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ARM Attacks Intel's Netbook Stranglehold

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the there-can-be-only-several dept.

Hardware 521

Barence writes "British chip designer ARM is launching an outright attack on Intel with the launch of a 2GHz processor aimed at everything from netbooks to servers. ARM claims the 40nm Cortex A9 MPCore processor represents a shift in strategy for the company, which has until now concentrated on low-power processors for mobile devices. In the consumer market, ARM is pitching the Cortex A9 directly against Intel's Atom, claiming the processor offers five times the power while drawing comparable amounts of energy. 'It's head and shoulders above anything Intel can deliver today,' ARM VP of marketing Eric Schom claims. However, it has one major hurdle to overcome: it doesn't support Windows. 'We've had conversations with Microsoft and you can imagine what they entail,' says Schom."

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Goody (4, Funny)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441141)

Broken, first gen/beta ARM drivers for all my hardware!

Re:Goody (1)

Albanach (527650) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441221)

Looking at most the Atom devices around, they tend to be in small devices with a limited amount of hardware. Looking at my eeebox, ir has nothing other than a keyboard, mouse and hdtv attached. For netbooks, you know pretty well exactly what hardware you need to support.

If they can make sure there's an HD supporting graphics chipset with drivers, this will be an interesting chip.

Re:Goody (3, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441421)

Yeah. With a few exceptions, about the only variation between most netbooks out there in terms of required drivers are the following:
1) WiFi chipset
2) Card reader chipset (newer ones all seem to be USB mass storage, older ones tended to be a bit less standardized)
3) Bluetooth chipset (Bluetooth chipsets are basically standardized - While I know nonstandard ones exist, Bluetooth adapters that aren't a USB device compliant with a particular USB class are extremely rare.)

This is because the Intel Atom platform is EXTREMELY standardized. With a few rare exceptions, if you use an N-series Atom processor, it'll be paired with one of two variants of the Intel 945G chipset with GMA950 graphics.

Atom Z-series are a different story - they are all paired with a particular chipset with "GMA500" graphics, which unlike most Intel chipsets has basically nonexistent Linux support. So never buy an Atom Z-series based machine if you want to run Linux, they are nearly always paired with unsupported graphics.

Re:Goody (2, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441261)

I know, there's nothing like a lack of attention to hinder the pace of driver development. Therefore we should never adopt the alternative platform, as the drivers will obviously not improve.

On the other hand, I would like to see someone give Intel a run for their money since it seems AMD is being kneecapped. If ARM does it from the low/embedded end and moves up (leveraging their huge number of licensees) then all the more power to them.

Re:Goody (2, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441665)

Great! You go ahead and be an early adopter, suffer through first gen/beta headaches, buggy drivers, random system crashes. Call me and let me know when it's stable enough for "mom". I don't know about you, but I've grown used to stable hardware, and I'm not about to go back to pre-XP SP1 crashyness for an extra hour of battery life, maybe even two. 5 hrs is plenty enough for me.

Re:Goody (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441979)

Any half-decent OS (I think this even include Linux these days) uses the same drivers on multiple architectures with just an abstraction layer for dealing with the different busses. OpenBSD on ARM, for example, supports exactly the same set of USB devices as OpenBSD on x86, including things like USB video cameras. If anything, supporting multiple architectures improves the quality of the code. NetBSD and OpenBSD both recommend testing all drivers on x86 and SPARCv9 and this has helped find a lot of bugs that are not obvious on x86 but crash on SPARC, which has improved the drivers and benefitted x86 users.

No Windows? Great! No Microsoft tax! (5, Insightful)

MoxFulder (159829) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442127)

However, it has one major hurdle to overcome: it doesn't support Windows.

Fuck Windows. Seriously.

I've been unwillingly paying the Microsoft tax for TEN YEARS. All I ever do is wipe Windows and install Linux. If my new computer can't run Windows then... great!! Maybe I won't have to pay the tax.

I'd love a low-power, high-performance ARM notebook. I'd be happy with MIPS or Loongson (Chinese MIPS clone) as well. Debian already has a full-blown ARM port and I'll bet they could get it working on an ARM netbook in a day. Ubuntu would undoubtedly be soon-to-follow.

As a side benefit, having multiple widely-used architectures for desktop systems (x86 and ARM) would be a support nightmare for hardware companies that still keep their drivers proprietary and undocumented. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Broadcom and NVidia. This would just be another nail in the coffin for their obstructionist attitudes towards free/open-source operating systems.

No windows support? (1)

Publikwerks (885730) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441173)

I guess it doesn't do EVERYTHING the Intel Atom does.

Re:No windows support? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441403)

If the processor is really five times as fast as Atom, then it should be able to beat Atom at running x86 Windows with a good enough emulator. Modern binary recompilation techniques are often able to reach 50 % of native speed - already in the 1990's Digital's FX32 for Alpha ran x86 code at 70 % of native performance.

