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Dell Considering ARM-Based Smartbooks

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the you-and-what-arm-eee dept.

Portables 298

wonkavader sends us this quote from an article in PCWorld: "In an effort to expand its Linux offerings, Dell is researching new netbook-type devices and will soon offer netbook Linux OS upgrades, a company official said on Wednesday. The company is researching the possibility of offering new Linux-based mobile devices called smartbooks, said Todd Finch, senior product marketing manager for Linux clients, at the OpenSourceWorld conference in San Francisco. The company will also upgrade its Ubuntu Linux OS for netbooks to the latest version in the next few weeks ... Smartbooks with Arm chips have inherent advantages over x86 chips like Atom, such as lower power consumption and longer battery life, according to Finch. The chips are also becoming more powerful, as indicated by the growing number of applications on smartphones, he said. 'I think it's natural and reasonable for us to begin looking at them as they begin scaling their processors up.'"

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Uh-huh. (3, Interesting)

XanC (644172) | about 5 years ago | (#29074313)

And what reason do we have to believe this isn't a just negotiating tactic against Microsoft?

Re:Uh-huh. (4, Interesting)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 5 years ago | (#29074359)

These are rough times with shitty sales. I'm sure Dell is just trying to stay afloat by what ever means. The days of exclusive deals between the industry giants is hold for now at least.

Re:Uh-huh. (5, Interesting)

simula (1032230) | about 5 years ago | (#29074613)

I have been raptly awaiting Pegatron's $200 arm netbook with an 8 hour runtime:
from January [engadget.com]
from July [ubergizmo.com]

If Dell is willing to ship what is practically the same device, then this competition can be nothing but good for everyone who wants one.

Re:Uh-huh. (5, Insightful)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | about 5 years ago | (#29074423)

"Just"? Negotiating tactic is most certainly at least the consolation prize, but they seem to be doing well with their Ubuntu systems.

It seems to me that this is more a case of not keeping all of one's eggs in the MS-x86 basket. Using Linux now gives them a head start in developing a polished interface over their competitors and experience in migrating platforms.
Using ARM now gives them time to work the kinks out of the hardware integration so their ARM laptops can be more stable than the competition's when everyone else starts jumping on the bandwagon.

Re:Uh-huh. (2, Insightful)

drizek (1481461) | about 5 years ago | (#29074551)

Because it will sell, and the margins could be high. I imagine something like this would be popular in "developing markets" as well.

Re:Uh-huh. (4, Interesting)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 5 years ago | (#29074573)

Microsoft is planning to build "Microsoft PC" products that are Microsoft Software+Hardware.

You think Dell is just going to see back and watch that happen and not have a plan B?

Re:Uh-huh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074607)

This is almost certainly related to Google announcing Chrome OS, which is slated to be able to run on ARM.

Re:Uh-huh. (1)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29074835)

Ubuntu, which Dell already ships for x86 also has an ARM-port for their upcoming release

Re:Uh-huh. (2, Interesting)

doctormetal (62102) | about 5 years ago | (#29074703)

ehh? Microsoft has an OS that is suited for such devices. Either windows embedded CE or Windows Embedded nav ready.
Or even the CE derivative Windows mobile.

See http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsembedded/dd630116.aspx [microsoft.com]

Re:Uh-huh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074787)

I'm not sure I get your point, but if you think the CE family is even a contender in netbook type devices, you're way off mark...

Re:Uh-huh. (4, Funny)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 5 years ago | (#29074911)

Windows Mobile isn't even a contender for phones.

Re:Uh-huh. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074929)

You want to explain to the customer why Microsoft Windows doesn't want to run any Windows applications? ;-)

This just in... (3, Interesting)

MrMage (1240674) | about 5 years ago | (#29074323)

Lower power consumption leads to longer battery life.

In all seriousness though, I once had someone tell me as I was looking into programming in assembly that I should learn an ARM-Based syntax. It still hasn't paid off completely yet, but this is a step in the right direction.

Re:This just in... (1)

lyml (1200795) | about 5 years ago | (#29074375)

Why on earth would you program RISC machine assembly. The instruction set is made to be compiled from a higher level language.

Your friend might have been a bit mislead.

Re:This just in... (3, Interesting)

amorsen (7485) | about 5 years ago | (#29074543)

The tradeoff supposedly was that RISC would give you less powerful instructions which were easier for the CPU to decode, but then it was expected that it would be more difficult for compilers or humans to write the instructions. It didn't turn out that way. E.g. x86 comes from the time of constrained 8-bit processors, and back then there were no wasteful niceties in the instruction encoding. Most of the worst nastiness is gone as of x86_64, and assemblers hide some of the rest from you.

