"The smartphone isnt that smart….They use ARM"

Posted on 22 October 2008, Last updated on 26 October 2008 by

No prizes for guessing what company said that! ZDnet highlights it with "Intel slams ‘slow’ iPhone ARM CPU.Gizmodo follows up. Engadget too (along with a lot of comments) and now it’s reached the front page of Techmeme. Oops!

I’m all behind Intel for their work in squashing the X86 architecture down to smartphone-sized levels with Moorestown and there’s an element of truth in the fact the the iPhone is underpowered for Internet apps but the way I see it is that it’s not really about CPUs anymore and as such, it comes across rather uncool to focus on it, especially when your partners are behind schedule on getting mobile Internet devices out of the door and you still have work to do to reach smartphone levels of power efficiency.

Both ARM and Intel have reached similar (consumer acceptable) territory in terms of watt/performance [*1] with their respective core architectures and yes, Intel’s solutions are probably more powerful and will definitely be attractive to the power-user but that’s a tiny part of the equation that goes together to make a thrilling consumer device. Intel’s main task now is about the integration of the CPU, GPU, controllers and radios into the smallest space possible with the highest platform efficiency. Both ARM and Intel’s ecosystem is highly capable of achieving that but there’s even more to consider. Industrial design,marketing and most importantly, software.

Intel are betting on one of the most fragmented software environments out there – Linux. They want to create a new, mobile-focused stack with it and surround it with quality ISVs. ARM’s partners want to use Linux too but they already have well-supported stacks with the same ISVs and big dev communities around them to. To drive a new Linux stack you need control, lead (in-house, paid, full-time) developers, Linux distribution partners and, if you want to take advantage of the existing application base, the skills of the people that wrote them. That means you need to be Linux-geek-cool and you need to show the dev community that you are a caring, sharing type. You also need to have an easy channel for them. An app, store. It’s critical now, not only for the developers, but to enable an important revenue stream in e-commerce for Intel and the partners. Moblin doesn’t have either of those two elements. Highlighting your advantages is one thing but making statements that attack the other side (where some of your community sits) won’t win you any hearts in the open-source world.

To be fair, I wasn’t there and haven’t been able to hear the comments in context and having interviewed Pankaj Kedia a few times, I know that he knows what he’s talking about. Add Steve Jobs’ recent comments into the mix and the stones that came from the ARM camp a few months ago and you can understand why these comments happen. Intel’s ultra mobile products are good and getting better and there may even be an Apple product in the works that gives Intel this confidence but when I hear comments like this, it just sounds cheap.

*1 The latest ARM-based devices have almost closed the 9-second penalty I demonstrated a year ago. See this article about the Archos 5.

Update. Intel has corrected its comments in a statemnet here.

1 Comments For This Post

  1. focus says:

    The power of iPHONE has almost nothing to do with his processor,proof:a lot of devices with powerful arm processors,or far more powerful like ARCHOS,that meant for consumers almost nothing!

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