the "blue box," the Classic layer, and the Carbon APIs. (The NextStep/Sun APIs are Cocoa.)

  • News flash: ARM designs low-performance processors that are also lower power!

    Seriously, Slashdot? This is news?

    And now ARM is going after high clock rates with deep pipelines. They'll end up with microarchitectures that are are more or less equivalent to x86 ones. Oh, and they're well behind the game when it comes to important architecture features like 64 bit. A 32 bit "server" architecture is a laughable concept.

    The real thing that ARM has that x86 doesn't? You can license their core and put it

  • I have a number of applications where I want a low powered "desktop" form factor. That probably means Mini-ITX or something like that. The canonical example? A home file server. It's not in use 90% of the time, and I'd like my power bill to go down and the heat load to go down. A chip with a super low power standby mode would be nice.

    Unfortunately Intel chips don't get that power sippy even when speed-stepped down. VIA makes some semi-interesting chips, but they seem to be integrated with a bunch of f

    • by TeknoHog (164938)

      I have a number of applications where I want a low powered "desktop" form factor. That probably means Mini-ITX or something like that. The canonical example? A home file server. It's not in use 90% of the time, and I'd like my power bill to go down and the heat load to go down. A chip with a super low power standby mode would be nice.

      teknohog@kasj ~ $ uname -a
      Linux kasj 2.6.35.11 #5 Mon Feb 7 08:11:45 EET 2011 armv5tel Feroceon 88FR131 rev 1 (v5l) Buffalo LS-XHL Series GNU/Linux

Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.

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