Monday, December 24, 2012

The End of x86? An Update

Michael J. Fern (via Hacker News):

x86 shipments dropped by 9% in Q3 2012. Furthermore, the expected surge in PC sales (and x86 shipments) in Q4 due to the release of Windows 8 has failed to materialize. NPD data indicates that Windows PCs sales in U.S. retail stores fell a staggering 21% in the four-week period from October 21 to November 17, compared to the same period the previous year. In short, there is now falling demand for x86 processors. Computer buyers are shifting their spending from PCs to next generation computing devices, including smartphones and tablets.

It’s interesting to consider that Intel’s problem may be more with its business model than its technology. I think they’ll be able to make processors that are competitive in terms of performance and power, but what about in terms of dollars?

Meanwhile, Matt Mastracci has an interesting idea about how Apple might use ARM chips in Macs:

There is a fair bit of space on inside of a MacBook compared to an iPad or iPhone. Apple would use some of this space to drop one of the A5 chips on the motherboard next to the Intel chip, effectively [building] themselves a hybrid ARM/x64 system.

In other words, ARM can’t replace x86 on the desktop because it’s far too slow for certain tasks, particularly at running existing x86 software in emulation. But what if you could have an x86 that’s powered down most of the time? You could have a lot of battery life without sacrificing performance when the Mac is plugged in.

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