ARM and Intel gear up for chip war of attrition

ARM’s power-conscious RISC chips remain on track to claim a sizable chunk of the traditional notebook PC market over the next few years.

While ARM processor performance is unlikely to match Intel’s raw x86 capabilities for at least a year or  two, next-gen ARM CPUs are already considered powerful enough to drive a wide range of PCs running Windows 8 and other operating systems. 

ARM also currently dominates the lucrative smartphone and tablet segments, which Intel has thus far been incapable of penetrating.

As such, industry sources tell DigiTimes Intel will likely face its “biggest crisis yet” from ARM in 2013 – if Santa Clara is “unable to successfully cut into the smartphone and the tablet PC markets, while defending the notebook market with its Ultrabooks.”

According to the Times, Intel is working to improve the power consumption of its x86 processors, while ARM is focused on enhancing chip performance.

“Since ARM is cooperating with Microsoft, and Intel with Google, multiple choices means a single platform will no longer dominate the market,” the Times reported.

“[And] competition will also force the upstream giants to provide a wider range of options to their downstream partners.”

As AppleInsider’s Sam Oliver points out, Apple originally attempted to design the wildly popular iPad around Intel’s x86 Atom chips, but eventually opted for a customized RISC-based ARM processor. 

It is also worth noting that Apple recently warned Intel it would move away from x86 chips in Macs if the company did not significantly improve power consumption – a threat Intel execs termed a “real wake-up call.”