Re:No windows support? (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441495)

Clock for clock, the Cortex A8 is a bit faster than the Atom on most workloads (in about 10% of the power envelope). The A8, however, typically ships at about half the clock speed of an Atom (they go up to 1GHz, but 600MHz is the most common speed). The A9 is slightly faster than the A8 clock-for-clock, but goes to twice the clock speed and scales to four cores, so it's not a stretch to imagine that it's more than five times the speed of a single-core Atom. I've not seen any figures for the A9's power consumption yet though...

It's worth noting that ARM doesn't make chips, they are an IP-only company. ARM licenses designs to other companies who combine their cores with other stuff and ship them. One of the more high-profile Cortex A9 licensees is nVidia, who are using it in their Tegra line. Other existing ARM licensees, like Qualcomm, TI, Samsung and Freescale have already signed up for the A9 as well.

It's also worth noting that the A9 isn't really news. The designs have been available from ARM for a while now. I don't know of any shipping chips including A9 cores yet (being mass-produced, anyway; there are a few being sampled), but TI announced the OMAP4 series a little while ago which is based around the A9 and looks like a very nice chip for handheld machines.

Re:No windows support? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441861)

Clock for clock, the Cortex A8 is a bit faster than the Atom on most workloads (in about 10% of the power envelope). The A8, however, typically ships at about half the clock speed of an Atom (they go up to 1GHz, but 600MHz is the most common speed). The A9 is slightly faster than the A8 clock-for-clock, but goes to twice the clock speed and scales to four cores, so it's not a stretch to imagine that it's more than five times the speed of a single-core Atom.

Of course, that's kind of a silly comparison to make, since there are dual-core Atom chips like the N330. I also wonder if a 32-bit processor can really challenge a 64-bit one "everywhere from netbooks to servers".

Re:No windows support? (2, Insightful)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441429)

Actually it's pretty much the other way around the fact that M$ doesn't yet support the processor is down to M$ not Arm. I suspect there are a couple of factors here firstly M$ PPC software supports older ARM processors & secondly it's just a case of re-tooling some of M$'s compilers to support the new processor and recompiling. However how it's going to support non .net/java windows software is another matter.

Re:No windows support? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441719)

Oh yeah it clearly is Microsofts fault that ARM didn't bother to deliver a platform up until now.

Re:No windows support? (3, Insightful)

Albanach (527650) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441781)

Oh yeah it clearly is Microsofts fault that ARM didn't bother to deliver a platform up until now.

That'll be news to the folk that have been using computers with ARM processors since the very early 1990s.

Re:No windows support? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441947)

It's not as easy as all that, Windows is built on the core x86 instruction set. x64 changed things a bit, but that was still built on x86, so it was not all that big of a deal.

ARM is a completely different architecture altogether, and porting isn't so easy. Not to anywhere near the edge of their capability, but I imagine they will run into quite a few more problems than just re-writing the compilers will fix.

In any case it should be interesting, if ARM can gain some ground and create another alternative in the processor market it will be better for everybody. For MS, this could end up being the big push they need to move their stuff over to ARM, and then they could truly take over the world, as 99% of PC processors would work with windows. It would also be a big push to produce software in .NET, since that's the only way you'll get full Windows compatibility. Then compatibility to other platforms is even easier for Windows software.

Re:No windows support? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29442023)

This might be a good place for ReactOS to step in. They introduced the beginnings of ARM support [reactos.org] way back when. Sure x86 software still wouldn't run on it, but it could at least still present an interface familiar to Windows users.

Re:No windows support? (2, Insightful)

DigitalPasture (1545473) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441691)

I'm guessing that means it doesn't (can't) do most of what an ATOM can do. No x86 support is kind of a dealbreaker.

Re:No windows support? (2, Insightful)

Albanach (527650) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441875)

No x86 support is kind of a dealbreaker.

Well, you wouldn't necessarily expect x86 support on a non x86 architecture, would you.

It need not, and should not, be a deal breaker though. Windows has run on other architectures in the past - Windows NT and its successors have variously run on PowerPC, Alpha and MIPS and Itanium.

Re:No windows support? (2, Interesting)

Perp Atuitie (919967) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441695)

Windows has pretty much a lock on the desktop, so the new chip won't have much market there. The desktop is also the declining market, so the new chip won't be missing that much. The big growth will remain in servers, where windows is optional at best, and netbooks/mobile devices where windows is a minority player. ARM may have made a rather astute decision to concede the dying segment to Wintel and make a big footprint in the markets that will continue to grow, and which also happen to do just fine without Windows. If they make sure to brilliantly showcase the not-windows OSs, ARM could come roaring back as a force to be reckoned with in consumer-level computing.

What does it support? (5, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441203)

I suppose Ubuntu Linux is just chopped liver.

C'mon people. Wake up! There are tons of operating systems out there. Some are even better than Windows! *gasp*

Re:What does it support? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441271)

It doesn't matter if Ubuntu is many times better.

Most people are garbage, that's the problem.