If you want to program CISC, at least go for M68k/ColdFire, but you won't find many user-programmable devices with ColdFire anymore. ARM is everywhere. My personal favourite is SPARC, and SPARC machines are relatively easy to come by.

Re:This just in... (3, Informative)

pslam (97660) | about 5 years ago | (#29075067)

All instruction sets are like that. RISC or not makes no difference.

The key difference with ARM is it's almost beautiful to look at: it's (mostly) orthogonal, has a regular but very powerful syntax, and it's easy to see the data dependencies. I'd say hand-coding ARM assembly is easier than any other processor I've done it on (and that's lots).

I agree with his friend, and would go further to say anyone who's serious about programming should learn at least one assembly syntax to know what's going on under the hood, and ARM is the best to try.

Re:This just in... (2, Interesting)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 5 years ago | (#29074643)

Lower power consumption leads to longer battery life.

I'm not sure that you understand how things work.

Lower power consumption leads to smaller cheaper batteries with the same capacity, a fact which manufacturers will surely take advantage of to increase profits. As long as competition exists which uses less efficient CPU's, thats the way its going to be.

Re:This just in... (3, Interesting)

lobiusmoop (305328) | about 5 years ago | (#29074747)

Agreed. I'm looking forward to getting something like the Gecko Edubook [laptopshop.co.uk] which can run on cheap AA batteries instead of an expensive custom Li-Ion battery.

Re:This just in... (1)

ZosX (517789) | about 5 years ago | (#29074883)

I think the custom lithium ion would be a lot cheaper and more convenient than 4 hours you get off of 8 AAs. Kind of reminds me of the game gear.

MS will adapt. Eventually. (2, Interesting)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | about 5 years ago | (#29074331)

MS might not be selling any ARM-compatible systems at the moment (embedded OSs aside), but I would bet they have experimental ARM builds of everything they've produced in the past 5 years.

Re:MS will adapt. Eventually. (3, Funny)

palumbor (854887) | about 5 years ago | (#29074397)

I think you have microsoft confused with apple.

Re:MS will adapt. Eventually. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074401)

The very applications that keep a lot of people running Windows instead of e.g. Linux also keep Windows firmly locked to x86.
Take away the third-party closed source applications/games, and suddenly Windows is looking pretty crappy even to your average consumer.
Apple handled this with emulation, but they were moving to a faster chip.

Re:MS will adapt. Eventually. (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about 5 years ago | (#29074431)

Yeah, but, no one really wants to run a bleeding edge game on an arm netbook. It wouldn't work for anyone, even if it was compiled for arm. They do not have to worry about games on netbooks. Most applications need very little to be transitioned from windows desktop to a windows mobile environment on a non x86 cpu. Or at least that was the case six years ago.

Re:MS will adapt. Eventually. (3, Insightful)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 5 years ago | (#29074501)

Not every game needs to be bleeding edge to attract players. There are plenty of simple casual games that have a much larger market than the "core" gamer market that will run perfectly fine on a netbook (or what ever the hell they are calling them now). The idea is to focus on game play and mechanics rather than eye candy.

Re:MS will adapt. Eventually. (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 5 years ago | (#29074933)

There is a lot more than games that tie people to windows, som eof which come from 3rd parties which may have no interest in porting the new version of Windows..

Re:MS will adapt. Eventually. (3, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about 5 years ago | (#29074571)

Probably they do have experimental builds, but there's very little point in MS actually making products from them. The reason why you want Windows is because Windows apps run on Windows. They also have to produce ARM builds of all of the software that people need. They can do that for their own stuff, but most Windows software is not produced by MS. It's important to remember that when you get Ubuntu, you get a whole load more software than on a plain Windows box and even most of the software not included comes with source code so it's relatively easy for someone to port it to the new architecture. Not to mention that Windows Mobile has done real damage to the Windows brand by looking so much worse than Symbian phones, let alone Android or the iPhone. They can't afford to keep repeating that.

The Intel Atom is produced specifically to make an i386 platform which competes with the ARM. MS would do much better to commit to that kind of platform. The power consumption is "good enough" and they don't risk splitting their market share.

Well... (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 5 years ago | (#29074371)

At least now Microsoft can't object to Linux sales on the claim people are wiping them to install bootleg Windows - not on an ARM.

but will it run (0, Redundant)

RLiegh (247921) | about 5 years ago | (#29074383)

...Windows?

