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ARM says Moorestown still not competitive

by Scott Bicheno on 7 May 2010, 12:20

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), ARM

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Not bovvered

Intel has been talking about getting into the smartphone market for as long as we can remember, but this week it finally launched the first chip - codenamed Moorestown - that it reckons is low-power enough to be used in a hand-held device.

The one, single company that is probably keeping the closest eye in what Intel's up to with its low-power processor roadmap is UK company ARM, which designs many of the processors you find in mobile phones and whose instruction set is ubiquitous in this market.

Our first impressions of Moorestown were that Intel has clearly made some impressive progress in lowering the power requirements of its chip - on which more later - but that Moorestown is probably still more of a slate/tablet proposition.

But what we really wanted to know was what ARM thinks, so we spoke to Nandan Nayampally director of product marketing at ARM's processor division. "While we take everything very seriously, what has been announced was pretty much the same as at IDF last year, so no real surprises there," he said. "The big power improvements come from a high starting point so they're still behind - still not competitive."

On top of that, Nayampally was quick to question Intel's claimed process technology advantage, saying: "ARM partners will be shipping 45/40 nm products this year, and that will make the difference even wider."

And while Intel is insisting the smartphone is moving towards Intel's strengths, Nayampally reckons it's got a long way to go before a mobile phone ecosystem that has got by just fine without Intel so far, is convinced to switch to something completely new. "We've seen a lot of intent but not much uptake from the market," he said.

So, outwardly at least, ARM's response to the launch of Moorestown is "am I bovvered?" While Intel plays catch-up, ARM based products will continue to hit the market, with the Apple iPad alone appearing to be a massive endorsement of ARM over Intel. Internally, however, ARM will be aware that Intel remains by far its most dangerous competitive threat, and will be striving to ensure it remains one step ahead.

There's not a lot more to add on the potential of Moorestown until we finally see some devices in the wild, but one the next page we've detailed some of the tweaks Intel has made to get this far.