Re:What does it support? (3, Insightful)

Publikwerks (885730) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441325)

I like Ubuntu, but to ignore a large percentage(albielt shrinking as linux netbooks gain popularity) is kinda a big deal. It will be intresting to see if they can get hardware support, or if they will just end up like Transmeta

Re:What does it support? (1)

kav2k (1545689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441573)

Mod parent up, please..

Re:What does it support? (-1, Flamebait)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442129)

Some are even better than Windows! *gasp*

I didn't know Apple had an OSX that worked with ARM, I thought they pretty much stuck to their own hardware, and it's x86?

Oh wait, you mean Linux. Right it's "better" in all the ways a masochist would love. Does wanting to push that on everybody else make you a mass-sadist?

Hmmm... possibly, possibly.

Re:What does it support? (4, Interesting)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442131)

Just out of curiosity, does the ARM version of Ubuntu take advantage of some of the stuff in ARM for doing HD video at low power? Or is it just ubuntu, recompiled for the architecture? There are several advantages to each different CPU. Do things like Flash (or even Gnash) work on ARM? Or VLC, or anything?

NO WINDOWS ARM APPS SO -- SO WHAT? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441263)

It's dead, Jim (Schon). When the lights, go down in the city, does anyone really care? There are ZERO APPS for ARM Windows (if there ever were such a thing, and Windows CE is not Windows) so ARM is better off trying to get people to compiler Linux ARM apps (good luck with that !!).

A compelling Linux on ARM netbook will worry MS (5, Insightful)

mikeabbott420 (744514) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441279)

Linux already made MS drop their price, allwing cheap windows netbooks because of linux. It's not out of the question that a really compelling ARM netbook would scare them into ARM support. I would be surprised if they didn't have something similar to the x86 apple builds in the powerPC era. Of course windows is mainly valuable for its 3rd party software so people who buy these putative ARM/windows machines may be better off with linux anyway.

Re:A compelling Linux on ARM netbook will worry MS (4, Insightful)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441427)

A Linux-based netbook won't worry MS if it only does what a MS netbook does. It needs to do more.

For example - they brag that the ARM "offers five times the power while drawing comparable amounts of energy". But, netbooks rarely use all of the processing power they have right now. If the ARM had equal processing power, but five times the battery life, they'd have a compelling product. The current standard of eight hours on a XP-based netbook is barely enough; a netbook that lasted forty hours would be a market breakthrough, and would be compelling enough to get people to switch to Linux.

Re:A compelling Linux on ARM netbook will worry MS (5, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441539)

The current standard of eight hours on a XP-based netbook

Having owned an XP netbook (aspire one) I must say that an eight-hour standard is optimistic beyond belief, and likely only possible if you leave it sitting there. The Atom processor is power hungry and once you start actually using it the battery life plummets considerably.

ARM already has an advantage on power consumption, if they can match the Atom on performance I suspect they'll win on battery life by default.

Re:A compelling Linux on ARM netbook will worry MS (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442045)

> (aspire one) I must say that an eight-hour standard is optimistic beyond belief

It depends on the _battery_. With my 9-cell battery, my aspire one gets 8 hours of continuous usage.

http://www.amazon.com/HQRP-Replacement-Lithium-Ion-AOA150-1777-AOA150-1840/dp/B001OXRTVU/ [amazon.com]

Re:A compelling Linux on ARM netbook will worry MS (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441729)

Whether the ARM chip performance is even adequate for normal netbook applications (e.g. watching youtube) is an open question until somebody tries it. Sure, ARM threw out this number of 5x, which is a meaningless number until we get a better overall idea of how fast and slow it is on different tasks.

Second, even cutting the CPU power consumption to zero wouldn't give you anywhere near 40 hours of battery life in a netbook. The CPU is just one piece of it.

Re:A compelling Linux on ARM netbook will worry MS (2, Insightful)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441983)

There are already Arm based netbooks out there, using the current low-perofmance chips, so presumably Arm has a reasonable reference on how fast their new chip will run a Linux netbook.

Re:A compelling Linux on ARM netbook will worry MS (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441757)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but TFA is about an ARM chip with a a 2GHz clock and a low power footprint.

Or in other words, a chip with the same processing power as an Atom, but with better battery life.

Or in other words- is that what you were after?

Re:A compelling Linux on ARM netbook will worry MS (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442087)

Far too little, far too late, I'm afraid.

Two years ago, I'd be all behind this. Now, Intel and Microsoft have such a lead in the market, it's going to be a much harder market for ARM to enter.

"Windows CE or even Windows Mobile" (1)

argent (18001) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441283)

That's like saying "Linux or even Ubuntu". :)

Microsoft used to have a laptop/netbook-friendly Windows CE version back in the late '90s, but dumped it in favor of the "Tablet PC" build of Windows NT around 2000-2001. It would be interesting to see them bring that back.

Re:"Windows CE or even Windows Mobile" (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441561)

That's like saying "Linux or even Ubuntu". :)

Microsoft used to have a laptop/netbook-friendly Windows CE version back in the late '90s, but dumped it in favor of the "Tablet PC" build of Windows NT around 2000-2001. It would be interesting to see them bring that back.