Re:but will it run (4, Funny)

Mad Merlin (837387) | about 5 years ago | (#29074461)

No.

Re:but will it run (2, Insightful)

value_added (719364) | about 5 years ago | (#29074951)

What? So no viruses?

If that's the case, then it would seem to that there's even less hope for the average Linux user to attract the notice of malware developers.

Re:but will it run (1, Troll)

CrossChris (806549) | about 5 years ago | (#29074765)

Windows?

Of course not - and who would want to except the brain-dead slack-jawed fools that still believe that "Windows came free with my computer". MS still haven't realised that Windows was superceded about 10 years ago. They can continue to make their interface ever shinier, but it's still the same old broken NT kernel underneath (and don't let the marketing hype about "completely new kernels" fool you!)

Game Over, Microsoft!

Re:but will it run (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074901)

oh boy -I bet you're a BIG hit at parties. Especially if they make the mistake of breakin out the old 360.

Re:but will it run (1)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29074889)

Well, some embeddded version of Windows which has no applications available. But pretty much all Open Source applications that run on x86 Linux are available on ARM. Just take a look at the Debian repository. Even Ubuntu will have an ARM-port for their next release.

Google Chrome OS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074387)

This is highly likely to be related to Google releasing the Chrome OS which is going to support ARM.

Re:Google Chrome OS (1)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29074827)

Could be, could also be because Ubuntu's next release will have an ARM-release and they already ship Ubuntu.

ARM vs x86 (2, Insightful)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about 5 years ago | (#29074417)

ARM has an advantage such as lower power consumption, but it also has a huge disadvantage - it does not run x86 programs.

It will be the same situation like with PDAs ~10 years ago.

I want some program, it's available for PC, but not available for Psion.

With this ARM "smartbook", I'll still have to lug around a big laptop to be able to run those programs that the smartbook doesn't. I think that in this regard, I'd rather buy a Fujitsu U810 or equivalent.(17cm x15.5cm x 2.7cm but has Atom and is fully compatible with x86 programs; battery holds for >6 hours).

Re:ARM vs x86 (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074439)

Linux. Arm-based netbook already out by Always Innovating:
http://www.alwaysinnovating.com/home/index.htm

Most people don't use netbooks for more than email/browsing. This is great for them.

Re:ARM vs x86 (3, Informative)

operator_error (1363139) | about 5 years ago | (#29074457)

but it also has a huge disadvantage - it does not run x86 programs

Not necessarily a problem at all. If the user chooses Ubuntu, then synaptec, ( or apt-get, aptitude, etc.) will install an application successfully with something that works, transparently.

Re:ARM vs x86 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074547)

Are you saying that Ubuntu has a way to automatically download an ARM version of FireFox and OpenOffice? Or is it just going to expect my tiny netbook to compile them from source?

Even then, what about Flash and Adobe Reader? How am I going to play my favorite YouTube videos and Facebook games?

dom

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

ScytheBlade1 (772156) | about 5 years ago | (#29074645)

Yes, and yes. It is the same system used to automatically download... an i386 binary as compared to an x86_64 binary. If your question was really "does Ubuntu even build for ARM" I have no idea, as I don't use Ubuntu anywhere.

Flash and Adobe Reader are both pretty terrible programs; infinitely more so when you move off of the holy consumer shrine known as Windows/x86. There is the gnash project (flash player), which can currently play youtube videos. There are also about a billion different PDF readers for linux.

No you won't get the same level of app support of Windows/x86. You get less support if you run Windows/x86_64. You get even less support when you run linux/x86, less when you run linux/x86_64, and then you take multiple steps back for linux/arm.

... for most closed source software. Most packages found in $DISTRO's repository will build fine under any arch - for example, Fedora builds the same RPM for i686, amd64, and PPC. There would be bugs to work out, sure, but it is possible. Quit your binary blob/app support fetish and your linux will work a bit better.

If you're tied to your binary blobs or windows solutions (for ANY reason), you can either just keep using windows or improve the situation yourself, your call.

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29074763)

Ubuntu will have an ARM-architecture for their new release: Karmic Koala

Their has been Flash on ARM for years, I'm sure Ubuntu talked to Adobe about having a good version for Ubuntu on ARM.

Actually, Flash is usually one of the very few, possible even the only one, non-Open Source-program you'd want to install on such a device.

