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|Apple M1 Macs Are Kick-starting A New Arm-based PC Era by fredssa: 11:29pm On Jan 13|
For years, computer makers have tried to sell PCs built on Arm processors, a power-efficient family that powers smartphones. Compared with models running on x86 chips from Intel and AMD, though, Arm-based PCs have suffered from performance and software compatibility shortcomings.
Now Apple's M1 processors, the Apple-designed member of the Arm family that powers new MacBooks, are changing views of Arm PCs. The M1 chips offer not just good battery life, like Qualcomm's Arm chips in some Windows laptops, but also good performance. At the same time, x86 PCs have improved only gradually.
So it's no surprise to hear some new optimism from Arm Chief Executive Simon Segars.
"What we're starting to see now is real innovation going on in a market where there hasn't been a huge amount of innovation," Segars said in an interview during the CES 2021 technology conference. "Any time there's discontinuity that makes people question how we're doing this, that injects energy into innovation."
Part of that innovation comes from Arm itself, which is pouring new engineering resources into PC chip designs, he said. Another part could come from Nvidia, the leading graphics chipmaker that's trying to acquire Arm for $40 billion.
Arm indeed has a better chance thanks to Apple, Endpoint Technologies analyst Roger Kay said. "Arm has been talking about breaking into this market forever. I think they're on the cusp of really being able to do it. Apple's the avenue in," he said. Success for Arm would mean PCs powerful enough for mainstream buyers but efficient enough that you could leave your charger in a desk drawer for a day or two at a time with no worries.
Although Arm isn't a household name, the Cambridge, England-based company's technology powers a huge swath of the computing market. Most notably, Arm chips power just about every smartphone. They're also used in networking gear, internet-of- things gadgets, Raspberry Pi computers for hardware hackers and the world's fastest supercomputer. About 20 billion Arm chips ship each year.
To succeed, Arm fans will have to reckon with new chips coming from Intel and AMD that emerged at CES. AMD's Ryzen 5000 series of laptop chips will offer up to 17.5 hours of general use on battery power, CEO Lis Su said Tuesday. Intel demonstrated its next-generation Alder Lake processor coming later this year. It adopts an approach long used in Arm chips, a combination of fast processing cores and slower, power-efficient cores.
It's been difficult to crack into the PC ecosystem of component makers, software and PC makers, Segars acknowledged. He believes Arm's combination of performance and energy efficiency ultimately will let it claim significant market share.
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