They still do, the problem is it's shit and it won't run any off-the-shelf applications. It's used in a number of industrial PDAs, particularly ruggedized, intrinsically-safe ones.
The way I see it, using CE on a laptop is far worse than Ubuntu because it looks like windows (95), behaves (mostly) like Windows, but won't run any Windows apps. In some ways it's the perfect combination - you get all the 'It-won't-run-Outlook/Oblivion/Photoshop' problems of Linux, all the 'It-won't-work-with-my-USB-doodad' problems of OpenBSD and all of the bugginess of Windows.

And unless it's CE6 (WM and most devices are still CE5), it will have that abysmal 32MB-per-application limit, so good luck porting any substantial win32 apps to it.

Much as I'd like a linux ARM netbook, I am a little worried that they don't seem to have 64-bit addressing in that architecture yet. It won't be so many years before it becomes a needed feature for a netbook too.

Re:"Windows CE or even Windows Mobile" (1)

argent (18001) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442011)

They still do, the problem is it's shit and it won't run any off-the-shelf applications. It's used in a number of industrial PDAs, particularly ruggedized, intrinsically-safe ones.

Is it? I haven't seen any devices using the Handheld PC user interface since around 2001. I'm not talking about the Pocket PC fork that Windows Mobile is based on and Symbol and others use in their PDA-form-factor devices. The Handheld PC fork required a larger screen and a keyboard, and disappeared when Microsoft decided that the way to beat Palm was to copy Palm OS (of course, with 20-20 hindsight, we know they didn't have to do anything... Palm disintegrated on their own due to corporate ADHD).

But, does it run DOS? (0, Troll)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441337)

If it ain't X86 compatible, it ain't shit. 99% of those netbooks are running Windows XP; will this new ARM processor do that?

Re:But, does it run DOS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441441)

It's a feature. This time microsoft is going to have a bit harder time destroying the netbook concept.

Re:But, does it run DOS? (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441517)

People are willing to pay $15 more for XP (the cost of an XP Netbook license), but are they willing to pay $100 more for Windows (the difference between the cost of the announced ARM-based netbooks and a typical x86 model)?

Re:But, does it run DOS? (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441599)

uh what? I didn't read anything saying it was x86 incompatible, merely "can't run windows right now". This is more a licensing issue - MS will have to make a case as to why they don't want to support ARM, and as the AC says will affect that.

Can't say I saw coming that ARM might be an Intel/AMD competitor, but depending on how things shape up that could be the case in a solid fashion.

Re:But, does it run DOS? (4, Insightful)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441721)

You are not all that bright. Some might even call you an idiot.

The ARM instruction set is not x86 compatible. End of story.

Re:But, does it run DOS? (1, Interesting)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441893)

ARM is not x86, I know that. The issue here is more about the emulation. Nothing says ARM can't be emulated on X86, except microsoft currently. Save the ad hominem.

Re:But, does it run DOS? (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442017)

We are already wondering how fast a native ARM system would be. Emulation on a netbook is an absolute no-go: you lose ten times over the gains you made by putting in an ARM. They are very, very differnt architectures: I would expect a 20:1 or worse slowdown by running in emulation.

Re:But, does it run DOS? (1)

WEqR0lDRR6I (1452367) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441957)

Remember FX!32 ?

Re:But, does it run DOS? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441817)

ARM processors (including Cortex series) have an entirely different instruction set from 80x86's. That's pretty much the definition of x86-incompatible. Whether it runs windows is an entirely different matter (but don't hold your breath on that either).

Re:But, does it run DOS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441961)

uh what? I didn't read anything saying it was x86 incompatible,

Uh yeah it did. It said ARM. It's only a licensing issue in as far as the fact that there is no product that they could license.

Re:But, does it run DOS? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441737)

There has been an X86/MS-DOS emulator for ARM since 1987, I used it then to make my Modula-2 assignments :)

http://www.cbronline.com/news/ms_dos_for_acorn_archimedes

Porting code to a new architecture (4, Interesting)

Xocet_00 (635069) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441339)

What is involved in porting code to a new chip? I've done some programming in my life, but it has mostly been limited to personal interest and school projects. I imagine it can't be as simple as just recompiling. So what does it take to port code?What are the hurdles? Assume (accurately) that I'm a total noob.

Re:Porting code to a new architecture (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441431)

Let's say 30 years ago I gave you one end of an infinitely long piece of yarn and told you to start knitting a sweater. At first, it's not too bad. The yarn has a pretty standard consistency, although it sucks compared to some other yarn on the market. Then I start changing things up. Adding some knots and tangles in the yarn I hand to you. You do your best to accomodate and actually come up with a pretty nice sweater. Then you start re-designing the sweater to take advantage of the knots and tangles, and I just keep putting more and more complex knots in there since you seem to be doing great with the ones I've sent so far. Your sweater grows thick with piles of yarn and by the time 30 years rolls around, you've got yourself a pretty great sweater. Of course, you had some massive screwups like sweater ME and sweater Vista.