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

ZosX (517789) | about 5 years ago | (#29074791)

I don't know if ubuntu has an arm port, but debian does. Thought I'd clarify something though. With x86-64 you can run 32-bit apps seamlessly. You really don't give anything up. I've been running windows 7 64-bit and I have yet to come across a 32-bit application that will not run. Device drivers were the real issues with 64-bit XP, and now 64 bit drivers are pretty standard. There aren't many disadvantages to running a 64-bit OS. Just a small performance penalty. Like 5% or something. We really should thank AMD for coming out with the opterons back in the day. I shudder to think what would it be like if the Itanic didn't slide into the sea.

Re:ARM vs x86 (4, Informative)

kamatsu (969795) | about 5 years ago | (#29074689)

Debian has a complete ARM distribution including all of those things you describe. It wouldn't be hard for Ubuntu to shift their distribution efforts to ARM. In fact, it's just changing a few lines in a shell script.

Re:ARM vs x86 (4, Informative)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29074767)

Ubuntu will have an ARM-architecture for their new release: Karmic Koala, scheduled for release in October 2009

Re:ARM vs x86 (2, Insightful)

xororand (860319) | about 5 years ago | (#29074715)

Are you saying that Ubuntu has a way to automatically download an ARM version of FireFox and OpenOffice?

I don't know about Ubuntu but Debian most certainly has Firefox [debian.org] and OpenOffice packages for ARM that are ready to use.

Even then, what about Flash and Adobe Reader? How am I going to play my favorite YouTube videos and Facebook games?

Do you really want to use a proprietary browser plugin with a horrible [slashdot.org] security [slashdot.org] history [h-online.com] like Adobe Flash, with _known_ vulnerabilities [h-online.com] that have been unpatched for over 8 months?
With new open technologies like HTML5, Flash is becoming more and more obsolete anyway.
YouTube videos can be easily downloaded and played with mplayer. Gnash, a reverse-engineered libre replacement for Adobe Flash, gets better continuously. Many Flash applications already work with Gnash, like YouTube or the flash photo galleries generated by some Adobe applications.

The libre software situtation is much better when it comes to PDF, as PDF is, unlike Flash, an open standard. There are plenty of libre alternatives to Adobe Reader, most of them less bloated and way faster than the original. The FSF has launched a portal site [pdfreaders.org] for those.

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

mcrbids (148650) | about 5 years ago | (#29074685)

Not necessarily a problem at all. If the user chooses Ubuntu, then synaptec, ( or apt-get, aptitude, etc.) will install an application successfully with something that works, transparently.

Like Adobe's Flash?

I didn't think so.

Re:ARM vs x86 (4, Insightful)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29074771)

Why not ? Their has been a version of Flash for Linux on ARM for years already (see Nokia N810 for example).

Luckily it's provbably the only non-opensource-program you'd want to install on such a device anyway.

Re:ARM vs x86 (5, Insightful)

Hymer (856453) | about 5 years ago | (#29074465)

"...but it also has a huge disadvantage - it does not run x86 programs."
You are missing the point, this is only an issue when using Windows and the point is to get rid of Windows.
There are already a huge amount of applications moved to other CPU architectures and many others need just to be recompiled.
Yes I do know that it may not be "just recompile" but the Linux community is much faster to adapt than Windows community.

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about 5 years ago | (#29074483)

Is there a Mathcad (one program off the top of my head) equivalent for Linux and/or ARM?

Re:ARM vs x86 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074511)

And who the fuck wants to run mathcad on a netbook? Seriously, dude. Mathcad? You're touched in the head. Mathcad = work. Netbook = internet.

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

moosesocks (264553) | about 5 years ago | (#29074529)

Wrong target market. These devices will likely be sold as "big iPhones"

There's a market for such a machine, as long as it's got a web browser, word processor, and a reasonable assortment of other apps available. I'd love to have a spare PC lying around...particularly one that's cheap enough to be slightly reckless with, and has extremely long battery life.

I'm not entirely convinced that the target market's huge, given that we already have our expensive/precious laptops and iPhones. However, the popularity of netbooks (particularly the relative popularity of Linux netbooks among non-geeks) has proven that there *is* a target market for these devices.

