Mobile Wars: Intel says it is ready to take on ARM 

Intel is preparing to wage an epic battle against ARM’s current domination of the smartphone and tablet markets. 

Yes, the chip giant is well armed with a multi-billion dollar war chest, x86 architecture and Moore’s Law.

But is Intel’s arsenal – while certainly formidable – sufficient to challenge popular ARM-based devices such as Apple’s iPad or Motorola’s Droid smartphone?

Well, Intel believes that its Atom (x86) processor is more than ready to successfully take on ARM in both the smartphone and tablet markets. 

Indeed, an Intel spokesperson told TG Daily that the company’s versatile Atom chips bring a full, “PC-like experience” to the mobile world, with fast Internet, smooth multitasking, full 1080 HD video, 3D graphics and streamlined voice calling.

“The Atom processor uses a versatile low-power design, giving it broad potential for a range of new markets,” explained the spokesperson.

“The high-performance Atom [also offers] the ability to run a complete and growing number of apps and software – including Windows, Android and MeeGo.”

According to the spokesperson, Atom chips are fabbed with unique transistor and manufacturing techniques that are conspicuously absent in competing processors.

“[For example], specific to the new Atom platform (Moorestown), [we] implemented several architecture, chip design and manufacturing process techniques to drop platform idle power by a factor of 50x and active power by 2-3x.”

The spokesperson also noted that Intel had executed a range of additional enhancements on Atom’s architectural front, including:

  • New SoC power states (S0i1, S0i3) – Enables the platform to remain active at ultra low power states.
Next-gen OS power management – An OS directed, usage model based technique to manage platform idle power.
Support for low power handheld I/O – LP DDR1, LP Audio, MIPI, SDIO, USB and NAND.
Optimized SpeedStep technology – Facilitates a broad CPU range while maintaining low power.

Hardware accelerators – Delivers higher performance at lower power for such capabilities as video decode/encode, imaging and audio.

“And on the design front, Intel made several [optimizations] to the Atom core and implemented aggressive clock and power gating across the power islands and voltage supply rails,” said the spokesperson.

“[Plus, we included a] dedicated MSIC [that] helps manage power delivery at the system level and consolidates a number of previously distributed analog and digital components. [In addition, we] used a new High-K 45nm LP SoC process which reduces leakage by up to 60% while maintaining high performance.” 

The spokesperson added that Moore’s Law – along with a combination of architecture, design and manufacturing process techniques – will help move Atom platforms to “dramatically” lower-power envelopes. 

“At the same time, Intel’s [x86] architecture maintains high performance for the ever-evolving Internet, media rich applications and multitasking capabilities for mobile devices.

“[So yes], Moore’s Law, and its promise of smaller, more powerful products built at lower cost, remains the focus of continuing innovations by those in our industry who are determined to remain competitive.”