ARM RISC chips to erode x86 market share

A prominent industry analyst has confirmed that ARM’s RISC-based chips remain on track to claim a sizable chunk of the lucrative notebook PC market by 2015.

According to IHS principal analyst Matthew Wilkins, RISC-powered ARM processors will ship in nearly one out of every four notebook PCs (22.9%) by 2015.

Unsurprisingly, the projected jump in market share for ARM is directly linked to Microsoft’s upcoming RISC-friendly Windows 8 operating system.

“Starting in 1981, when IBM first created its original PC based on Intel’s 8088 microprocessor, x86 architecture [has maintained its] domination [of] the PC market,” Wilkins explained in an industry note sent to TG Daily.

“Over the next generation, billions of PCs were shipped based on x86 microprocessors supplied by Intel and assorted rivals – mainly AMD. 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.”

Indeed, 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.

As such, noted Wilkins, ARM will likely achieve its “biggest successes” in the value notebook segment over the next few years.

“ARM is well-suited for value notebooks, where performance isn’t [necessarily] a key criterion for buyers,” he said.

“Value notebook buyers are looking for basic systems that balance an affordable price with reasonable performance. ARM processors deliver acceptable performance at a very low cost, along with unrivaled power efficiency.”

As expected, the proliferation of ARM-based notebooks will provide a number of opportunities for various RISC chip designers, including Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments (TI).

Nevertheless, Wilkins emphasized that neither Intel nor AMD are likely to cede market share “without a fight.”

For example, Intel is developing its Tri-Gate 3-D transistor technology, which allows x86 microprocessors to cut their power consumption in half while still delivering the same level of performance.

“This potentially will help Intel to maintain its position in PC processors, but also may allow it to expand its x86 business into tablets and cellphones… Likewise, AMD has been working to reduce power consumption for its x86 devices,” Wilkins added.