To make the market for these devices *really* take off, you'd need a damn good marketing campaign, and a decent (and standardized) desktop shell to go along with it. There are a number of halfway-decent linux netbook shells available already, although there's no real sense of standardization. If the major players could either team up, or if one distribution could capture the market by sheer awesomeness alone, these devices would become a whole lot more popular. (Think of how much more *useful* the iPhone became once Apple opened the platform to applications)

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

Hymer (856453) | about 5 years ago | (#29074587)

I don't know, I don't use Mathcad (you could as well have said iTunes or Photoshop) and I have no need for it, it was not the point.
Your options are:
  • ask Microsoft to port to ARM (and hope Mathcad will be ported too)
  • ask Mathsoft to port MathCAD to Linux (and hope they will port to i386 and ARM)
  • try to see if there is a Linux application more or less equivalent to the Windows application you need (I've been thru this point many times)

...or you may buy an i386 compatible platform (Atom or Via) and run Windows or Linux + wine.

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about 5 years ago | (#29074595)

You may find this link helpful [tinyurl.com]

Re:ARM vs x86 (4, Informative)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | about 5 years ago | (#29074881)

At the bottom of Mathcad's Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] you'll find 9 open source options.

Re:ARM vs x86 (3, Insightful)

Haeleth (414428) | about 5 years ago | (#29075009)

You are missing the point, this is only an issue when using Windows and the point is to get rid of Windows.

It's not quite that simple.

There are, for example, plenty of cases where people have been able to switch to Linux because they can still run $FAVOURITE_PROGRAM with Wine. And Wine is still tied to x86. I suspect emulating an x86 processor will be a bit beyond most ARM smartbooks.

There are also a lot of people who, like it or not, do use closed-source software on Linux. I have several closed-source programs installed on the very Linux netbook I'm typing this on. Will the vendors of those programs be happy to port them to ARM? They've already taken a risk just supporting the tiny x86 Linux market; the ARM Linux market is even smaller.

Don't get me wrong. I love the idea of ARM smartbooks, and if Dell brings one out with Ubuntu on it, I will buy it without a moment's hesitation. I'm just pointing out that x86 is only irrelevant if you only ever use purely F/OSS software, and that isn't universal even among Linux fans.

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29075049)

Their is a pretty big chance that will happen, Ubuntu will have an ARM-port with their next release (Karmic Koala).

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

Artraze (600366) | about 5 years ago | (#29074493)

While it is true that the ARM will not run programs compiled for the x86, that isn't a huge deal because such a smart book would only _ever_ run linux. How many binary only apps are even available, let alone important, on linux? (BTW, something like 90+% of applications shouldn't need any source level modification to run on an ARM arch.)

> With this ARM "smartbook", I'll still have to lug around a big laptop to be able to run those programs that the smartbook doesn't.

As a matter of curiosity, what would these programs be? Windows apps under Wine?

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

kamatsu (969795) | about 5 years ago | (#29074695)

Exactly. Debian already distributes an ARM version of their entire distribution.

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29074841)

That's why it was possible for Ubuntu to say, our next release will have an ARM-port as well, which they are doing now.

Re:ARM vs x86 (2, Informative)

pantherace (165052) | about 5 years ago | (#29074709)

They shouldn't, but a lot of programmers have gotten used to tricks which work on x86.

Trust me, I've used (at various times) linux/alpha,sparc(64),arm,x86,x86-64,powerpc windows/alpha,x86,x86-64 solaris/x86,x86-64,sparc openvms/alpha.

The most consistent of those are the various Linux distributions, most mainline software has been whacked enough that it works. Though even there, sometimes people use those tricks, or they make assumptions about sizes, Netscape was a problem on alphas, on both Windows and Linux, because it assumed 32-bits on integers and a few other things, when they originally ported it... segfaults. Openoffice still may not compile on alphas, or other 64-bit systems (sparc64s as I recall used to run star/openoffice in 32-bit)

Currently, binaries I can think of are flash, nvidia, ati (Accelerated OpenGL was a pain in the past on many Linux systems), and that's mostly it that I've used for years, aside from some commercial games.

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29074789)

Drivers should be much less of an issue, because Linux is the gonna be the primary platform for these kinds of devices. The only binary-only you'd want to install is probably Flash which has had an ARM-build for years.

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

howlingmadhowie (943150) | about 5 years ago | (#29074839)

the only problem i can think of is wine itself. if i remember correctly, wine has lots of assembly code for x86 in it. it is really one of the very few free software projects to have this.

Re:ARM vs x86 (1)

lyml (1200795) | about 5 years ago | (#29074891)

Even if wine ran on arm it would be useless as the windows binaries you want to run are compiled for x86. In order to get the desired results you would have to run an x86 emulator.