Now let's say I ask you to knit the same sweater using a beautifully crafted roll of thread.

I think you can see how hard that would be.

Re:Porting code to a new architecture (1)

bezenek (958723) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441521)

What is involved in porting code to a new chip? I've done some programming in my life, but it has mostly been limited to personal interest and school projects. I imagine it can't be as simple as just recompiling. So what does it take to port code?What are the hurdles? Assume (accurately) that I'm a total noob.

The main issue will be handling of virtual page tables in the OS. The code for x86 will not work for ARM.

There will be some other issues with the boot sequence (BIOS), and of course the need to be able to drive the devices attached to the ARM, as some people have noted with respect to getting Linux to run on the ARM-based netbooks.

I expect the code base for Windows has been hacked for so many years by so many different people that moving it to another architecture would not be as easy as it is for Linux. But, a good team should be able to do it. Perhaps Microsoft took this possible future into consideration and cleaned up a lot of the code when they did Windows 7.

-Todd

Re:Porting code to a new architecture (2, Informative)

pikine (771084) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441605)

It depends on how the original code is written. In a well-structured OS like Linux and NetBSD, they isolated the idiosyncrasies of the CPU and focused on using common high-level features across most CPUs (memory paging and interrupt handling among the chief of them), and can optionally adapt when a particular feature is not available on some architecture (e.g. high resolution timer, atomic instructions). In such case, porting to a new architecture just entails writing the assembly language glue that bridges high-level hardware feature with the machine instructions that does the real work.

But among the worst things you can do is to hard-code low-level hardware handling and scatter that throughout the source code. Or some important code may be overly dependent on CPU specific feature (e.g. task gate for intel x86) which makes it essentially non-portable. I've never seen the source code of Windows, but I suspect this is the case with them. According to some Windows NT Internals book I read many years ago, it started out well-structured, with a nice hardware abstraction layer and all that. But since Windows dropped Alpha processor support, I think the abstraction started to suffer bit-rot and made things much worse than if they had no abstraction at all.

Re:Porting code to a new architecture (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441643)

It all depends on how close you're getting to the hardware, and to what extent you're using specific hardware features of a chip. In some cases it really is as simple as tweaking a few things and recompiling, if the software was designed to be portable. The original windows NT (from which 2000, XP, Vista, and 7 are all evolved from) was designed to be portable, in the early days it ran on RISC also.

Re:Porting code to a new architecture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441709)

I build embedded code for a living. And we almost exclusively use Linux on our platforms. And with the exception of drivers everything I build compiles for x86 ARM and the older PowerPC we use. If you use C (or C++) then there are just a few things you have to watch out for.

Main thing you have to watch out for is endianness. This page explains it: http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/aix/library/au-endianc/index.html?ca=drs-

Other then that it's just a recompile and run. As soon as you port to Windows you have more problems.

Re:Porting code to a new architecture (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441755)

It is either a complete rewrite, a simple recompile, or something in the middle depending on how different the architectures are. In terms of programmer-visible features (ignoring things only visible to compiler and OS writers), ARM and x86 are very similar; same word size, almost identical alignment constraints, same byte order. If you wrote your program in a high-level language, it is just a recompile. If you used any assembly language, then you will need to rewrite it. If you used a language somewhere in the middle, like C, then it will probably be a straight recompile. This is unlike porting, for example, from x86 to SPARC64, where you suddenly have very strict alignment, opposite byte order, and different

Of course, this is assuming the operating system interfaces are the same. If you're on something like OpenBSD, for example, then the OS does a good job of isolating the userspace code from having to know anything about the underlying architecture. Linux, on contrast, exposes a lot of architecture-specific details to programmers (and that's ignoring the fact that embedded Linux often ships with a non-GNU libc, which lacks a lot of features). Wince is about the worse at this, where every single device implements some subset of the Win32 APIs and so you end up having to do some tweaking for every device.

Re:Porting code to a new architecture (1)

psbrogna (611644) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441907)

I've done a token amount of cross-platform work and will say that the recompiling your own code for a different target CPU is the "easy" part (relatively)- it's the retooling the code for different desktop widgets that can be a back-breaker. Cross-platform widget libraries exist but aren't always used, used well, or received well.

Re:Porting code to a new architecture (1)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442067)

In an ideal world, you just recompile your C code.

In the real world, your code (indirectly) uses low-level libraries and system calls that only work on a given chip because they make use of specific hardware, either through assembly or through hardware-mapped structures.

More rarely, some basic C operations don't work as expected. A common gotcha on previous ARM architectures were that all memory accesses had to be 32-bit aligned (it saved transistors and power). That meant that you couldn't use a char[] array, you necessarily had to use an int32_t[] from which you'd then extract each byte.

no windows? (4, Insightful)

uncreativeslashnick (1130315) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441357)

This won't end well. I have an ARM device (nokia n810) and it's great. But Wintel monopoly will kill this just like it did Sparc and IBM Power. I'm sure if it's as good as they claim it'll carve out a niche, but it won't directly compete in numbers or presence with intel CPUs.

