ARM architecture ▪ June 18, 2012

Microsoft unveiled its Surface Tablet at an event in Los Angeles today. As Microsoft attempted to demonstrate, it follows a long line of Microsoft hardware achievements including the Microsoft Mouse, Microsoft Keyboard, and more recently the XBox (we must have missed the Zune, Courier, and Kin slides). The Surface has some notable features including a full-sized USB port, kickstand, and a 9.3-mm thickness. It runs on an ARM processor, and it is housed in a magnesium alloy case.

Probably the biggest feature is its 3 mm thick Touch Cover. Added to the iPad 2-ish 9.3-mm thickness, you get a “full package” of just 12.3-mm total. The ability to touch type on a 3 mm thick piece of plastic compared to, say, an 8 mm thick UltraThin Logitech iPad keyboard case, for instance, will be a big determining factor for this thing to take off.

While it would not be a Microsoft demo without a few crashes, Microsoft Vice President Steven Sinofsky was eventually able to launch apps like MS Office, Adobe Lightroom, and Netflix on a backup demo model. The Surface will come in 32GB and 64GB ARM RT varieties and separately with Intel processors.

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ARM architecture ▪ January 12, 2012

Intel is looking to use its recently unveiled Medfield chips in the iPhone, according to The Telegraph. In the report, Dave Whalen, vice president of Intel’s architecture group, told The Telegraph that Intel has talked to Apple and other manufacturers about using the new Medfield chips in iOS devices. Specifically, Whalen said as iOS continues to grow, “We talk to everybody.” Intel is also looking to Android and Windows Phone to use the new chips.

It is worth noting that it is highly unlikely Apple would move to Intel chips in iOS devices, even though the company uses Intel in Macs. Since the iPhone 4, Apple has continued to use its own line of processors—with the help of Samsung. The iPhone 4 was graced with the A4, the iPad 2 had the A5, and most recently— the iPhone 4S got the A5. The iPad 3 is rumored to get the quad-core A6 (mock up on the right), and going off Apple’s recent timeline, the iPhone 5 will most likely have the A6.

The most unique aspect about the Medfield chip is that it is a single core, unlike Intel’s previous chips. The Medfield uses the ARM chips’ strategy, in pulling all processes onto a single chip, which helps to save battery life and other things. For now, it looks Apple will most likely stick with its own proprietary chips. Samsung recently opened a factory in Texas for developing the A5 chip, showing Apple is committed to producing its own goods. Therefore, it is interesting that Intel is trying to make a move.

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ARM architecture ▪ May 29, 2011

ARM architecture ▪ December 21, 2010

Bloomberg today reports what would have seemed unthinkable a year ago.  Microsoft is building a version of its Windows OS (not Phone 7) for the ARM processor design, the very same that powers Apple’s lineup of iOS devices.

The operating system would give Microsoft another way to attack the market for tablets and phones, where it’s lost ground to Apple Inc. and Google Inc. ARM chips — made by Qualcomm Inc., Texas Instruments Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. — are used in most smartphones, as well as Apple’s best-selling iPad. A full-featured version of Windows for ARM chips is the best way for Microsoft to make a dent in the iPad’s lead, said Robert Breza, a Minneapolis-based analyst for RBC Capital Markets. While Windows is dominant in the personal-computer market, it hasn’t parlayed that into tablet success yet. “They’ve got to come back with a product that’s better than ‘me too’ and is equal if not better in features,” Breza said. He has an “outperform” rating on Microsoft’s stock, which he doesn’t own. “A lot of tablets today are inferior to PCs.”

Microsoft became a licensee of the ARM architecture earlier this year but at the time it seemed to be for embedded devices such as the Zune.  Apple is also an ARM licensee and builds its A4 lineup of chips using ARM designs.

Is this really a good move for Microsoft?  The problem with Windows 7 on tablets hasn’t really been an Intel problem necessarily.  Whatever the case, this has to be bad news for Intel/AMD who now may see competition from ARM processors like the Nvidia Tegra 2 in netbooks running Windows.

Another Question: Will Apple port Mac OS to ARM? expand full story

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