Re:ARM vs x86 (2, Insightful)

xororand (860319) | about 5 years ago | (#29074599)

ARM has an advantage such as lower power consumption, but it also has a huge disadvantage - it does not run x86 programs.

Why is this a problem? Just find a free software distribution that offers packages for ARM, like Debian. Problem solved... but... if you really depend on propietary x86 programs.... Doesn't that worry you at all?

Can you scale an x86 processor down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074427)

Or does x86 inherently consume more power at the same performance level?

Re:Can you scale an x86 processor down? (5, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | about 5 years ago | (#29074489)

Or does x86 inherently consume more power at the same performance level?

Difficult: ARM has traditionally had a very clean instruction set which eliminates a lot of the junk that an x86 requires in order to function, and it's much easier to take a chip designed for low power and increase the performance than to take a 100+W monster like an x86 and scale it down for low-power use. The modern 'x86', at least from Intel, is basically an x86 emulator wrapped around a RISC core.... the ARM effectively eliminates the emulator and just runs the RISC core.

If I remember correctly, the dual-core ARM chips I was working on a couple of years ago used about 1W of power to play 720p HD... an Atom has trouble doing that even with several times that power usage.

Re:Can you scale an x86 processor down? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074877)

ARM systems usually use co-processors for things like decoding video. A heavy use of co-processors lets the already low-power CPU be idle even more often.

Re:Can you scale an x86 processor down? (3, Interesting)

faragon (789704) | about 5 years ago | (#29074879)

It is not the "x86 emulator", as it takes a tiny percent of the die, and 90-95% of instructions are decoded to one underlying RISC equivalent. Most power consumption is because of OoOE [wikipedia.org] , huge pipelines, and huge caches. In my opinion OoOE processors are an aberration inteded to maximize serial code, by wasting 4 to 8x resources, as it is like having many processors executing future code paths "just in case" (misusage of instruction cache just to feed the OoOE jump prediction execution paths) while making a misuse of the system bus by loading data for instructions that will be discarded 1 of every 10 times (data cache misusage by fetching data for instructions that will be discarded in a major part). So in "advanced OoOE CPU" you're saturating the bus for computing worthless instructions. As example, in the area of a P4 CPU, you may had 8 to 16 MIPS or ARM in-order CPU cores, making much better usage of the shared cache, and with 4 to 8x more executed instructions/transistor, with efficient system bus usage.

Re:Can you scale an x86 processor down? (3, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 5 years ago | (#29074919)

Uhhh...I thought that was the whole point of the Nvidia Ion? The GPU does the heavy lifting on video, and the CPU does the basic tasks. While I have no doubt that these little ARMs will find a niche, the question is how big of a niche. Folks have their iPhones for just basic web browsing kind of stuff, and the problem I've found whenever you're are talking about Netbooks is that geeks well...they think like geeks.

You know what my customers call Netbooks, which is important as that is how Joe and Jane average see them? They call them 'baby laptops" which is important. You see they think these baby laptops should run everything their big laptops do, only much slower of course, because they are babies. You say ARM and they are gonna have no fricking clue as to what you are talking about. They will go "oooh cute!" and pick one up and then get pissy when their printer won't print. After all, it is USB and there is a USB port right there!

So while I am sure that some geeks that know what ARM and x86 and Windows and Linux are might buy some of these, how many of those are out there? And can they buy enough to make this a niche worth pursuing? Who knows, I guess we will know when these things come out. Of course they have to watch the timing because Win7 is gonna be released soon, and the MSFT advertising is gonna be everywhere. And as anybody who has run Win7 can tell you, it is actually quite nice. So they either need these things out yesterday, or to wait until the Win7 hype dies down. That is unless they plan to keep this as strictly a geek toy you have to hunt for on their website. Because Joe and Jane won't have a clue what ARM is, they'll just see the Win7 commercials and want to know why they can't run that "new thing" on their baby laptop. And believe me, working retail? Customers don't like hearing the word no for ANY reason.

Dell's desperately disposable disposition (-1, Troll)

ipX (197591) | about 5 years ago | (#29074443)

Mmmmyes DELL ARM netbooks! Your trashcan is eager to collect them all!

Ripe for adoption (3, Insightful)

raybob (203381) | about 5 years ago | (#29074495)

I predict that these things are going to take off. Once people realize that they don't need a heavy OS like Windows in order to enjoy a portable platform that provides email & web browsing, any prejudice against will evaporate. Besides, most people won't even notice that Windows is missing.