Re:no windows? (3, Insightful)

PaintyThePirate (682047) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441877)

I wouldn't be so sure about that. There are significantly more ARM devices out there than x86, Sparc, and Power combined.

Phone like devices are getting larger and more powerful, and laptops/tablets are getting smaller and lower power. It is converging on a market space where ARM has no competition, and is exactly where the A9 would thrive. Microsoft is even entering the game with the Zune HD packing an Nvidia Tegra. This is not a low volume niche either. Think of the iPhone, Android devices, PSP, DS/DSi, Windows Mobile phones, etc.

That is just on the mobile end too. It makes no sense to stick Windows Embedded and a Celeron in a router, network storage, or a printer when Linux/A9 is cheaper and as powerful.

Re:no windows? (1)

jabjoe (1042100) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441995)

I think your wrong. It's different this time round. First the market is normal consumers, secondly, much of what people do now is on the web, so doesn't matter what platform you on (bar the whole Flash issue, but there is a ARM Flash). If it's cheap, has a long battery life, plays music and videos, some games, has a web browser so they can get on facebook, they will be more than happy. Windows big draw is it's software base, but that matters less and less as the free stuff is so good now, and so much is web anyway. If anything Windows biggest weakness is it's software base, much of it is fat, people install crap from all other the place, and before you know it a new machine is uselessly slow.

It's time for apple to step in (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441361)

They have supported non-Intel before.

Re:It's time for apple to step in (2, Informative)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441627)

Actually, microsoft supported non intel before. Anyone remember the DEC Alpha chips? There was an NT flavor for that. It ran faster then the intel chips of the day.

It would not surprise me that in an microsoft lab there was windows for power PC, windows for ARM, windows for . It would be in microsoft's best interests to have them.

Re:It's time for apple to step in (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441821)

Apple already ships a lot of ARM devices (iPhones, iPods). They bought PA Semi to begin designing their own chips, so it's unclear whether they will be shipping ARM-designed cores with their own extensions or ARM-compatible cores in future devices.

Re:It's time for apple to step in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441823)

iPhones are ARM-based. They run Mac OS X (with a different UI).

Re:It's time for apple to step in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441847)

They have supported non-Intel before.

Yes, they could do it easily since they already have an ARM based OSX on their iPhone and iPod Touch. But would they want to be limited to app store apps on netbooks? I don't know.

Will ARM compete? (2, Interesting)

TheBilgeRat (1629569) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441365)

Does ARM plan on integrated video along the lines of Nvidia and ION? http://www.nvidia.com/object/sff_ion.html [nvidia.com]

Re:Will ARM compete? (2, Informative)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441489)

No, but NVidia has gone ahead and integrated ARM [nvidia.com] .

Re:Will ARM compete? (1)

TheBilgeRat (1629569) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441715)

ooh, that's sexy....

Re:Will ARM compete? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441837)

You realise that nVidia has licensed the ARM Cortex A9 core that TFA is about and is shipping chips based on it [nvidia.com] , right?

Re:Will ARM compete? (2, Informative)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442107)

ARM doesn't do that as ARM doesn't make chips. They make chip designs, which they then license to other companies. Look at the TI OMAP series and you'll find that their chip comes with a built-in PowerVR GPU theoretically rated for DX 10.1 as well as a built-in DSP. Other manufacturers will most likely have similar offerings.

Just to put things into perspective, the Pandora ships with an OMAP3530 and will have as one launch "title" a PlayStation emulator, which has already been demonstrated to run smoothly. We're talking about something the size of a Nintendo DS that has a projected battery life of 9+ hours playing games off a 4200 mAh battery, capable of emulating the PSX. The Cortex A8-based OMAP3 is a seriously powerful little beast. I don't expect the Cortex A9-based OMAP4 to be any worse.

What does Linux on ARM support? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441385)

I've only been running Linux on x86 hardware... so would Linux on ARM:

a) Run a typical distro only recompiled or is a lot of software x86-specific?
b) Run wine?
c) Run virtualbox w/windows?
d) Be able to use w32codecs so everything plays?

I'm sure there's a few that's removed all traces of Windows, but I'm not one of them...

Re:What does Linux on ARM support? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441579)

a) Run a typical distro only recompiled or is a lot of software x86-specific?

Yes

b) Run wine?

No, Wine is designed to run x86 windows applications. It doesn't emulate a different CPU.

c) Run virtualbox w/windows?

No, Virtualbox is a purely x86/amd64 solution. It uses hardware virtualization in your CPU, it doesn't emulate a different CPU. You're looking for QEMU.

d) Be able to use w32codecs so everything plays?

Maybe with QEMU, it has some application level CPU emulation, interested parties might make it work in that case.

Re:What does Linux on ARM support? (1)

Compholio (770966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442121)

b) Run wine?

No, Wine is designed to run x86 windows applications. It doesn't emulate a different CPU.

