ARM processors dominate tablet architecture

Shipments of tablet PCs powered by RISC-based ARM processors are expected to jump by an impressive 211% Y/Y in 2011 to 59.9 million units.

In contrast, tablet PCs with x86 processors are not expected to experience strong growth until 2013.

 Similarly, Windows 8, which is typically associated with mobile PCs, is not projected to claim significant share until 2013.

Indeed, the emergence of Amazon as a tablet hardware vendor introduces even more non-Windows and non-x86 thinking into the tablet PC ecosystem – forcing players like Microsoft and Intel to “catch up” to the fast-paced evolution of consumer computing.

“The tablet PC and notebook PC markets are on a collision course as both product categories continue to evolve and improve on their respective weaknesses,” explained DisplaySearch senior analyst Richard Shim.

“As such, each product category will influence the other over time. Still, the incumbent platforms have inherent advantages in the early years.”

According to Shim, an increasing number of vendors will challenge Apple for a share of the lucrative tablet market by experimenting with various platforms and form factors. 

Meanwhile, PC brands are likely to gravitate toward the familiar Wintel paradigm – although some will branch out towards the ARM platform as well.

“Although several processor architectures could be used to power tablet SoCs, the rich software ecosystem of the ARM architecture built around smartphones is proving to be a key differentiating factor,” said Jim McGregor, Chief Technology Strategist for In-Stat.

“Unlike notebook and netbook PCs, where consumers have chosen products based on the processor or PC vendor, consumers of new mobile devices care more about what they can do with the devices, which is associated more with the device applications and services… [Clearly], the developer community and the apps they create play a significant role in the success of any emerging platform.”