One reason PDA's never took off is the man-machine interface. The keyboard is pretty much a must-have for an email & messaging platform. These things are going to be everywhere, especially with carriers eager to sell data plans subsidizing them.

Re:Ripe for adoption (3, Interesting)

bemymonkey (1244086) | about 5 years ago | (#29074579)

I don't think so. The whole point of a little netbook ("Oooooh, look at the cute little laptop!") is making your regular (lightweight) notebook apps portable. For the majority of consumers, that means they want to run exactly the same e-mail program, the same browser, the same IM program(s)... Realizing that they need to learn to use a completely different interface is going to be quite a shock. It was supposedly pretty much the same with the Ubuntu laptops certain manufacturers have been selling...

I don't really see the appeal in an ARM netbook. In fact, I wish my phone was x86 - the current standard Windows Mobile smartphone res of 800x480 is just fine for a stripped down XP or even Win7... hell, if they could just get the damned things up to 24 hours (or even 15 or so!) without a recharge, I'd be more than happy. If all you're interested in is ARM and long battery life, get a smartphone and a foldable bluetooth keyboard. Otherwise, get an x86-based netbook and be satisfied with the currently available 10 hours of battery life...

Re:Ripe for adoption (2, Insightful)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29074799)

I guess this is why this has such appeal to Linux-users. These devices do just that, run a Linux-distribution on a smaller device, the same way like they run on the bigger desktop-machines.

Re:Ripe for adoption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074965)

they seem to handle adapting to cellphone/pdas without much trouble.. this isn't that different.

Re:Ripe for adoption (1)

Haeleth (414428) | about 5 years ago | (#29075031)

The whole point of a little netbook ("Oooooh, look at the cute little laptop!") is making your regular (lightweight) notebook apps portable. For the majority of consumers, that means they want to run exactly the same e-mail program, the same browser, the same IM program(s)...

For a significant number of people, that boils down to Firefox plus one of the numerous popular webmail providers and web-based chat clients. Sounds like a market to me ...

A Big Up Yours (2, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 5 years ago | (#29074507)

Basically a big Up Yours to Intel and Microsoft.

Re:A Big Up Yours (1)

ipX (197591) | about 5 years ago | (#29074563)

Also a push into a potentially massive market -- almost-disposable commodity components running Linux. If they can pull it off without summoning teh wrath of steveb they will look like an innovator and at least strengthen their brand. But they might cut themselves out of the margin, I can't imagine these would sell for much (not likely to be the next iPod in terms of revenue).

linux32 wrapper (0)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | about 5 years ago | (#29074545)

I don't see why the linux32 wrapper could not be altered to work with ARM the way it does with 64 bit Linux. Wine and a few other things like Flash won't compile on anything other than x86_64. But my 64 bit Linux Box doesn't know that. I don't see why it could not be different on other architectures, Arc or PPC. Something doesn't work on ARM? Wrap it in linux32, problem solved.

Re:linux32 wrapper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074667)

Wine and a few other things like Flash won't compile on anything other than x86_64. But my 64 bit Linux Box doesn't know that.

Huh?

Re:linux32 wrapper (2, Insightful)

mcelrath (8027) | about 5 years ago | (#29074727)

ARM is a different instruction set entirely. x86_64 vs. x86_32 differ only in some memory layout, but the binary instructions are 99% the same. So it's easy to write a wrapper. linux32 would not work. You also need an instruction set emulator (e.g. bochs), which would be quite slow.

Re:linux32 wrapper (1)

kamatsu (969795) | about 5 years ago | (#29074707)

Firstly, debian already ported most of Linux software to ARM, software availability is not an issue anyway.

Secondly, x86_64 is an extension on x86. Linux32 is just a set of 32-bit libraries compiled against a 64-bit kernel, that allows you to run 32-bit apps, using features of the processor specifically designed to do this. ARM is a completely different architecture and such an approach is simply impossible. The only way to run other x86 applications on ARM are via virtualization, which frankly would be unusably slow on a netbook.

Re:linux32 wrapper (1)

ZosX (517789) | about 5 years ago | (#29074803)

The 32-bit wrapper works because chips like the athlon64 and core can both run 32-bit apps natively in 64-bit mode since they can execute x86. I really don't know who modded this one insightful.

Re:linux32 wrapper (1)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29074815)

Their has been an ARM-build of Flash for years, just look at Nokia N810 for example. But you have to remember these devices are meant for surfing the web, maybe some e-mail, some light office work, etc. So Flash is the only proprietary you'll probably need. Which is already available.