There was a build of Wine at one time that used a special version of QEMU to translate instructions. Seems to me like it might be time for someone to try again, as the ability to run Win32 applications on ARM would be a huge boon to the platform. I haven't kept up with things in a while, so it's possible that there's already a stable way to use Wine with ARM.

Re:What does Linux on ARM support? (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441591)

Let me rephrase your questions, and condense them:

would Linux on ARM run x86 software

And the answer is no, not without emulation.

Re:What does Linux on ARM support? (1)

GungaDan (195739) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441601)

My Archos V media tablet has an ARM processor and runs linux. It plays .avis, .wmvs and lots of other video (some codecs sold separately, dammit), hooks up to wifi for full-featured web browsing, plays flash video/apps, displays pictures, plays back every format of music I've thrown at it, and has the most flawless touch-screen interface I've yet used. The only things I want it to do that it can't are VPN and SSH.

Re:What does Linux on ARM support? (2, Informative)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441653)

A) much simply needs recompiled, if it doesn't - with an app with the source - it's usually a bug.
B) No - wine is simply a conversion layer between the windows and linux calls - the windows program is never emulated.
C) No - again - not without emulation.
D) I think you can probably guess this one - but again no.

Emulation may be _lots_ slower than the host processor - slowdowns of ten times or more are not uncommon.

Re:What does Linux on ARM support? (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441775)

a) Almost all of the open source stuff will run on ARM (GTK/Qt stuff, interpreted language apps, Firefox, etc).
b) No, Wine Is Not (an) Emulator.
c) No, because again you would need an emulator.
d) Not the MS ones. OSS equivalents might.

Re:What does Linux on ARM support? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441797)

a) Yeah, pretty much. Most desktop oriented distros only bother with x86/x86-64(though I think Ubuntu either has or is coming out with an ARM version); but with something like Debian running on ARM is pretty similar indeed. Obviously, less popular architectures get less attention; but the fundamentals are already well in place, and the introduction of ARM based netbooks would presumably increase attention pretty quickly.

b) In principle it could; but there wouldn't be much point. Wine on ARM would allow you to run win32 ARM applications. There aren't any.

c) Possibly. Common virtualization packages try to do as much as possible directly on the host CPU, which makes things much more efficient; but also means that x86 guests require x86 hosts. If you use full virtualization setups, like QEMU, you can run an x86 guest on another host, at the cost of performance. Virtualbox has recompilation support based on QEMU; but I don't know if that is for non x86/x86 setups, or just for dealing with troublesome x86 instructions.

d) Probably not.

Re:What does Linux on ARM support? (2, Informative)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441813)

a) Run a typical distro only recompiled or is a lot of software x86-specific?

It depends on the distro. Debian has a complete ARM-port, Ubuntu was working on one last time I checked. Maemo is an ARM-only distro.

b) Run wine?

Nope.

c) Run virtualbox w/windows?

Nope.

d) Be able to use w32codecs so everything plays?

Not likely (assuming these are binary blobs). Flash video, avi/mpeg's and various other formats shouldn't be a problem though.

An ARM netbook wouldn't be someones only PC, just like current netbooks aren't. If it can do 90% of the things you're used to you're set.

Re:What does Linux on ARM support? (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441859)

Most things actually.

a) Run a typical distro only recompiled or is a lot of software x86-specific?
Debian has an ARM version of their distro. From personal experience, I found everything to run an nslu2 server without exception. http://www.nslu2-linux.org/ [nslu2-linux.org] Very, very efficient platform. The nslu2 had no crypto coprocessor, so ssl stuff was slow, but still, the nslu2 was one of the most useful devices ever.
b) Run wine?
No. Wine isn't an emulator, so all of those x86 Windows compiled apps won't work.
c) Run virtualbox w/windows?
Depends. If virtualbox is an emulator, then you will be good to go. If it isn't, then you run into the wine problem.
d) Be able to use w32codecs so everything plays?
Probably not. Again, the whole x86 thing gets in the way.

What's more important to keep in mind are the binary blobs buried in some Linux drivers/applications. Epson's Linux driver is the perfect example. Not only is it a bear to build because it needs an ancient tool chain, but there are x86 blobs in the sources as provided by Epson. So, Epson printers are a total waste of money on arm.

HP's drivers build perfectly on ARM though. So, not only do you get an easily networked printer, but an easily networked scanner too.

Re:What does Linux on ARM support? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441897)

a) Run a typical distro only recompiled or is a lot of software x86-specific?

Some is, but most *NIX software is portable.

b) Run wine?

Maybe. There is a project that integrates WINE with QEMU, but I don't know its status. This would (in theory) run the app in QEMU, but every call to WINE stubs would be proxied to the native WINE libraries so code inside WINE would run the native versions (including things like DirectX). This would be fast enough for all but the most CPU-intensive Windows applications.

c) Run virtualbox w/windows?

No, VirtualBox is x86 virtualization software so obviously won't work on a non-x86 chip. You can run QEMU in full-system emulation mode but it will be a lot slower.

d) Be able to use w32codecs so everything plays?

