Haswell is an engineering marvel. According to Intel, it's the single largest improvement in battery life from generation to generation. Yet we think its destined for failure. Why? Who needs better battery life? Intel powered laptops -- that's a clear win. Intel powered tablets -- people aren't buying Intel powered tablets because Windows 8 based tablets are not a success in the market. So Haswell is not going to find customers in the tablet space. Desktops? Since these run off the mains, Haswell gives almost no improvement over the previous generation except for better graphics. Therefore, for people buying desktops, the upgrade doesn't buy them a whole lot. Therefore, the only device category that Haswell is really going to add value to is Intel powered laptops and as we know from market trends this is a relatively flat market. Haswell sales are therefore projected to be relatively flat with last year's chip sales.
March 25, 2013, 3:03 P.M. ET
ARMH: Pondering the 64-Bit Server Future
By Tiernan Ray
ARM Holdings (ARMH) director of marketing Ian Thornton was in town today and was kind enough to stop by the Barron’s offices. We talked a bit about one of the next substantial frontiers for the company and its partners, 64-bit memory addressing, which is most likely to show up in server and equipment products, although Thornton also had some thoughts on 64-bit in mobile devices, which you can read in an earlier post.
ARM’s 64-bit architecture is coming with the “Cortex A50” series, which now exists in microprocessor designs designated “A53″ and “A57.” To give you a sense of the timeline, licenses started to be signed with partners two years ago, and ARM has only lately “taped out” its first microprocessor designs. “They’ve gotten to the Verilog stage, but they’re not quite at the Netlist stage at this point,” says Thornton.
That would imply first samples of chips from partners sometime toward the end of this year, with volume production in 2014, notes Thornton.
The leading partners signed so far are startup Calxeda, ST-Microelectronics NV (STMPR), Broadcom (BRCM), Samsung Electronics (005930KS), and the semiconductor design unit of China’s Huawei, which makes equipment in addition to mobile devices.
There will be a cost and a power savings from the up-front price of these devices as well as the performance they enable in servers and equipment, said Thornton. At this point, though, it’s difficult to quantify all that relative to Intel (INTC) Xeon server processors or Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Opteron parts because none of the partners has produced a part yet. X86 rules the majority of volume of server shipments today. (Mind you, AMD is also in the ARM camp, see below.)
One can make an analogy to Intel‘s “Atom” chip for mobile devices, in comparison to ARM-based smartphone chips based on the “Cortex A9” style parts. Atom takes three times the number of transistors to implement functional blocks that perform similar workloads, a sign of being less efficient than ARM-based designs, for example, contends Thornton. And the Intel x86 architecture uses the “variable length instruction word” approach, making it harder to streamline aspects of what are “monolithic” server processors, in his words.
But “that’s just an analogy,” and not really a fair comparison until 64-bit silicon appears, says Thornton.
His larger point about the competition between Intel and AMD and ARM partners is that the Intel server world is monolithic in its overall approach.
“Today, in some cases, you’ve got just 10% of Xeon being used” in a server, contends Thornton, because the bottleneck is in other parts of the system. If, for example, a server is doing streaming video, and it is mostly passing through bits from an external memory system, then between the time waiting for those bits to come off of a wire, and sending them out to the Internet, the microprocessor itself may not have a lot of work to do.
That, says Thornton, suggests that it may be possible for the entire collection of partners — there are 17 licensees of 64-bit ARM, and parties such as Nvidia (NVDA) have talked about getting into servers in a big way — could provide specialized parts that fit the job for different kinds of servers.
“It’s almost like an application-specific integrated circuit [ASIC],” quipped Thornton, although in that sense it seems more like an “application specific standard product [ASSP],” I suggested, though in reality such a system-on-a-chip(SOC) might not really be either.
Of course, there remain those niggly little details: Software. That huge chunk of the server market running on x86 still uses a lot of legacy applications, such as back-office financial software, even though some workloads have shifted to newer Internet-style applications. Thornton says that when customers tell large application providers such as SAP AG (SAP) or Oracle (ORCL) that they want to run their apps on an ARM-based server, the natural response from the software giants might be “What’s in it for me?” when it comes to all the expense involved in porting software to ARM.