Finally (4, Insightful)

Andtalath (1074376) | about 5 years ago | (#29074557)

Actual netbooks will come. All current netbooks are small laptops, this is something else which is better.

Test baloons? (3, Interesting)

achten (1032738) | about 5 years ago | (#29074559)

Do not know if it is due to the reporter or the strategy itself.
In an effort to expand its Linux offerings, Dell is researching new netbook-type devices and will soon offer netbook Linux OS upgrades, a company official said on Wednesday.
It ends with
The company is also researching Google's Chrome for use in netbooks.
Makes netbooks-are-atom-and-smartbooks-are-ARM distinction.
However
Dell couldn't say whether it would ultimately offer a smartbook.
Maybe just floating of test baloons.

Google ChromeOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074637)

Chrome OS is going to run on ARM in addition to x86, this is likely related to that.

Re:Google ChromeOS (2, Insightful)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29074833)

Or maybe because Ubuntu's next release will have an ARM-release and they already ship Ubuntu.

Nice idea, but let's wait for what Apple is up to (2, Interesting)

cheros (223479) | about 5 years ago | (#29074665)

Like it or loath it, Apple has seriously shaken up the mobile phone industry, and got away with something nobody else ever managed: taking a big slice of the carrier's cake on top.

If Appe brings out a sensible iTablet that actually works and is smart enough to work with the laser keyboard [vkb-support.com] (the Bluetooth version does proper HID support) I cannot see that fail, and it will probably nuke the market Dell is looking at.

The tablet in itself goes into markets at present taken by ebook stuff like the Kindle, and with a proper remote keyboard it hits the portable market - why take a whole system if it's that portable.

So I'd wait a bit - let's see what Apple is up to. I hope I'm right - it's about time for such a device.

Re:Nice idea, but let's wait for what Apple is up (3, Insightful)

EponymousCustard (1442693) | about 5 years ago | (#29074785)

Remember that Asus achieved a large success in the netbook market by releasing the eee before everyone else got their act together. If Dell could do the same, they could gain another reasonably large untapped market

'smartbook' - I like! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074751)

better than that stupid term 'netbook".

Re:'smartbook' - I like! (1)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29075055)

I like how all these smartbooks will now be running Linux and we can say to people who want to buy netbooks: their is also a smart choice :-)

Improve the keyboard layout, and they will come (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29074821)

I would have seriously considered getting a Dell netbook because of its native support for Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

But the keyboard, seriously, is the most important thing in a laptop of any size, netbook or otherwise.

If Dell offered a smartbook with the keyboard layout of the Acer Aspire One, then I'll be the first to sign up.

Stockholm syndrome (2, Interesting)

xororand (860319) | about 5 years ago | (#29074825)

It's interesting how some people are quick to declare portable ARM computers a failure because it won't run their favorite (proprietary) x86 programs.
That's the Stockholm Syndrome, only with software instead of human kidnappers.

Re:Stockholm syndrome (2, Informative)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29074857)

First of all, these devices have some limited capabilities, that means their is a certain set/type of programs you'd expect them to run, specifically mostly a browser, an e-mail program, some light Office work maybe.

And pretty much all applications in Debian (and soon Ubuntu) are able to run on ARM/Linux. Only other thing you might want is Flash on these devices to possible watch some video's in webpages.

And their has been an ARM-build of Flash for years (look at Nokia N810 for example).

Yes, but... (4, Funny)

damburger (981828) | about 5 years ago | (#29074847)

...does it run RISC OS?

Chrome OS will help make this happen (2, Insightful)

bgarcia (33222) | about 5 years ago | (#29075029)

This is where Chrome OS [blogspot.com] will help a great deal.

Where most people will be scared of trying linux, they'll trust it when it has the Google brand. Where many people might be confused by an OS that looks mostly like Windows but where everything is just different enough to be confusing, they'll probably understand the concept of "Chrome OS is just a browser & nothing else". The remaining question is if ARM + Chrome OS will drive prices down low enough that people will be willing to forego the flexibility & familiarity of a regular Windows laptop.

Re:Chrome OS will help make this happen (1)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29075057)

I wonder what Dell will be shipping on them, they already ship Ubuntu and Ubuntu will have an ARM-port in their next release.

Re:Chrome OS will help make this happen (2, Insightful)

Lennie (16154) | about 5 years ago | (#29075063)

Actually, I think most people don't know what Chrome is, they don't associate it with a browser (yet).

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