No. Do people really still do this?

Re:What does Linux on ARM support? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29442117)

a) Yes

b) No

c) According to the QEMU website there's some support for running x86 software on an ARM host.

d) If QEMU can manage c), then yes.

Does it really need to support windows? (2, Insightful)

longfalcon (202977) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441411)

netbooks are a great place to quietly slip in non-windows OS's that meet customer needs. the mobile phone/smart phone market has shown that customers aren't slavishly devoted to Windows. they will buy what works.

The Windows era (1)

PriceIke (751512) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441413)

From the looks of the past five-seven years, the tea leaves seem to be saying that Microsoft's star is on the decline.

Re:The Windows era (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441531)

That's true, but it isn't lin-sux that is doing it, it's Apple and OS X. All the stability and power of Unix, kicked up a notch with leading edge parallelization and multimedia technology, with none of the half bakery of the open sores development model, plus you can run the only Microsoft software worth running: Office.

chip supports OS? Hmmm, backwards... (5, Insightful)

kharris312002 (1593941) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441415)

This may be the first time I've ever heard it said that a processor doesn't support an OS... Usually it's the other way around.

5x slow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441419)

"the processor offers five times the power while drawing comparable amounts of energy."

So it is five times as slow?

YES! Please bring one to market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441447)

I have been waiting to buy a netbook, specifically for an ARM-powered one because I want good battery life. If I can get something that's small, cheap and runs 10+ hours on a charge I'll gladly do without Windows.

Why do they even bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441515)

According to this thread [slashdot.org] ARM has no chance on the high end.

A call to ARMs! (3, Interesting)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441545)

A Microsoft refusal to support a really cool netbook technology would be a good opening for Linux.

Re:A call to ARMs! (1)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442091)

It'd be good for Linux users, as all the devices are sold cheap.

Windows users will still pay the premium (in cost or power) to stick with what they know, unless this netbook is incredibly good. Apple is practically the definition of a polished product, they've fantastic brand awareness, they're commonly held to be superior, and they're still not really knocking Microsoft off their perch. I don't see why this is likely to make linux netbooks any more successful than the x86 ones have been.

ARM is not a chipmaker (1)

sigxcpu (456479) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441697)

A small correction.
ARM is not a chipmaker. They only liscense the design to others, don't do their own chips.
Can't buy an ARM from ARM only the IP to incorporate it into your own chip.

Interesting (1)

zephead99 (769083) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441711)

I think it's interesting that ARM has decided to try and break into Intel's current marketshare around the same time Intel is revealing plan to push it's 32nm chips into ARM's. [arstechnica.com]

real solution (4, Interesting)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441727)

There are a lot of barriers to Windows adoption on the ARM processor that go beyond MS not really wanting it. If they really want to gain market share above and beyond cell phones and PDA's, ARM needs a strong partner to create a real, integrated, polished solution. And by solution I don't mean a device. They need to do something akin to the iPhone, in creating a nice device or set of devices with a consistent polished operating system and with an integrated ecosystem of solutions. The project is large in scope and they need a partner that preferably has an existing position to leverage, experience, money, and which is not beholden to Microsoft. A cell phone service company might be a viable partner or Canonical and someone, or RIM or Google or an appliance maker that has not entered the netbook market yet.

If they really want to sell netbooks with ARM processors in them they have to think big. They need to better than hope MS is scared. They need to commit to building a system that bypasses MS's core monopolies through vertical integration. This is no small task. They need the hardware, which has to be cheap and hit a sweet spot. They need an OS and applications. They need dev tools for applications and services. They need Web and network services integrated with the device. More than all those pieces which are out there, they need someone to put it all together in a nice package and usability test the whole user experience from buying to opening the box right up through using it for all the common tasks: Web surfing, E-mail, chat, word processing, potentially phone calls and videophone, playing games, playing music and video, and adding new applications. The problem with a lot attempts at this sort of thing is the assumption that someone else will take care of parts or that blaming someone else somehow makes a failure better.

Re:real solution (5, Insightful)

jabjoe (1042100) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442033)

The iPhone is a ARM processor.....

Is this what will undo the x86 ISA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29441767)

The DEC Alpha could not do it, the Itanium could not do it. (Or has not yet for economic + technical reasons)

Surly there must be a market that simplyt does not have to worry about legacy x86 code, or if they do, the performance hit of emulation is not a problem to them.

* Not undo entirely of course. COBOL is still around and so will the x86 be for sometime.

ooh (3, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441769)

As a product of British manufacture, is it safe to assume it will spend most of its lifetime at the computer repair shop?

Re:ooh (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#29441945)

It's a really odd feeling to loot for a British tech company. A British tech company. That's so... unnatural.

I will buy one (2, Funny)

cyberthanasis12 (926691) | more than 4 years ago | (#29442093)

Imagine a computer that does not run Windows. One that is not able to run Windows!
I want one. Now. (I assume that it runs a full Linux distro of course).
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