Still, he thinks that “eventually everyone comes together to do what’s right for the industry,” which, in ARM’s view, includes moving to ARM processors, obviously.
Notes Thornton, there is the open-source software project called Linaro, involving upward of 200 engineers from ARM and its partners, that is helping to standardized Linux for ARM in a variety of contexts, including networking and other equipment.
ARM shares today are up $1.35, or 3.4%, at $41.45.
Update: Note that I failed to mention above that AMD is also making a push into ARM-based server chips. The company last year bought micro-server designer SeaMicro and has talked extensively about its intentions for ARM-based systems.
khitchdee•Feb 5, 2013 8:32 PM
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I agree with Marsavian's timing projection but for different reasons. Towards the end of this year, Intel's game changing 22nm OOO trigate LP mobile SOC processor will be released. I think it'll take a few months for people to realize how it completely changes the mobile SOC game and they'll start exiting in hordes after that. ARMH is currently priced sentimentally, and Intel's holiday introduction will shake people out.
khitchdee • Jan 30, 2013 11:09 PM Flag
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Don't worry, once the 14nm low power ramp happens towards the end of 2014 on Intel's accelerated schedule, it will light a fire under Apple and Samsung and force them to consider a switch to Intel chips. That should boost the stock price and in a few years, all the extra fab capacity that Intel has commisioned will start getting used to build smartphone chips, and the revenue will corresponding go up to far exceed Qualcomm
i think your wrong about the tablet part. the surface pro with haswell will be huge success. Most of the reviews only knocked battery life and lack of apps on win 8 platform. come sufrace pro 2 think both will be adrressed. desktop market is shrinking also , but were win 8 really shines is all in one touch system with the extra graphics will help give small footprint without built of video card
'Intel powered tablets -- people aren't buying Intel powered tablets because Windows 8 based tablets are not a success in the market. So Haswell is not going to find customers in the tablet space.'
That is not true as shown to the rise to 7.5% from a 0% start. Just like we suggested Intel's advance into mobility will be far more successful than ARM's advance into PCs which still remains at 0% after the spectacular bomb of WindowsRT.
'Since these run off the mains, Haswell gives almost no improvement over the previous generation except for better graphics.'
Haswell has substantial improvements on the cpu core side as well, double cache bandwidth and floating point as well as a third more integer not to mention the 128MB L4 eDRAM on the top models. Haswell is good and improved enough allround for *everyone* still on a pre-Core 2 chip to want to upgrade, watch its sales smoke as it gives a lie to the PC is stagnant fallacy.
What this author doesn't account for is the way Windows 8 convolutes the mix. With Windows 8, the line between tablet and laptop/desktop completely blurs since the OS fully supports both platforms. Secondly, as you can see, Intel is bringing down the power consumption of its elite core series chips down to tablet levels. What we are going to see is desktop and laptops being replaced by a slew of touch enabled form factors all combining the features of laptops with tablets with touch. From the consumer's perspective, they are buying devices that have all the power and functionality of a desktop/laptop with the added convenience of a tablet. Its a win-win for the consumer and Intel. Since we're starting from the laptop/desktop end, you can expect them to pay the same price that they were used to before. Since we're also supporting the tablet form factor with a hybrid design, the total size of the market grows to include the tablet market.
I cannot find the article and have little trust in paraphrasing. Where is the original article?
I think of 4 OS environments: Win8, Android, iOS and Mac OS/X.
The x86 is the silicon for Win8 and Mac OS/X.
The x86 version of Android has been highly optimized.
iOS .... no publicly released version although Apple has undoubtedly done the port for each CPU.
There is no problem with any of the OS running on x86.
APPS ... not a problem either.
Win8 ... native apps.
Apple OS/X ... all the applications are Intel based.
Apple iOS ... Apple development and they would
Android apps .... running the x86 optimized version of Android (or variant). The pure Dalvik apps should run without problems. Android apps mixed with ARM native code will present problems. There are a couple of possibilities but the app developers are cleaning up that code to make their apps platform independent. There is no way an app developer would create an app that would only work on a fraction of the systems.
IMO, the "tablet" form factor will can be occupied by a notebook convertible OR a "PC in a tablet form factor". The argument does not hold water.